conflicts are common in organizations. I would go so far as to say that they are the rule not the exception. Bread and butter business for leaders to deal with them. You can think of any number of situations where you have conflict, whether it's, your team members have divergent opinions about project, about marketing strategy, or something else. Whether you are negotiating over promotion, or salary increase whether you're negotiating with a supplier on new contract terms. In all these negotiations you have conflicts that can be rooted in a variety of concerns, it could be that people are competing over scarce resources or that they have concerns of other interests that those are not being met. Or it could be ego concerns or that they feel like maybe their ego is being damaged. They might have very different goals. Let's take that as as a starting point, that conflicts are normal-, Mm-hm. And that they are characterized by this duality of potential outcomes. They could be good conflicts. Positive, right constructive conflicts, or they could be bad, destructive conflicts. Mm-hm. It all depends on of course, what you do, how you handle them, let's take it at the starting point and think a little bit more systematically about how you actually handle conflicts, how you resolve them. There are two perspectives that I want us to take on this. One is focused on the outcomes for what kind of outcomes do we want to get out of the conflict resolution. Mm-hm. The outcomes could be material, symbolic, relational, all kinds of outcomes. Scholars look at this concern about outcomes as distributive justice, some people also call it economic justice. The concern here is who is getting how many of the benefits, how do we distribute the benefits amongst the involved parties and the concern there is for, primarily over do you get a fair share of the benefits? The second perspective that we can take is not about outcomes, it's about the process; so how do we get to the outcomes? Scholars call this procedural justice and the other concern is about do I get fair treatment? Do I have the chance to speak my mind and be heard? Let's start with the outcome prospective. When people talk about conflict, particularly when they when they focus on the outcomes, they often use this Thomas-Kilmann framework of conflict styles or conflict models and it’s a very simple framework. It basically has two dimensions. The first dimension is assertiveness, how assertive are you in the conflict, that is to say how much you focus on your own interests, your own agenda. And the other dimension is how cooperative are you in the in the conflict. That is to say do you actually engage with the other parties’ interest, their agenda? Do you respect that in some ways? If you combine those two, the assertiveness and the cooperative, you can be high or low. If you're low on both, you don't focus on your own. And you don't focus on the other party's interest. That's basically avoidance. Hm-mm. Right. If you don't focus on your own, but you really focus on the other party's interest, you accommodate, if you actually focus on your own interest, but not the other party's, that's competing. And if you focus on both, that's what people call kind of a collaborative orientation and then the middle point basically is literally actually the compromise solution. Okay, let's talk about those one by one so avoiding behavior where you don't focus on interests, don't focus on the person's interests that seems like a bad idea. Yes, it seems like they're not happy there. Is there any reason why you would do that? Potentially you are not interested in engaging in a conflict too much, or you do not have time or-. Exactly, if you don't have the the time to fully engage the conflict and properly deal with it you might be doing more bad than good. You might end up not really solving issues especially if you are talking about a complex intractable conflict and you might end up damaging the relationships without resolving the issue. That could be one reason to avoid it. All right, so accommodating: you focus on the other party's interests what are the benefits for you if you fully orient yourself to towards the other party's interest? Maybe expect to get something back at a point? Exactly, you might be hoping for reciprocal behavior, for reciprocity, that I do you a favor now, the next time we interact, you accommodate my interests, you do me a favor. That could actually be a strategy. Yes. The other benefit that can be in there is that clearly the other side is going to like you because they see that you care about their interests, that you take their interest to heart. That might really also bring harmony to the relationship. Mm-hm. Competing is on the opposite end. You're not necessarily going to win friends easily with that. And at to some degree there's a lot of criticism of that kind of competitive orientation, because you might actually trigger the same kind of reciprocity that we talked about here. If you're competing, the other party is competing as well. Funny enough, often when people have this orientation or a conflict situation it actually comes from an anticipation that the other party is going to compete. The worst fears of what might happen in this conflict resolution is that we're going to be thrown under the bus none of our interests are going to be respected and then we prepare ourselves, We steel ourselves for that. Mm-hm. We try to really fight tooth and nail. Then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If you think the other party's going to behave competitively so you are actually behaving competitively, well they're actually going to do it as well. Okay, so how about the compromise? That seems better than the competing. Yeah, that seems balanced the least, everyone can get from the compromise. Exactly. That's what you think, but there is a caveat there. Compromise might actually lead you to a position where nobody is really happy with the solution. Often this is born out of frustration that you cannot find a better solution, so let's just meet in the middle. Let's just split the difference. And that's why I call it the lazy option. You're not really engaging with the interest of both parties. You're not really trying to discover how you can make this work. You just meet in the middle. That can actually lead to sowing the seeds of the next conflict. because if we are both basically unhappy with this uncomfortable compromise, we're going to sit at the same table again very soon from now. Mm-hm. That leaves us with the collaboration option. That seems to be the best one. It seems to be the best one but also, of course, because you're really trying to work through the issues, you're really trying to identify how you can actually reconcile interests, that's the one that's the most time-intensive. And also the one that really requires the most kind of mental effort. You really need to communicate openly and honestly with the other party. There needs to be a willingness for that to share interests, to share perspectives, so that you can actually get to the point where you can bring those things together. Mm-hm. There's a time commitment, and the emotional and cognitive investment you make in there is considerable. Out of those five, which one do you prefer? The first one is collaboration, of course. Excellent, because I told you it's the preferable one. Yeah, but honestly which one? The one that I apply the most, I would say is accommodation probably. I guess because it works in my work environment so I like taking care of the others' needs, if they have some priorities or something's important for them. Okay, and what do you get out of that? Since we can keep harmony in the office, I can ask for favors. And it works. You have harmony and because the harmony exists you can also then ask for favors. Yes. Ultimately