09.25.09 Issue #394 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Ways People Deal With Conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of life and it does find its way into the workplace. No matter how hard you try, sooner or later your office will have some level of conflict; it’s inevitable. Conflict is not an easy subject to discuss, even when team members are getting along well. Nonetheless, unaddressed conflict will wreck havoc on your practice if you don’t prepare for it. As the dental leader, you need to be aware of and be ready to deal with disputes when they arise among your team members and patients.

There is not a “best” way to deal with conflict. It depends on the current situation. But you can improve your leadership effectiveness by becoming more aware of your own conflict style. In turn you are able to recognize the conflict styles of others and manage problems before your office becomes a war zone. There are generally five key ways (or modes) for dealing with conflict:

1. Avoiding
We tend to use this mode when it simply is not worth the effort to argue. Behaviors such as withdrawing and sidestepping are signals of avoidance. In the short run, avoiding does reduce tension and it can buy you time. Unfortunately, this approach tends to worsen the conflict over time. Decisions are made by default and issues fester.

2. Accommodating
When we give in to others, we show reasonableness and create goodwill. Accommodation also helps keep the “peace.” However, this style needs to be used sparingly and infrequently. For example, in situations when you know that you will have a better approach in the very near future, it might be wise to accommodate. Over time, however, accommodating tends to worsen the conflict, and causes conflicts within you. People who repeatedly give in to others have limited influence.

3. Competing
Arguing or debating, using rank or position, and standing your ground are all competing behaviors. So is asserting your opinions and feelings. As with all the conflict styles, there is a benefit to competing. For example, when you have a very strong conviction about something, competing may be appropriate. Unfortunately this style prevents clarification or discussion because the goal is to get your own way no matter what. If you are overly competitive there will be a lack of feedback, reduced learning, low empowerment, and you’ll be surrounded by “yes people.”

4. Compromising
This is a mutual give-and-take process. The intention is to get past the issue and move on. Negotiating, finding a middle ground, and making concessions are reflective of compromise. When you compromise you give something up. In this respect, too much reliance on compromise is only a shade away from accommodation.

5. Collaborating
The main goal of collaboration is to work together. Use it when it’s important to meet as many current needs as possible with mutual resources. This approach cultivates commitment and esprit de corps. Examples of effective collaborating skills are listening, understanding and empathizing. Underlying causes of conflict can be identified through mutual input. However, over-use of collaboration can result in spending too much time on trivial matters and diffused responsibility.

The reasons we use different styles varies. We often avoid when we don't want to get involved, or we decide it's not worth the effort to pursue. It's important to pick your battles, since they can't all be fought and won. We accommodate when we want others to like us or we like things to run smoothly or we don't feel like we have the right to remind others of their responsibilities. We compete when we strongly believe in our ideas. We often compromise when we are in a hurry. We use collaboration when we want everyone involved to feel ownership for the outcome.

Each conflict situation offers a wide range of choices - choices in how you choose to frame or interpret others’ actions and behavior, and choices in how you will respond. With awareness and foresight, you can choose to act from a rational approach based on an objective evaluation of what is happening and what is most appropriate, rather than on reflex or just the pure emotion of the moment.

What are your conflict mode reflexes? That is, which of the five modes do you automatically go to first and/or most frequently? Which mode(s) do you seldom use? Which mode(s) do your employees appear to use to deal with conflict? When you recognize how you and your employees deal with conflict, your effectiveness as a leader will increase. Encourage your employees to acknowledge, deal with, and appreciate their disagreements. Don’t let your office become a battleground. Dealing with conflict up front leads to open communication, conscious cooperation among your employees, and increased productivity!

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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