17 June 2008

Difficult Working Relationships

I have often joked with my co-workers that this world would be an easier place to live in if it weren’t for the people. People can be difficult at times. I can be difficult at times.

I heard a speaker say that the way you handle conflict depends on your experiences and I believe that is true. Managing conflict with limited knowledge and skill in that area will most likely not result in success. I am the type of person who believes in the do unto others as you would have them do unto you rule, so when someone breaks that and does something that I wouldn’t even think of doing, I find it hard to know how to deal with it.

When I hear someone speak or I read a book and the author is skilled in the area of conflict management, I get good ideas and tools for dealing with conflicts and it is very helpful. I think we need to be equipped to handle situations that come up at work and at home.

I heard someone speak recently on managing conflict and it prompted some good discussions and insight into this topic by the participants.

We were given five types of conflict style and asked to determine which type we were.
  • The avoider does not want to have confrontation and will do anything they can to avoid it
  • The competitor wants to win. It is a competition with them and sometimes they will try to win at all costs. The relationship is not as important as the goal
  • The accommodator plays the role of the mediator. They try to smooth any ruffled feathers. The relationship is very important to them
  • The compromiser wants negotiation and compromise. They want things to be resolved such that everyone wins
  • The collaborator seeks a solution that is good for everyone. They look at the issues, not the personalities involved in the conflict.
It was an interesting workshop as we went through different scenarios and tried to determine which type of conflict style would be best in each particular situation. We also had to give our reasons why we would choose that particular style. We could see that in different situations, different styles needed to be used.

People who are skilled in conflict management can break it down for us and then we can see clearer what needs to be done. Bob Wall has written an excellent book on the subject.[1] It is very interesting and details conflicts and how they can be resolved. Of course it makes perfect sense when it happens to someone else, but it is more difficult when it is a situation you are dealing with at your own workplace or home.

We will all have difficult situations to deal with at one time or another and having knowledge and know-how to approach them is a good first step.

[1] Wall, Bob, Working Relationships: The Simple Truth About Getting Along with Friends and Foes at Work