And the winner is…”And!”

and the winner is picSeventy-five percent of corporate mergers fail because of conflicts in leader relationships. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce, largely due to communications. Corporate and marriage counselors will tell you, “It’s not that the parties in the union were talking and stopped talking—they stopped listening.” Conflicts became an arena for a fight rather than an opportunity to creatively problem solve.

Put a microscope on familiar conflicts—labor vs. management, Democrats vs. Republicans, North Korea vs. the rest of the world…the list is very long. Close inspection will reveal most are victims of “either-or” thinking—either my side or your side. “Either-or” has been the crux of conflicts forever. Even those resolved at the arbitration table or in the counselor’s office are laced with compromise…I will give in some if you give in some…we can meet in middle…a half a loaf is better than no loaf. But, compromise is just a junior version of either-or-thinking. It might make room for temporary compliance with a fix, but rarely is it a route to long-term commitment to a solution.

The modus operandi of “and” thinking is this: If we listen with empathy to each other’s point of view with an eye toward a mutually beneficial resolution, we may discover a creative solution neither of us originally considered. If we take our eyes off “winning” and focus instead on collaborating, we can learn, resolve and find commitment in the new position.

Healthy mentoring relationships are sometimes scarred by conflict. Like any relationship, it can be the preamble of separation or the platform for growth. If dissonance is viewed as simply tension in the relationship and therefore a contest worthy of creative exploration, it can be resolved leaving the relationship even stronger. The path to such a “happily ever after” is both parties embracing an “and” philosophy rather than the dead-end “either-or” tactic.

P.S. For more on resolving conflict in the workplace you might enjoy Piera Palazzolo’s article on The Lead Change Group from March 2013.

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