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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The best guide for Conflict Resolution (part 3)

Welcome to my next part of Conflict Resolution

Resolving Conflicts

Personal conflicts between workers don’t necessarily need to be addressed until they start to impact work; but then, as the leader, you must get involved. Depending on the circumstances, the conflict can be settled with one of three possible results.

Win/Win, Win/Lose or Lose/Lose

The preferred ending is to seek a resolution that lets each party come away from the conflict with a positive result: a win/win situation. Whenever possible, you want to resolve conflicts in this manner so that everyone involved retains their dignity and integrity and feels that they are an integral part of the team.

For example, if Danielle and Hannah, two of your team members who are equally qualified, experienced and capable, each want the same story assignment, you could have them share the assignment or agree on an alternating schedule for who gets these types of assignments. Perhaps you can find a similar assignment that will be acceptable as a substitute for one of them.

Unfortunately, win/win results aren’t always possible. Some situations have particular circumstances or problems so that the only way to resolve them is to have one person win and the other person lose.

For instance, if as in the above example, you determine that you need to assign the story to the person with the most expertise, and that is Danielle, she will come away “winning” the assignment and Hannah will “lose” the assignment: a win/lose result.

There are also situations where nobody is going to win. That is, neither party in the conflict will be able to achieve her principal goal.

For example, if in the same example reviewed above, neither Danielle nor Hannah meet the qualifications you need for this assignment, you might give the assignment to someone else entirely. Neither one of them will get what they want: a lose/lose result.

In such instances, you, as the leader, should clearly explain the issues involved in giving this assignment and who made the final decision and why. By taking these steps, you will encourage open and honest communication – essential for relationships of trust – and promote team building.

Dependence, Independence and Interdependence

In the workplace, people work independently, dependently and/or interdependently. Individuals and groups tolerate these work styles differently and varying levels of each can have an effect on optimum and smooth working conditions. As a leader, it is your responsibility to determine what mix works best for your team.

Dependence: Consider how job responsibilities and job titles are set up to see if your staff is too dependent on one another. Do they usually need to rely on others to do specific tasks? This could cause problems with professional boundaries.

Example: You assign a story to two journalists who then miss the deadline. You discover that one had her share done, but the other did not complete her part. This could lead to conflict between the two journalists. To be an effective supervisor, you need to pay close attention to situations like this

Independence: Evaluate your team’s independence level. Does or can each team member perform tasks on her own without any interaction or help from the other team members? Too much independence could impact your staff’s ability to work as a cohesive team

Example: Sandra is producing her first segment on the upcoming local elections. Because your team works mostly independently, she doesn’t know that Rita, who has specialized in political reporting for the last 15 years, knows the beat very well and could help her with contacts

Interdependence: Look at the overall teamwork on your staff. See if there are well-defined roles and responsibilities related to the successful completion of group tasks. Is everyone on your team clear about how their particular tasks fit into the team’s success?

Example: If your team is working interdependently, Sandra would know Rita’s reporting background and expertise in politics and would be able to go to her for contacts to help with her segment.

The goal is to ensure that everyone understands not only her own role and responsibilities, but also the roles and responsibilities of all of the other team members. A successful leader builds an effective team by ensuring that everyone has roles that are necessary for the group’s success, thereby decreasing individual competition. Effective teams have “cooperation” as a motto, not “competition.”

Developing Resolutions

When faced with a conflict on your team, there are a few options that you can use to resolve it.

Prescribing solutions: One way you might choose to resolve a conflict is to individually develop a specific solution without input or feedback from your team. However, if you always develop solutions by yourself, your team will probably perceive your leadership style as domineering or authoritarian. This style is not optimal for developing effective teams and teamwork.

You may also inadvertently set up further conflict by prescribing a solution. Team members who are affected by the outcome, but who aren’t included in developing a resolution to the conflict, may end up feeling unsatisfied. They may feel that they aren’t involved, empowered or invested in the solution.

Developing alternatives: Another option is to develop a resolution jointly with the team members involved in the conflict. Ask the whole group to think about alternatives and allow everyone the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. Each alternative should be considered. As a group, you then decide on which alternatives fit or respond to the specific circumstances of the conflict. This validates your team members and maintains their dignity and integrity. In most cases, this lessens conflict and feelings of resentment.

This process - coming to a group consensus - is more open and group-focused and gives everyone some involvement and investment in the success of the plan. This style also gives the team a feeling that they have some control over what happens in the workplace, which can be a real boost to morale and commitment.

The Art of Compromise
Another strategy for team decision-making is compromise. When you use compromise to resolve a conflict, each person involved must give up something that she wants, but each person will also get something out of the resolution. Compromise is a type of win/win result because each person will get some of what she was seeking.

Example: If two team members ask to use travel funds to attend a media workshop, but there is not enough money for both, you may suggest a compromise:

Split the money and propose that the team members pay any additional costs with their own funds; or

Have them look for a related conference that has a lower fee or no fee, so that they can both attend.
While both workers won’t get what they initially wanted, they will each get some of what they wanted.

Compromise goes along with developing consensus, which is achieved when everyone comes to an agreement about how to resolve the conflict.

Cheers for Success

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