Monday, May 18, 2009

Personality Conflict Détente

Diane Crampton posed an interesting question on the LinkedIn "Leadership Think Tank" discussion board last week:
"From your experience, what have you found that resolves conflict the fastest for long term sustainable results?"
Here's how I responded:

Hi All ~ I assume we're talking about *personality* conflicts here as they typically have a much longer *shelf life* than any particular issue-based conflict, yes?

That said, it seems to me that most personality conflicts *sustain* because there are no real, lasting, consequences to Person A for NOT resolving their conflict with Person B, and vice versa. If they’re *allowed* to disengage from each other, of *course* they’ll become more insular.

But, assigning both Persons A and B to a joint, *public*, assignment – one where they both *must* work together in a meaningful, and respectful, way – sets the stage for the Cold War to thaw and reconciliation to begin.
  • Example 1: Doug was charge of the IT repair desk and Ethan ran the Moves, Adds, and Changes department. They didn't get along. But, when they were *both* given the joint responsibility for hosting a Customer Forum, they each quickly realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively.
  • Example 2: Robert ran operations and considered Heather, who handled the budget, an annoyance. Heather didn't care much for Robert either. But, when they *both* learned they’d be representing the department at an upcoming Finance Committee meeting, they each realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively, as well.

Afterwards, each reported that they were surprised and impressed with what their nemesis had to offer.

Being made mutually accountable to an *external* audience, who couldn't care less about any internal squabbles going on, allowed (read: necessitated) Robert and Heather, and Doug and Ethan, to each re-engage, without losing face, and achieve a sustainable détente.

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