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Kathy Ecknardt, Newark Group

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Look inside of one of Victor Gray’s Training programs and examine some of the concepts discussed in his Addressing Conflict With No Fear ™ program.

When someone pushes you figuratively, what do you do? Our natural instinct or reaction is to push back. In the workplace, the same thing can happen—that is using inappropriate language, behavior or non-productive displays of power or force. I train leaders to do what comes “unnaturally.” That is, not to be a victim of our own natural instincts or reactions.

According to the award-winning research of Dr. Kenneth Thomas, when in a conflict, we have the choice of five basic conflict-handling options [1]. Each conflict position will have an impact upon the outcome of the conflict situation, whether positive or negative. Here are the options for resolving conflict:

Force/Competing - The leader takes a firm stand and is unwilling to accept any other options. I win and you lose because I care only about what I want.

Avoiding - The leader accepts the decision, and cautiously evades conflict. Generally, this is an I lose/you lose situation because I care neither about what you or I want. This approach can still be used to your and the organization’s advantage by responding in the following manner. When you are tempted to respond in an unconstructive manner, call a cooling off period or cease-fire. Plan you approach over night, come back the next day with a plan to move forward.

Accommodating - The smart leader knows when to give in to others. This I lose, you win approach means I care more about your needs than my own needs. However, a wise “politician” can leverage a return favor in the future.

Compromising - The leader is able to split the difference by participating in a process of give and take by winning something and losing something. This constructive approach represents an I win/lose and you win/lose stance. The loss occurs because my colleague and I do not get everything I/we want.

Collaborating - The leader seeks consensus or a win-win solution for both parties by attempting to gain insight into the ideas or opinions of others. This functional approach requires time, interpersonal skills by both parties and upper management support to be effective.

Remember, despite how the other person chooses to respond, you have a choice in how YOU respond. Therefore, choose the best approach for each conflict situation you face.

Conflict uncovers where we disagree. When in a conflict, we take a position. A wise leader will pick the best approach for the situation and not do what comes naturally—or let the natural reaction take control.

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