Ki Moments Blog

Support for life’s “key” moments.

February 27, 2018

From Adversaries to Partners: Resolving Co-worker Conflict

From Adversaries to Partners: Resolving Co-worker Conflict

In my last two posts, I asked you to help me name my new book. And I received so much useful feedback--thank you! I asked for specific suggestions for the title, as well as your vote on the top four. I got all of that and more. I received some really helpful advice. Some of your suggestions:

  • I believe the title needs to clearly say what the benefit is to me. It has to get me to go, "Hmmm....," tweak my curiosity and compel me to pick it up.
  • I wouldn't limit it to managers. If it says "leaders," both leaders and managers will think it applies to them.
  • The focus should be on WHAT you want to achieve through the book versus HOW. So I'm thinking aikido isn't necessary for the title despite how integral it is to your message. 
  • My "take" is including aikido in your title will distinguish your book from the profusion of books in this field just as aikido distinguishes you professionally.
  • The title should make a prospective reader feel like the author "gets them" and knows what they most need and want and fear and hope for.
  • The word ‘aikido’ begins to define the book. It would be attractive for a certain segment of the population but might not be helpful for a broader audience.
  • "From Adversaries to Partners" paints a vivid picture of the issue (adversaries) to a desired solution (partners), which is much more powerful than just 'getting along'.
  • It sounds like the idea is to train the employees to resolve their own conflict so the manager no longer has to be in the middle.
  • As you look at all those titles, remember to breathe and pick the one that most resonates for you!

It was tough, because some viewpoints directly contradicted others--just like life! And in the end, I took that breath, centered myself, and made a choice that I believe is inclusive, defines the "what" and the "how", encapsulates the content, addresses the reader's need, and resonates with me.

From Adversaries to Partners: Resolving Co-worker Conflict

(A Step-by-Step Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Anyone in the Middle)

I look forward to sending everyone who responded a copy of my book when it's published. This may be a few months, as the cover and inside format have yet to be designed, but it will happen. In the meantime, below is another excerpt that offers some ki support on the benefits of a positive CMS--conflict management style.

A Positive Mindset

Research shows that a manager’s attitude toward a conflict is crucial to how the impasse is resolved. In 2016, the International Journal of Conflict Management cited an Australian study of 401 employees in 69 work groups. The study was designed to investigate what happens when a third-party supervisor intervenes to help manage a conflict. In cases where employees had a supervisor with a positive conflict-management style (CMS) the result was reduced anxiety, depression, and bullying. In addition, researchers discovered a strong connection between a positive CMS and a decrease in the number of times employees thought about filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Especially in situations with a lot of history and high emotion, before you can successfully guide others through a conflict, you must first examine your own attitude, emotions, and beliefs around what is possible and understand what your role is in bringing those possibilities out.

I call this way of self-reflecting “working on yourself alone,” a concept from the writings of Arnold and Amy Mindell, founders of the Process Work approach to resolving conflict.

Working on myself alone means observing the mindset with which I come into the process of resolving a conflict. As you begin to work with your employees, are you looking forward to supporting them? What judgments are you making? What is your attitude toward each?

The skill- and rapport-building sessions that you conduct with the parties involved in the conflict offer continuous opportunities to notice your beliefs, assumptions, and emotions. Who you are and how you choose to be present with the parties help determine the success of the endeavor.

Your goal is to use yourself intentionally as an instrument of influence in the process. If you become uncentered at any point—for example, by losing your composure or becoming emotionally triggered—it’s important that you find your way back. By training yourself to notice your own anger, judgment, blame, and premature conclusions, you can learn to let them go and return to supporting the parties and the process.

Knowing about the ways in which my presence can affect the process, I continually cultivate an awareness of my own physical and mental behavior as I lead an intervention. By lead, I don’t mean control. I ask honest, open-ended questions, listen non-judgmentally, stay centered and curious, and always keep purpose in mind. I smile a lot. I work to minimize nervousness, fear, and judgment in the room, and I find things I like and appreciate in each of the parties.

My posture, demeanor, eye contact, and even the way I walk into the room speak volumes. My belief in whether this is a learning experience with a positive outcome or a situation fraught with challenge is communicated before I say a word. Consequently, I look for positive benefits and believe in the learning that will take place. I can’t pretend. I have to truly believe the intervention benefits the parties involved and that I am a supportive factor in facilitating the resolution of the conflict. My mindset is a principal ally throughout this process, as it is in life.

© 2018 Judy Ringer

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