Chaco Canyon Consulting

Are You Fed Up with Tense, Explosive Meetings?

Are you or a colleague targets of a bully? Is your team's performance threatened by rivalries and destructive conflicts? Are your projects needlessly complicated because they had to include superfluous features just to keep the peace in your organization?

Conflict isn't necessarily Skip to the Details:
How To Order
bad — it can be constructive, especially when people with opposing views work together to produce a new position that all can support. Often the results are better than any one of the contributors' initial positions. And conflict can be destructive, too, when oppositional, reasoned debate turns to personal attacks, sniping, exclusion, silence, gossip, or worse — violence and other forms of abuse. 101 Tips for Managing Conflict shows you how to encourage constructive conflict, how to intervene to end destructive conflict, and how to create an environment that minimizes the occurrence of destructive conflict.

101 Tips for Managing ConflictIn my own experience, and in the course of working with clients in my consulting and coaching practices, I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't when we try to deal with conflict at work. Some of what I've learned is just good practice and has appeared in the literature over the years. But much is very new, developed in response to the rapid structural and technological change that has swept through today's office.

This tip book is both like and unlike many other collections of ideas for dealing with conflict. Like others, it's packed with ideas and suggestions that will help you deal with destructive conflict once it erupts.

Unlike others, this tip book also provides

  • Looking specifically for tips for targets of bullies? Check out my tips book 101 Tips for Targets of Workplace Bullies!Suggestions for changing the way you experience conflict, to help you come to peace even with situations you cannot change
  • Ideas organizational leaders and managers can use to adjust the organizational culture to make conflict more constructive and a lot less painful for all
  • Insights that help you understand the systemic sources of conflict

Some sample tips

Here's a sample:

"Personality clash" is a bogus concept
The "personality clash" model of destructive conflict represents some conflicts as arising solely from incompatibilities between two people. Rarely is this the case — the causes of destructive conflict are usually systemic, involving several people, if not everyone, and sometimes people who aren't even present.
Identify performance issues
Bullying behavior is a performance issue that might call for discipline. Tolerating bullying behavior by a subordinate is a performance issue for the supervisor, and it, too, might call for discipline. Tolerating the toleration of bullying behavior on the part of a sub-subordinate is also a performance issue that might call for discipline. And so on.
Avoid the Fundamental Attribution Error
As humans, we repeatedly make the Fundamental Attribution Error — we attribute behavior to character or disposition rather than to situation or context. Consciously try to understand others in terms of the situations they face, rather than their track records, origins, alliances, professions or affiliations.

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Table of contents

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Understand the basics of conflict

  • Conflict can be constructive
  • Conflict is part of life
  • Emotions are an inherent part of conflict
  • The problem is rarely the problem
  • "Personality clash" is a bogus concept
  • Conflict can be managed, but not avoided or eliminated

Handle email with care

  • Know what email is good for
  • When in doubt, assume the best
  • Find at least three interpretations
  • Beware: email can be dangerous
  • Use mixed case
  • Don't type when you're angry
  • Adopt a take-it-outside norm
  • Email doesn't always arrive
  • Don't send "Tweaking CCs"
  • Don't worry about receiving a Tweaking CC
  • If a subordinate sends Tweaking CCs, intervene
  • Take action if you receive the CC of a Tweaking CC

Understand the effects of context

  • Avoid the Fundamental Attribution Error
  • In communications, safety depends, in part, on the medium
  • For issues with high emotional content, avoid written communications
  • Pressure doesn't help
  • Crowding is expensive
  • Thought workers need quiet
  • Negotiating positions are sometimes constrained
  • Deal with geographic dispersion fairly
  • Structure roles to encourage collaboration
  • Attachment to a position might not be what it seems
  • The cheapest way to operate is with enough resources

Know the role of the organization

  • Don't contribute to a blaming environment
  • Intervene in wars among subordinates
  • Be open to the ideas of others
  • Rumors about a conflict are toxic
  • For tense meetings, use a facilitator
  • When a meeting boils over, adjourn
  • Value relationships
  • Assigning blame or credit to one person is futile
  • Deal with conflict — don't suppress it
  • Deploy and track conflict metrics
  • Change makes organizations vulnerable

Think in terms of systems

  • Conflict is complex
  • Repeated patterns are regulated
  • Competition is expensive
  • If you're inside a troubled system, get help
  • Closed systems are more vulnerable than open ones
  • Preparation helps
  • Conflict rarely involves only two people
  • Understand the effects of accounting
  • Nobody was born yesterday
  • One person is rarely the root cause
  • Systems need to vent

Express yourself

  • Breathe
  • Avoid the word "but"
  • Demand decorum
  • Know the common trigger phrases
  • Be positive when you express concerns
  • Know how being trapped feels
  • Avoid the trap of implied accusations
  • Be open about your misgivings
  • When conflict hurts, talk about it
  • Become a master of the apology
  • Inappropriate apologies don't work

Manage yourself

  • Manage your state of mind by breathing
  • Let people know how you feel
  • Know what you're really upset about
  • Expand your choices
  • Wait to hear it all
  • Assume that it isn't an insult
  • Be open about your feelings
  • Get off your dreadmill
  • Feel your feelings
  • Everything is easier with support
  • Practice happiness
  • Anger is rarely your best choice
  • Use humor with precision
  • Sarcasm is OK between friends
  • Manage your touching

Work it out

  • Choose a good time of the day to work it out
  • Choose a good day of the week to work it out
  • Avoid blaming
  • When working on it, stay focused
  • Validate
  • Take breaks
  • Deal with obstacles
  • Take turns in discussion
  • Use "I" statements
  • Avoid analogies
  • Notice your breathing
  • Make an appointment to work it out

Deal with bullies

  • Know how to spot a bully
  • Respond effectively to pleas for help
  • Distinguish the mob from its leader
  • Don't blame the target
  • Keep your cool
  • If you're the target, don't retaliate
  • Don't run or hide
  • Waiting them out doesn't work
  • Self-defense is part of your life
  • Document all incidents and file formal complaints
  • Some bullies are irrational
  • Identify performance issues
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