Making Conflict Work deals directly and sensibly with a vital business topic other books avoid.
Not since the Getting to Yes has a book given such straightforward advice on navigating conflict up and down across power differences. Not since Emotional Intelligence has a book offered such insights into the importance of emotions and relationships in organizations.
And . . . Making Conflict Work goes further than either of those best sellers.
It introduces the concept of conflict intelligence: the ability to read conflict situations accurately and respond in ways that work. It shows readers –– from the powerful to the seemingly powerless – exactly how to turn conflict into a strategic advantage at all levels of an organization.
No other book deals so pragmatically with conflict in the face of authority differences. Power is often a dirty little secret in organizations, rarely mentioned in the conference room – yet a common topic in the break room.
In the many workshops the authors have conducted, participants in corporations and non-profits often ask, “What if you have a conflict with someone with more power?” Or, “The people who work for me don’t seem willing to disagree with me. What can I do to get them to be more candid?”
This book provides practical answers.
The unpleasant reality is that most disagreements in organizations (and especially the trickiest ones) are up and down the hierarchy of power and authority. Often, those in high-power lose – they don’t get what they want, waste time, and fail to create value. That’s right, they lose. They get stuck in a take-it-or-leave-it mode. Many conflict traps await the powerful at work: they don’t pay enough attention to those with less power, they fail to sufficiently understand the disagreements they face, they break rules because they can get away it, and eventually they start to perceive reality in a distorted fashion. Power blinds them and impairs their judgment, leading to expensive leadership failures.
Employees with less power suffer from their own traps. While they may have a more accurate perception of the conflicts they face, their view is more dim, tiresome and pessimistic. Their can serve to keep them down and help power holders maintain the upper hand in disputes. Over time, this zaps an organization of positive motivation, creativity and effectiveness.
Poorly managed conflict – from above or below – is one of the most expensive costs to business today. It can distract, distance, derail, and even destroy opportunities and relationships. It wastes time and lessens productivity, impairs teamwork and morale, generates toxic emotions, increases counter-productive behaviors like stealing and sabotage, and poisons the physical and mental health of employees.
But skillfully managed conflict can work for you, wherever you sit in your organization.
There is no single best way to resolve conflict at work. Win-win negotiation is a great idea, but often gets derailed when negotiating up the ladder, and only works when people share sufficient common ground. Managers and leaders need additional options for making conflict work than simply win-win or win-lose. This book offers seven different strategies and seventy tactics.
The secret is adaptivity. Our research shows that people who are more adaptive in the face of conflict are happier and healthier at work. But this takes knowledge, skill and practice. It takes conflict intelligence. Most of us get stuck in one or two chronic ways of responding to conflicts at work – like dominating or appeasing others – and therefore miss many opportunities to get things done and build stronger relations.
- Newsflash! Appeasing those in power during a disagreement can actually be a very effective strategy for gaining control of the situation and achieving your goals – when done right.
- Headline! Dominating your employees in disputes – if used smartly and sparingly – is both necessary and constructive.
- Surprise! Sometimes simply exiting the scene of a dispute and finding alternative ways of getting things done is your best bet. In other words, there are contexts in which sidestepping conflict is healthy and effective for people and companies.
- Warning! Cooperation can backfire. Being overly benevolent in the face of conflicts with your employees at work can undermine your authority, decrease morale, and leave your staff confused and unmotivated.
This book connects the dots. It clearly explains how power and conflict affect each other and what we can do to make them work for us. Our approach is science-based, building on one of the most tested and influential models in the field of conflict resolution (Columbia University’s Morton Deutsch). Making Conflict Work also draws from numerous interviews with leaders and managers of all types, providing true and compelling stories, specific examples, and insightful illustrations of the main points.
The book is loaded with tips and techniques you can use immediately:
It offers The Top Conflict-Power Traps in Organizations: Why managers get stuck using the same conflict tactics repeatedly, even when they often fail.
It explains The Mathematics of Emotions and Conflict: The research on how emotions “pool” in work relationships and set the stage for either useful or disastrous conflicts.
It describes The Seven Strategies of Conflict Intelligence: How to increase your repertoire of artful strategies and tactics for conflict management up, down and across the hierarchies of power at work.
It shows how to Increase Your Adaptivity: How to get unstuck from habits of mind and action and learn to become more agile and adaptive in addressing the many different kinds of conflict we face daily at work.
It provides The Conflict Intelligence Planning Framework: For preparing for important negotiations and conflict management processes.
And it lays out The Bottom Line: What to do when even being adaptive doesn’t work.
Finally, Making Conflict Work provides self-assessment tools, exercises, checklists, and summary tables to guide readers through what otherwise could be a complex and intimidating topic.
It’s not just a book; it’s a strategic toolkit.