Top Secret Approach to Conflict Resolution

Conflict ResolutionIf negotiation is the open approach to conflict resolution, politics is the secret approach. Politics is an organizational process affecting authority, status and the management of influence to attain ends not sanctioned by the organization or to attain sanctioned ends through non-sanctioned means. Politics can also be described as behavior by organizational members that is self-serving, whereas individuals act to enhance their own positions, regardless of the costs to the organization or others. These definitions emphasize the dark side of politics that many individuals refuse to discuss. Nevertheless, political activity, good and bad, exists in virtually all organizations.

In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote, “You don’t win friends and influence people by being a petty tyrant. You don’t win friends and influence people by being brutally honest about their faults. You don’t win friends and influence people by pushing hard to get what you want at The expense of their needs.”  An anonymous manager told new team members that, “The key to getting ahead here, is to minimize your enemies. When you create an enemy, you produce a person who just waits for an opportunity to stab you in the back.”

A politically oriented team member will first try to avoid conflict. When the conflict can’t be avoided, a politically clever person considers accommodation, particularly if their investment in the issue is small. This not only prevents new enemies from emerging but, may create new allies. Nevertheless, if the conflict must be resolved, a compromising approach could be adopted because it does not normally lead to significant new enemies. As we know, many people naturally resort to compromising because “splitting the difference” is a traditional way to resolve conflict without damaging personal relationships.

Modern organizations are highly political in nature and consists 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. But the stakes are so high that, sooner or later, everyone plays the game, no matter how they view politics. Political tactics can be regarded as good or bad. A number of generally acceptable tactics, however, have emerged from practical experience and years of research. But, not everyone accepts these tactics or claim that they are immoral or unethical.

However, many agree with these seven (7) tactics:

  1. A good First impression is important. Try to look good on any project right from the start and be at your best when meeting important people for the first time.
  2. Cultivate a “halo” because the overall impression and global reaction can strongly affect the judgment of your specific traits.
  3. Develop an image of power because people respond as if it is actual power.
  4. Cultivate a reputation for expertise in selected areas and offer to help others to boost your influence substantially.
  5. 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.
  6. Count on reciprocity, because doing favors put others in your debt.
  7. Being liked is a major plus, because if others like you, they’re more willing to help you in ways that advance your goals and the goals of your department.

The bad tactics that are considered to be immoral or unethical are those that include spreading false rumors, planting misleading information, backstabbing, and making promises that won’t be fulfilled.

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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