Mar 31, 2022
In Fashion Forum
While doing research, I once observed a fascinating divide among the executives of a nursing home parent company. It changed my perspective on workplace conflict and pointed out ways to deal with disagreements that could undo entrenched conflicts and interdepartmental wars. The disagreement began when the CEO, two regional presidents and a finance director were reviewing data on a recent initiative. At one point, the CEO said, "I don't think the number is right." One of the presidents, Kerr, disagreed. "Yes," he said, "I'm sure," and gave reasons why he thought the number was accurate. The finance staff also sided with Cole. The number is correct, and his team has double-checked it. However, the CEO is not convinced. He was convinced that the number was highly skewed and that the calculations were wrong. The group walked back and forth like this, and the discussion became serious. The solution to important problems depends on the accuracy of that number. After a while, the CEO sent the financier back to his team to check again to see if they could find the error, and everyone started talking about other things. Ten minutes later, the financial guy came back with his laptop unceremoniously, and sat down without raising his head. The CEO asked softly, "Did you find the error?" The finance guy paused, then admitted, "We found the error." But here's the crux of the matter: Opposition leader Cole was proven wrong in front of the CEO, another regional president and the treasurer, leaping to his feet, yelling "Oh, hehe!" Jumping across the room to hug the chief The executive, then shook his shoulder and said, "Oh man, you're right! Of course you're right!" After a while he looked up and remembered that I was there. He shook the industry mailing list like an athlete one last time and said enthusiastically, "I just love this guy. He's amazing!" In this case, the stakes are high and the disagreements are real - yet there's absolutely no hard feelings when everything is shaking. This happened in part because the team was trained in the principles of the Arbinger Institute, which teaches leaders that appreciating others is fundamental. You can read hundreds of books and ask for tons of advice on dealing with disagreements and differences, but all techniques are useless and counterproductive when others can see that, underneath it all, you deem them inconvenient. Anyone can learn to see others in a way that reduces conflict and eliminates tools for dealing with disagreements. Use these three amazing insights to overcome conflict: 1. Use the other person's disagreement as a signal to stop. Many times when we hear other people disagree or disagree with our ideas, our response is to dig deep and fight for us. We all tend to do this, but think about it: Have you ever fought to defend your position, only to find that your relationship is better? of course not. That's because defending our position against others' positions is not a way to respect others. Others—real living people with their own life histories—surely see things differently than we do. When we interpret their differences as threats or attacks, it's as if we're saying their views are not legitimate, or that they can't possibly disagree on merit, so they must be hostile. Such an attitude is insulting, not to mention counterproductive. Differences of opinion are not a crisis. They are exactly what it means to work with humans. Treating others the way they deserve will take any sign of disagreement as a signal to stop trying to prove your point. Stop talking, don't argue, take a deep breath and listen. This will stop the loop before the defense starts and signal to the opponent that you respect his or her point of view. 2. Look for what the other person is saying is true. You do not need to agree with another person, but you must remember that this person has his or her own reasons, hopes and fears. There is nothing to lose by listening to another point of view, so listening is about learning, not finding mistakes to exploit. At one point, I was in an executive meeting because of a conflict over a recent policy change regarding financial reporting. The executive leadership team brought forward the due date for the monthly report. Victoria, a director in the finance department, came in to express her displeasure. One of the executives explained why, but Victoria remained unhappy. Different supervisors patiently got through to her, but she was still not satisfied. I waited impatiently for one of the executives to put her foot down and tell her to keep working under the new rules. After listening to the explanation respectfully, if she still refuses to see the benefits of the new deadline, what else can they do? In the end, there was a long silence after Victoria finally insisted that she could not get an accurate figure under the new policy. Finally, one of the presidents leaned forward and said very seriously, "