you do have your interests met without being competitive-, Yep. -because you rely on this reciprocity mechanism essentially. That's one of the reasons why people adopt a particular, conflict, more a conflict style, is that they might have discovered, in their particular context, in their particular situation, there's one that works quite well ultimately to also address their own needs. Now the other reasons why people go for one style or the other could be personality based as well, could be situational pressures. You don't have the time so you avoid that kind of thing. But research has also shown that culturally there are tendencies, systematic tendencies that different countries, people tend more towards one way of managing conflict or another. So, in individualist countries like the US, Russia, and Brazil to some degree where would you, where would you guess people end up? That's going to be on this side maybe, on competitive. Exactly, so that's where people have an orientation. They compete. They feel comfortable articulating their interests and to then fight for them. Collectivist countries, on the other hand, Maybe more avoiding, accommodating? Exactly, harmony is more important. People are less comfortable articulating the conflict in the first place. That's an avoidance behavior to some degree. Because harmony is important they accommodate more. We would put Japan, Thailand, and China to some degree, in that category. Now once you know these, these orientations, that to some degree you can prepare yourself. I’ve articulated collaboration's the preferable mode in the most, cases, so now you know what work you have ahead of you if you were actually working in an environment that is more towards avoidance and accommodation, you have to rework and invest some time for people to feel comfortable to collaborate and engage more more in depth with the conflict. Interestingly though, some research has shown that people that have a lot of experience with conflict resolution, with negotiation, they, to some degree, transcend these national tendencies, and they end up collaborating; because they have discovered, just as you have discovered in your context accommodation works most often-, Mm-hm. Most often they have actually discovered that collaboration is the mode that brings them the best results most of the time. The others are suboptimal. Regardless where they come from, experienced managers know and often act on that knowledge that collaboration really is the conflict mode that works. I was advocating the collaborative mode as the best possible solution in many circumstances, but not all circumstances. Clearly this is the one where you work towards a win-win solution; win-win, essentially, you walk away happy from the conflict resolution and I walk away happy; Your interests are fulfilled my interests are fulfilled. I actually see it as a win-win for another reason. It's a win because you actually learn a lot by working through the conflict. You really understand the issue in a more substantial way. You discover aspects of the problem that you were not even aware of when you started. The learning benefits allocated there that's one win and the other win is that you might strengthen the relationship with the other party. Because you have this really in-depth exchange about real interests, their perspectives, and, exactly, you share information. And not just information, you also share your position, where you're coming from. That might end up strengthening the relationship in the end. It's also win-win on that perspective. The million dollar question is of course-, How do we get there? How do you get there? So you can do a whole course on this and a lot of what negotiation courses focus on is actually get to these win-win negotiation outcomes, so you can take that as a course. But maybe just four short pointers, things that are important as steps towards that collaborative, integrative win-win solution. The first one is you really want to clarify what is at stake, why do we make the effort to re-engage this conflict, really talk through it because it's an important issue. You want to give people a reason why they are actually exerting that cognitive and emotional kind of energy in this situation. And you want to play up what's to lose. If we just go for facile accommodation compromise we're not going to have a sustainable solution, we're going to be at this table again, next week. You don't want that. Highlighting what's at stake is the first step. Once people are engaged, people have that motivation. Once people are engaged, people have that motivation. You want to have a lot of open conversation. Why? Because you want to get to underlying interests that people have in the thing. Because you want to get to underlying interests that people have in the thing. Not just the other party, also yourself. Mm-hm. It might seem trivial, of course I know what I want but-, Not always. Exactly, right, not always. William Yuri, calls this, I think, very nicely, getting to the balcony. You detach yourself from the struggle, so to speak, from that complex situation. And you try to look at it dispassionately. And try to figure out, wait a moment. What do I really want to get out of this? And what does the other party try to get out of this? So getting to these underlying interests is really important. That brings us to the third issue, that is once, you have clarified what the underlying interests are you what to clarify what relative priorities are. At first blush people are saying all of this is important to me! It's not equally important, and if we have different priorities about things, then chances are, we can find an integrative solution. We can make a trade. You get what is most important you, I get what is most important to me. And then the last thing, and this might seem a little bit counter intuitive is actually to make things a bit more complicated by adding issues. You discover that you we're arguing about salary but it's actually not just about salary, it's also about recognition, position, status, so on and so forth. You're adding these other concerns to the to the debate. And by doing that you actually have a chance to find more ways of finding integrative- >> Opportunities, possibilities. Exactly, more opportunities, more possibilities, finding integrative solutions. And this is basically where this idea of growing the pie comes from. We talked about this idea of splitting the pie or growing the pie. If you think the things are as they are, we can't change them we have to split kind of the benefits that's a fixed pie solution. But growing the pie comes from, if we add more issues we could actually see that we have more things that we can agree on and find an integrative solution in the end. That's where the win-win comes from. Collaboration is the best possible thing that you can do. It's great. You should always use that. Almost. We said the caveat is that you really need the time to do it properly. We also said that there is a real cognitive and emotional investment that you need to make. And that's probably the caveat with that, is that you're really digging deep here. And you might be unearthing things. Mm-hm. That are really problematic for people, relationally or they really have to confront deeply held beliefs. There is a certain relational risk here. And there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that people feel as safe, that they feel that they can trust the other parties to, to take what they're disclosing the right way. So issues of honesty and trust are clearly very important here. And ultimately brings us to a question of how do you manage the process. How do you create an environment where people feel safe, where they feel that there is a, a fair and reliable process where they can be that open. And then we'll talk about that next.