Control Conflict or It Will Control You

Imagine for a minute this happening in your company. Person A does something to offend Person B (I know that this would never happen in your company, but use your imagination). Person B, having been offended, tells three coworkers the terrible thing that Person A has done to them.

Person A, completely oblivious to what he/she has done, now has four people mad at him/her. So he/she tells three coworkers about the terrible things that Person B (and friends) are doing to him/her, and these four people are now mad at the other four people.

Meanwhile, instead of important business getting done at your company, internal resources and precious time are wasted on employees being upset at each other. And that’s just one sour relationship. Multiply this by the series of offenses that can occur in a normal business week, and you’ll find enormous amounts of emotional energy squandered on interpersonal conflict.

What’s the solution?

What happens when Person B talks directly to Person A when he/she is offended? And when Person A listens and responds positively to the concerns of Person B? What happens to Person B’s three coworkers? They disappear from the conflict and go back to work. What about Person A’s coworkers? They too disappear from the conflict and also go back to work.

Mastering the principles of conflict resolution, then, is critically important for organizational effectiveness. Teach them, model them, and reinforce them at every level of your business, and your business will be strong and robust.

The best resource I have found for this is a book entitled, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High. Here’s what they have to say on the subject,

Our research has shown that strong relationships, careers, organizations, and communities all draw from the same source of power—the ability to talk openly about high-stakes, emotional, controversial topics. So here’s the audacious claim. Master your crucial conversations and you’ll kick-start your career, strengthen your relationships, and improve your health. As you and others master highs-stakes discussions, you’ll also vitalize your organization and community.

In other words, control conflict or it will control you.