Conflict Resolution … open vs closed!

Conflict ResolutionIf negotiation is the open approach to conflict resolution, politics is clearly the closed approach. It’s such a secret that many people in organizations refuse to discuss the political tactics they have employed. My working definition of politics is “Organizational processes affecting authority, status and the management of influence to attain ends not openly sanctioned by the organization.”

Many organizations are highly political in nature and we must have some strategies to deal with the situation. All organizations can be viewed as consisting of individuals or groups perpetually “jockeying” for influence and power. The rules of this game, generally known as organizational politics, are difficult to understand and apply. The accepted reasoning is that the stakes are so high that, sooner or later, everyone must play the game, no matter how they view politics.

Politics can also be described as: Behavior by organizational members that is self-serving where individuals act to enhance their own positions, regardless of the costs to the organization or others. These definitions emphasize the dark side of unprincipled behaviors designed to achieve narrow or selfish goals. Nevertheless, political activity, good or bad, exists in virtually all organizations.

Political behavior has existed in organizations and little has changed over the last century. There is an anonymous maxim that says, Make friends, not enemies.” When you create an enemy, you produce a person who just waits for an opportunity to stab you in the back. It’s nice to have a lot of friends who can really help you out when things get tough.

When political behavior is involved, research has shown that the three most effective conflict-resolution approaches are avoidance, accommodation, and compromise.

Avoidance – one or both sides recognize that a conflict exists but react by withdrawing from or postponing the conflict

Accommodation – one side resolves the conflict by yielding to the other side at the expense of their own needs. Politically oriented individual will first try to avoid conflict. When the conflict can’t be dodged, they consider accommodation, particularly if their investment in the issue is small. This not only prevents new enemies from emerging but may create new allies.

Compromise – one or both sides gain and lose to resolve the conflict. A compromising approach does not normally lead to significant new enemies. Many people naturally resort to compromise because splitting the difference is a traditional way to resolve conflict without damaging personal relationships.

The motivation behind political maneuvering is for their own personal gain or for the good of their department or organization. Political tactics can be regarded as bad tactics and acceptable tactics. Bad tactics appear to be immoral or unethical to many people. These include spreading false rumors, planting misleading information, backstabbing, and making promises that won’t be fulfilled. A number of generally acceptable tactics, however, have emerged from practical experience and years of Research. But not everyone accepts these tactics. Some claim they’re immoral or unethical. However, many agree with these tactics.

Survival Tactics

  • Be as effective as possible on any projects and be at your best when meeting important people for the first time.
  • Cultivate a “halo” effect because the overall impression and global reaction can strongly affect the judgment of others about you.
  • Develop a power image by cultivating a reputation for expertise in selected areas and helping others. This will also boosts your influence.
  • Know and abide by formal and informal norms governing behavior in your organization. Once you are familiar with them, you can effectively utilize these norms.
  • Recognize that reciprocity, helping others, puts others in your debt.
  • Be as likable as possible. When others like you, they’re more willing to help you in ways that advance your team and personal goals.

Related Articles:   Conflict Resolution … here’s how!   and   Listening … the internal obstacles!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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