Monday, January 31, 2011

2 Goals to Resolve Conflicts With Peers

Giving peers feedback can be difficult.  Add to that an upset peer, and you're in for a wild ride. This is a particularly difficult issue since there is no authority differential.  When we discuss difficult issues with our staff no one is surprised (or at least they shouldn't be!).  When we review these with our boss it is certainly sensitive, but again, the authority differential is clear. However, when we're speaking with someone who shares the same level of authority as we do, the process can be particularly....well...treacherous.  And if they're all ready angry....oh boy.

Let me say right away that I have never enjoyed addressing conflict with my peers. Who do I think I am anyway?  Am I so smart, that I know what it is right, and they are clearly off-base?  Since when did I become all-knowing?  The truth is I'm not, and neither are you.  But once in a while something happens that requires us to have a heart-to-heart with our colleagues.

Over the years I've handled these situations well.  And, over the years I have completely messed up these moments so badly that I wanted to die.  Literally. What has evolved however, is a two-step goal system that dramatically changes the dynamics of "the moment."

The ability to successfully execute this strategy, particularly if the other person is upset with you, hinges on stating two goals at the very beginning of the meeting.

Goal 1:  Explain that you are committed to having a good working relationship with the other person once you complete the meeting.

Goal 2:  Explain you will answer every question they have about the issue on the table.

With your goals out in the open, you have effectively disarmed your colleague (in a good way) so that the two of you can work through the task at hand as professionals.  

It doesn't mean that by the end of the session you'll be adding each other to your holiday gift card list.  But, it does mean that you were the one that took action.  You took the risk.  You were the leader.

When have you had a conflict with a peer?  What approach did you take:  denial, avoidance, or at least a long slow burn that erupted in the wrong setting?  Do you have a strategy that works well?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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