September 2019 By Rick Vipperman
Two of the most notorious culprits in the workplace are either “too much AGREEMENT or too much CONFLICT”. Both are our “enemies” and both are potentially destructive. One leads to mediocrity (at best) in terms of performance, and the other divides us as a team.
On too much agreement, Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and one of the most successful organizations in the world said, “If I have two manager’s who always agree with one another, I only need to pay for one of them.”
On too much conflict, he said, ”I will not be angry with someone who disagrees with me, but I will be mad as hell if someone disagrees with me and does not tell me.”
Although our main focus is to address CONFLICT, it is important to briefly link the “too much agreement” culprit to the issue of conflict. If we have an opposing viewpoint with someone and we do not voice our opinion and speak up, our “silence” conveys to that person that we are in agreement, and in essence, we have surrendered or conceded our position. For whatever reason, justified or not, we are simply going along to get along by withholding our opinion . . . and if it is Mr. Sam, he is mad as hell!! True leaders respect those who “speak truth to power”.
Back to CONFLICT, differences of opinion are very normal in any relationship and provide learning opportunities for all of us. Subsequently, our different viewpoints can lead to healthier relationships and greater results and outcomes. A Leader’s perspective is we both need to communicate with DIRECTNESS (honesty and conviction). The resolution to our differences is likely not 100% of our way of thinking or your way of thinking, but more likely somewhere in between, and finding it together is our PAY-OFF.
Otherwise, unresolved differences can and likely will escalate and place the relationship at risk . . . GEORGE SEIFERT, who once coached the CAROLINA PANTHER’S responded to a reporter after back-to-back losing seasons. “The problem is, we haven’t addressed the problem, and that’s becoming a problem!” Some things (issues) matter a little and some things matter a lot . . . simply, we have to choose our battles CAREFULLY, and if the issue matters a lot, we must address them with courage and conviction, or as Seifert recognized, the problem then becomes a predictable threat to the relationship.
Begs the question, how do we address the problem and reconcile the differences? Always remember, especially if a personal issue don’t say or do anything that you can’t take back. You can be forgiven but not forgotten. Sometimes going along to get along and sometimes it is a battle worth fighting. The difference is with a manager or colleague you don’t like or respect – conflicts vary with the wind. Some we need to address with diplomacy and timely. Recognize that every difference of opinion is not a conflict. So we need to address conflict not pettiness.
The first question to ask yourself – is this conflict real or petty?
The second question is if it is real, HOW? Diplomacy, directness, honesty, etc.
The third step is to ask questions and listen – Follow up with how do you propose we move beyond this conflict? You are two colleagues (whether up, down or laterally) trying to work together in the best interest of the organization or team. If either party is unwilling to work through the issue, it may be “beyond the point of no return”. We need to unite for the common good. If not, it may be too little too late. When trust breaks down it can bring the team down…
Negotiate a win/win or it will end in lose/lose. Put the team above self.
We have a choice. Choose to agree or disagree. You may be right and feel justified in standing your ground but that is not the point. The point is to work together to achieve a common goal. We can defeat either culprit together.