When I check out the search terms that have landed people here, I'm
seeing an increasing number of "conflict" and "conflict at work"
I've met people who claim that they like conflict. I don't think so.
They might like competition; they might like winning; but the idea oflikingconflict in and of itself seems unhealthy at best and perhaps evil at
worst. And since none of these people I know is particularly fond of
"losing"--(a possible outcome of conflict)--I think that they are
exhibiting a bit of competitive bravado. Which, of course, could be a
major source of conflict.
What is Conflict?
Well, we know it when wefeelit, don't we?
lot of entires, info, and resources. They also offer here what I
believe are good definitions and discernment of different types of
Definition: "When two or more parties, with
perceived incompatible goals, seek to undermine each other's
One should not confuse the distinction between the presence and absence of conflict with the difference betweencompetitionandco-operation.
Incompetitivesituations, the two or more parties each havemutually
inconsistent goals, so that when either party tries to reach their goal
it will undermine the attempts of the other to reach theirs. Therefore,
competitive situations will by their nature cause conflict. However,
conflict can also occur incooperativesituations, in which two or more
parties have consistent goals, because themanner in whichone party
tries to reach their goal can still undermine the other.
A clash of interests,values, actions or directions often sparks a
conflict. Conflicts refer to the existence of that clash.
Psychologically, a conflict exists when the reduction of one motivating
stimulus involves an increase in another, so that a newadjustmentis
demanded. The word is applicable from the instant that the clash
occurs. Even when we say that there is a potential conflict we are
implying that there is already a conflict of direction even though a
clash may not yet have occurred.
What Does This Mean In Real Life?
1.Competitiveconflict. We are at odds about the "what"
question. "What" we want to do will diminish the other person's chance
of success if we succeed.
2.Cooperativeconflict. Now there's anoxymoron.
This one is about the "how" question. "How" you want to do something
conflicts with how I want to do it, or think it should be done.
These are classic because they reflect the ongoing tension between goals (what) and process (how).
3.Valuesconflict. An action or direction violates "who" we are at our core.
What Can You Do?
(The suggestions below assume that the people involved are people of good will).
1. Competitiveconflict calls for the possibility of re-defining
each others' goals. This is the notion of "win-win." It requires
honesty about why you are trying to achieve something. Until you
understand each other's "why" the "what" will seem conflicting and
self-serving. It calls for a willingness to have a conversation that
exposes each person's vulnerabilities. Someone has to go first. If
your conflict is about the "what," then why not go first? Heck, you're
already in conflict anyway. What do you have to lose?
2. Cooperativeconflict. This is where the control freak managers lurk in organizations.
Stay with me here.
I can't state this enough. Job satisfaction and personal motivation
are closely tied to one's ability to bring one's uniqueness to the task
or team. When we sign on for a job, we are saying implicitly that we
pretty much agree with the goals of the organization. What we now hope to do is "ply our craft." And that uniqueness comes in"how" we are
allowed to perform the jobto achieve the goals.
A manager who has
gotten commitment to the "what" and then wants to be involved in
everyone's "how" is killing his people's spirit and undermining the
talent that they offer. (Note: certain jobs focused on safety and
securitydo notleave room for personal creativity. I have often hoped
that the pilot flying my plane was not feeling in a very creative mood
What to do?Gotta have another conversation. Explain that the over-management is doing two things:
a. It is taking time away from you actually doing the job.
b. It is getting in the way of your ability to stay committed to what your boss wants to accomplish.
Then ask about your results. If you have a wrong perception of how
you are doing, this is the time to get it on the table. If your boss
tells you your results are good, then your boss will hopefully have an
Aha! moment regarding your contributions.
The worst that can happen? You'll find out sooner, rather than later, that this isn't a place you want to be over the long run.
3.Valuesconflict. When asked to do something that violates
your beliefs, you're about to experience a personal growth moment. Do
you know why you believe what you believe? If you aren't sure, this is
a primo time to find out.
Did you find out that your value wasn't really a value at all, or
not in the way that you thought? Then maybe you can re-consider the
Your value is rock-solid? Then "no" is the only answer of integrity.
Conflict and Forgiveness
You may not be able to resolve the conflict, whatever it is. Buthow you respondwill determine your peace of mind and ability to move forward. The act of forgiving following a conflict is important toyourwell-being.
Twice in my life I have been wronged in huge ways by anyone's standards:
I was once actually accused of a hideous crime. After a 2-year investigation
and the attendant legal fees and law enforcement interaction, it was
discovered and affirmed that I had been the object of a conspiracy.
In the second instance a client unilaterally walked away from a
contract. It cost me nearly 1 million dollars. It is theonly client in
30 yearsof practice who has reneged on a contract or payment. I have
never had to "go to collection." My attorney told me that I would
receive full payment if I took it to court. However. . .his
investigation of this company revealed that the president had done this
before: contracted with "boutique" consulting firms the size of mine
and knew that his legal "team" could keep appeals going far longer than
my ability to pay our attorneys. He informed me that although I would win I
would be financially broke by the time it got to trial.
In both instances the strangest thing happened: I "let it go." Now,
I'm not a saint and I know very well how to get ticked offandstay that way
longer than I should. But in these two overwhelming cases I literally
forgave and walked away.
Because bitterness and self-justification will kill you from the
inside out. My reputation was still intact and there was nothing
stopping me from continuing to run my consulting practice. You can'tlive well and help othersif you are filled with bitterness. Life isn't fair. But it's a
wonderful life if you choose to live it that way. And that means
emptying yourself of real and perceived wrongs.
Chances are, someone is going to bug you at work today.
What choice will you make to ensure that your personal joy is intact?