Turning Conflict into Collaboration

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The potential for conflict exists within every relationship, be it between individuals or businesses. The differences in habits, attitudes, convictions and individual preferences ensure that no two entities operate in the same way.

The usual outcomes of conflict

Depending on the importance of the relationship between the parties, the possible outcomes of conflicts include:

• Avoidance: Pretending that an issue does not exist. This common mistake negates the opportunity for conflict resolution. The conflict may fester and spread to other areas.

• Competition: In workplaces, instead of facing the issue and resolving the conflict, people may suppress it. Unnecessary competition and mistrust resulting from this can lead to loss of communication, team dynamics and even jobs.

• Compromise: If a business relationship is important to one of the partners, conflicts may be resolved by giving in to the demands of the other party. These compromises are often grudgingly made, and the underlying dissatisfaction may lead to the breaking up of the association later.

• Accommodation: Both the parties may give in to each other’s demands when the association is equally important to their businesses. While it may seem like a fair deal, constant disagreements and blame-games may decrease productivity.

Why collaboration is a better alternative

The usual outcomes of conflicts have negative connotations. No constructive growth can result from negativism. It’s a temporary truce at best. The usual outcomes may be sufficient to meet short-term goals, but not to achieve lasting peace and progress. On the other hand, collaboration is a long-term solution. It brings in the synergies of common goals and creative inputs from everyone.

How to turn conflict into collaboration

The first step in turning conflict into collaboration is education, through conflict management training or a conflict management workshop. Some major points are outlined below.

• Change the attitude: Conflict is normally seen as a minor war in which both the parties try to hold on to their weapons and one-upmanship. It should be ideally viewed, however, as an opportunity for greater growth. This change of attitude is the first step to collaboration.

• Listen to all: When people sit across a table to discuss issues, often everyone is too busy expressing their own views and opinions to listen to what others have to say. An attempt at collaboration should ensure that all the issues, facts and viewpoints are brought to the table, and all are heard.

• Remove the emotions: Conflicts are more often than not emotionally charged. People feel threatened when their ideas are rejected and their suggestions are opposed. They react with anger, resentment and frustration. Objectivity is lost when emotions are present. Separate the issues from the emotions and give full attention to the facts.
• Search for common ground: When free exchange of aspirations and ideas takes place, you may come across some common ground that can be the basis for the journey forward. Identify common goals and areas that can benefit from cooperative effort. Make a note of resources that can be shared and people who can work together.

• Reach an agreement: All the discussions during the search for common ground are geared towards reaching an agreement that is in the best interests of all the parties involved. Marsha Shenk, a pioneer in Business Anthropology, calls it the “agreement for results”.

• Set goals: To bring a collaborative effort to fruition, words should be translated into actions. Setting short-term and long-term goals within a framework of time and achieving milestones is very important.

Collaboration is an ongoing process. For it to be successful, the exercise of finding common ground, making agreements, and setting goals should be repeated over and over again until it becomes a habit. It takes mindfulness about the common goals and strong commitment to follow through. These tips can help, along with courses in conflict management training or at the least, a conflict management workshop.

Stitt Feld Handy Group offers training in conflict management, communication skills, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and alternative dispute resolution for large and small businesses, using the latest adult education techniques. Do you want to turn conflict into collaboration? Contact us today to learn more about how to get started.

Radek Cecha :: About Author :: Email

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