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.
“In an organizational hierarchy every employee tends to rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence.” Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong.
Mr. Peter describes what many of us have seen – or even experienced – in the workplace. People are promoted until they can no longer do the job they are assigned, and there they remain. In my conflict coaching practice I frequently work with people facing this type of challenge. I have a more optimistic outlook than Mr. Peter. The outcomes for these people need not be so negative as becoming stuck in a position for which one is unsuited.
There are different styles of conflict coaches and different styles of conflict coaching. When choosing a conflict coach, you have to be sure their style and approach melds with your needs.
The thing about finding a conflict coach is that you cannot be sure it’s the right fit until you give someone a try. When you have an issue and think you would benefit from coaching, it requires a bit of a shot in the dark. That’s not to say you are completely blind: you will have a sense of this person’s experience, credentials, and background even before meeting with him/her, thanks to the internet. Before you hire a conflict coach you should speak to the living, breathing person and ask him or her these 4 important questions:
Sometimes it seems like we could use conflict coaching everyday and twice on Mondays! But the point of conflict coaching is to help you develop the skills to handle disputes and disagreements on your own, regardless of the specific circumstances. Having the know-how and support to get you headed in the right direction can make a tremendous difference. There are, though, situations in which coaching is invaluable regardless of how skilled one is… These include:
Conflict coaching is not therapy; it is not like talking with a friend and receiving advice that you may not need or want. Coaching is intensive; it’s targeted; and it’s focused. The method will unlock your thinking on key issues, interests, and goals and help develop new, more effective, strategies.
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author.
Tim White was a high-ranking gang member from the South Side of Chicago. He sold drugs, spent years in and out of jail, and lived a violent life. In prison, he “found” religion and has since become a Baptist minister. One day, he was talking on the corner with the leaders of two rival gangs, trying to convince them to stop a gang war from erupting. On the street, other gang members came over, guns came out, and finally White convinced everyone to leave before the cops showed up.
What’s the purpose of conflict coaching? To resolve the conflict! But to do that, you need to be thrown-off balance. The status quo isn’t working for you; business as usual simply perpetuates the cycle of conflict you’re experiencing. You need to break out of that, and this is what a conflict coach can help you do. It is, and has to be, uncomfortable. But just how uncomfortable? Some coaches seem to model their practices on a Hollywood version of a drill sergeant, while others offer a more moderate approach. Which is the more effective style?
“Hey, Manager. I’m having a conflict with John and Sue. Can’t work it out. Let’s get a conflict coach in here.”
If you can say this openly and directly to your manager/supervisor, you’re lucky! Many people are reluctant to admit they cannot resolve a dispute that a situation has escalated past a manageable point or even that they have a conflict at all. You may have come to the conclusion that a conflict coach will help – but how do you ensure your manager comes to the same conclusion?
When you are asking for a conflict coach, you have to be able to phrase it in the right terms to the decision-maker(s). You have to make it sound like it’s for their benefit, which is certainly not a stretch in this case. What’s in it for them?
In a word, money. Conflict impacts the bottom line by:
Conflict in the workplace is a serious issue that can result in absenteeism, reduced productivity, high turnover, and lost revenue. Often employees don’t have the tools needed to effectively deal with conflict and many find it difficult to keep what could be minor, isolated incidents from becoming chronic or widespread.