Accept conflict to manage it better
Conflict is part of the everyday landscape for most leaders and managers. However, we generally find it extremely difficult to react calmly to conflict. How can we understand and hence better manage our spontaneous reactions?
Conflict is one of the greatest sources of frustration in the business world. Indeed, discord triggers emotions that are often difficult to manage and that largely exceed the scope of simply solving problems by taking account of different viewpoints.
“The restructuring was the scene of many confrontations. Conflicting values, interpersonal conflicts, territorial battles—it never seemed to end. Six months after setting up the new structure, the traces are still everywhere. I don’t know whether we will ever recover the motivation and commitment that used to characterize our team.” This statement by the division head of a manufacturing company illustrates the damage that poorly-managed conflicts can wreak.
Indeed, we appear to have an ambivalent attitude toward conflict. Rationally, we are well aware that conflict is intrinsically linked to working with others and the very legitimate expression of different points of view. Inevitably, the various players involved in a project have different perspectives, constraints and issues specific to them. As a matter of fact, this is what makes the collective process so valuable—confronting different ideas and views, combining diverse approaches and building on disagreements to find better solutions.
Yet, we are often uncomfortable with conflict. Emotionally charged, risky, unpleasant and with an uncertain outcome, conflict generates stress. We lose our sense of clarity and find ourselves at the mercy of our often inappropriate reflexes.
This is why we see ordinarily constructive and reasonable people flee conflict and let situations deteriorate to the point of no return. At the same time, other ordinarily level-headed individuals may lose their temper and say things in anger that they will long regret. Some people stubbornly insist on imposing their vision of a situation, while others give in rapidly to end conflict as quickly as possible. All of these reactions can be very destructive if they are not managed.
With this in mind, how can we adopt the most suitable attitude?
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