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Conflict Resolution: What is Most Important?

What is more important, the relationship or the outcome?

A hard question to answer when thinking about conflict resolution

We have all been there, right? You know, in the middle of a disagreement with someone on your team. Normally you can get along with anyone, but this person, well, you wish worked somewhere else. Ouch…

After the confrontation is over, you ponder what just happened. You think to yourself, “how can they upset me like that, when no one else can”, or “what was I thinking” or “how can I avoid this in the future”? All these are legitimate questions that you would do well to sit with and answer so that the next confrontation can be more positive.

But the question that we really need to be addressing is this, “what is more important, the relationship or the outcome”? So, lets unpack this a little bit. First, realize that 85% of employees deal with conflict on some level. So, this is something that affects all of us. Second, understand that there are two types of conflict: destructive and constructive, so not all conflict is bad, right?

As we enter conflict, we would do well to have this question at the forefront of our minds. If the relationship is more important that the outcome, then we will enter constructive conflict and think about things like equality, remaining positive and finding ways to compromise. If the outcome is all that matters, we will be open to manipulate, power plays and even threating the other person.

Now to be realistic, I am not suggesting that every conflict will end with kisses and hugs. I am suggesting that if the relationship is more important than the outcome, you will find ways to navigate the selfishness that typically accompanies destructive conflict and look at the greater good.

My hope is that your company has a resolution process already in place. Unfortunately, I am involved in a lot of conflict resolution in companies and rarely do I see a company with a clearly defined process. So, if you don’t have one, no worries, I am enclosing one for you in case you ever need to have one for your company.

There are six steps to the Conflict Resolution Process:

1. Clarify what the disagreement is.

2. Establish a common goal for both parties.

3. Discuss ways to meet the common goal.

4. Determine the barriers to the common goal.

5. Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict.

6. Acknowledge the agreed solution and determine the responsibilities each party has in the resolution.

Here are some tips to help you when going through these steps:

a. Don’t be emotional

b. Be realistic and open

c. Don’t involve others not involved in the conflict, unless needed for accountability

d. Focus on the problem at hand not the personality

My hope is that you will use this path to reduce long term damage that conflict can cause and remember this, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging a relationship and strengthening it, your attitude.

Dave Molenda, CGA, CPBA, CPDFA

Founder, Positive Polarity, LLC

Office: 262.522.7676

Cell: 414.322.2358

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