Workplace conflict wears two faces: it can lead to solutions, innovation, increased motivation, better team performance, and enhanced interpersonal understanding. Or, conflict can devolve into personal attacks, dismissals, attrition, and absenteeism.
The anchoring effect is a powerful psychological force in which we rely too heavily on the first information we receive. Even if we’re aware that we’re going to be influenced and biased by these anchors, it is incredibly difficult to discount them from our thought processes. In negotiations, this can put you at a serious disadvantage.
While the goal of mediation is to allow parties to resolve conflict and develop mutually beneficial solutions, it’s natural to seek an edge, an advantage that guides the conversation closer to one’s side of the issue. The anchoring effect is a powerful psychological truth that can be employed to this end. What is it, and how does it work?
While a fallen hero, Lance Armstrong perfectly describes the theory of loss aversion: “I like to win, but more than anything, I can’t stand this idea of losing.” The pleasure we derive from winning is not as great as the pain we feel from losing, so we act to minimize and avoid loss. This can impede our ability to make rational, unbiased decisions. Why? How can we start to focus on the gains?
You walk up to the blackjack table with $50 in chips. What’s the goal of your first bet? To win money. You bust, and now you’re down $50. Do you walk away or try to recoup your loss? Most people stay, and the second bet is much easier to place. Why? Because the goal changes: instead of trying to gain, you are trying to avoid loss.
Theories and the strategies inspired by them for managing conflict are great starting points, but the real magic flows from attitude.
My sister and brother-in-law recently wrote a book together. Its called: THE STOP – How The Fight For Good Food Transformed A Community And Inspired A Movement. (to learn more visit: http://www.cfccanada.ca/book)
You are sitting on a park bench and see someone find $10. Too bad you didn’t see it first! That person asks if you want to split the money. If they offer to split it 50-50, many of us would accept, or perhaps decline because “finders’ keepers.” What if the finder suggests you split the money 90-10. That is not fair! That person wants to cheat us! Forget the fact that a 90-10 split would give you $1 you didn’t have before; forget the fact that the other person found the money. It’s not the facts that matter; it’s the perception. Conflict is often caused by perceptions of what is fair and what is not and what we perceive the other person’s intentions are. In the workplace, managers and supervisors may be causing conflict and not even be aware of it.
Groups in conflict; a few members spreading discord to the entire team; passive team members perpetuating problems; active team members recruiting others to “their” side. Whatever the specific nature of a group’s conflict, it is essential that it be handled effectively – and sooner rather than later. Letting it fester only erodes morale and productivity. Group facilitation can help address the underlying issues that run through the behaviours that are affecting the work environment. While time is of the essence, it is critical that all parties be prepared before setting foot in the facilitation room.
What’s the difference between facilitation and mediation? They are both means to an end – but the journey to get there is different. While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are clear differences between these two alternative dispute resolution techniques and clear instances in which one or the other is better suited for the job. But because workplace conflict does not always follow straight lines, it can be helpful to create an approach that combines the best of both mediation and facilitation.
Theories and strategies inspired by them for managing conflict are great starting points but the real magic flows from attitude. My sister and brother-in-law recently wrote a book together. Its called: THE STOP – How The Fight For Good Food Transformed A Community And Inspired A Movement. (to learn more visit: http://www.cfccanada.ca/book)