Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen, working with people who aren’t our natural soul-mates. Whether the relationship is Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, or two colleagues sharing an office, conflict is probably going to arise at some point in the relationship.
Messrs Clegg and Cameron are both assertive and persuasive individuals who are used to winning the argument. But if they are going to work successfully together they will need to use a range of styles to manage potential conflict between themselves and their party members.
Five Approaches to Managing Conflict
Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann describe five approaches we can take to handling any particular conflict:
Compete – we aim to win.
Accommodate – our priority is to keep the other person happy.
Compromise – we do a deal. It’s not perfect but we can both live with it. At least in the short term.
Avoid – we take the view that it’s better not to open the can of worms, so we don’t address the issue.
Collaborate – we look for a solution that fully meets our needs, and also satisfies other person. A true ‘win/win’.
Which One To Use?
Looking at these five styles, you would think that the ‘right’ approach to conflict would always be to collaborate. However, there are a couple of problems with collaboration:
- It can take a long time – you have to sit down, explore the other person’s position, analyse the underlying needs and concerns then try to thrash out a resolution. It’s great when you have the time (and the energy) to do this. But sometimes there’s a deadline. Sometimes the markets are showing signs of impatience.
- It isn’t always possible. For example, when you and your colleague have fundamentally opposing views or values.
The trick is actually knowing which type of approach is most appropriate in any situation, and consciously adapting your natural preference for one of the five styles.
So here’s the deal
One of the secrets of handling conflict successfully, whether it’s in a shared office or the House of Commons, is choosing the right strategy.
Management Pocketbooks you may enjoy
For more on handling conflict, and coping with difficult conversations generally, take a look at Peter English’s new Pocketbook, The Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook.
Other Pocketbooks you might like include:
- The Resolving Conflict Pocketbook
- The Working Relationships Pocketbook
- The Handling Resistance Pocketbook (due in autumn 2010)
- The Assertiveness Pocketbook
- The Influencing Pocketbook
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Author: Peter English
This article was written by Peter English, author of: