Resolving conflict between managers

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Resolving conflict between managers

What do you do when your department managers disagree? When they differ in terms of how they do things and have a hard time working together?

By Maximise Your Potential (Oksana Tashakova)

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Published: Sun 22 Apr 2012, 3:44 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 11:51 AM

Conflict is a normal part of any business operation and emotions play a large role in every working relationship. Conflict is to be expected and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Conflict can be constructive. It can lead to new ways of thinking, to innovation in procedures and to strengthening of relationships and team cohesion. Conflict is an opportunity for people to have increased understanding of different perspectives and themselves.

Conflict needs to be managed, however, or it can lead to divisiveness, negativity, and resentment. Personality differences are a common cause of conflict and managers may have different ways of dealing with conflict.

As a leader, you can help managers come together by first acknowledging and validating what they’re feeling and their point of view. Then you can help them to think about common interests or goals that they can both agree to work towards. This will get them to think in terms of cooperation instead of competition. There are five different ways that you can deal with conflict: accommodation, avoidance, collaboration, competition and compromise. Each type of situation warrants a different way of processing.

The competitive style is also known as forcing. Using authority or power to resolve conflict is a good idea when collaboration or compromise won’t work; when time is of the essence; when everyone else’s concerns aren’t important or the matter is trivial.

Accommodation involves one party giving in to the other. This may be appropriate when the relationship is more important than one’s concerns; when you want to show goodwill or garner a favour.

Avoidance is a way of ignoring a conflict altogether. This tactic is useful when an argument becomes too heated; when the relationship doesn’t matter; or when the issue isn’t of importance. Compromise is a way to resolve conflict when the relationship and the issue are of equal importance. Both parties give up something in order to move on.

Collaboration is the best way to deal with many conflicts but it is time-consuming and takes a great deal of energy. That’s why it isn’t warranted when the issue is trivial; when time is of the essence; or when the relationship matters aren’t of great concern.

Collaboration is what you’d like to see your managers do rather than compete with each other. It involves everyone’s concerns being heard, understood and addressed. It is a solution-focused process in which both sides offer each other mutual respect and work to find a win-win result. Collaboration results in increased rapport and creative solutions to problems and issues.

You can teach your managers the collaborative style of dealing with conflict by facilitating the style until it becomes the normal way they deal with issues. You put relationships first by ensuring that each treats each other in a calm way and with mutual respect. Stress cooperation instead of competition. Make sure that everyone keeps people and problems separate, that they don’t make personal attacks, that they validate and attempt to understand the position of the other person. By listening carefully, you will be able to find common goals and interests that both managers may be able to agree upon. Then you must define objective criteria or standards that everyone can agree to judge the results or solution by. Once you’ve reached this level of cooperation and collaboration, brainstorming can result in a whole host of alternatives, often which are better ideas than either one of the original stances taken by your managers.

The author is an executive coach and HR training and development expert. She can be reached at oksana@academia or

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