Many relationships (work and home) make it to the long term by developing patterns around conflict. Then the parties proactively self-censure, reinforcing the pattern, and leading to premature compromise or avoidance of even possible conflict. This is a good method of reducing conflict, but is it a good method of leading and producing organization growth?

Conflict is simply a by-product of interactions. It is necessary and healthy for conflict to occur. I don’t mean that you should be throwing things in meetings (as happened at the first company I worked for) but you can use it to get the most from the talent you’ve hired.

How you deal with conflict impacts how everyone else in the organization deals with conflict.

  • If you avoid, decisions will be made by default and you will not get the benefit that comes from openly sharing and debating ideas. 
  • If you debate everything, it will be seen as competition and people will not bring ideas to you unless they have to, because it is too tiring.
  • If you accommodate too often, your viewpoint and expertise will not be well represented.
  • If you collaborate on every issue, you will waste valuable time on items of low importance.
  • Compromise moves things along quickly, but doesn’t provide for the “all-in” commitment that you need for the truly important issues. Don’t overuse it!

These different ways of handling conflict are based on the Thomas-Kilman model and all five are appropriate to use in different situations. 

The key is to use the right method for the situation. 

Karen Walker


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