Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with R.W. Burke who is a Certified Professional Coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and is the top coach on Ford Motor Company’s Consumer Experience Movement (CEM) project. He is also the author of a self-help book for business executives – Quiet the Rage: How Learning to Manage Conflict Will Change Your Life (and the World). For more information: www.quiettherage.com.
SmallBizLady: HOW DOES UNMANAGED CONFLICT IMPACT THE EMPLOYEES OF BUSINESSES?
- 85% of employees at all levels experience conflict to some degree; U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week dealing w/conflict, which translates to 385 million working days, or $359B paid hours.
- 27% of employees have seen conflict lead to personal attacks
- 25% saw it result in sickness/absence.
- 70% of employees see managing conflict as very/critically important leadership skill
- 43% of non-managers think their bosses don’t deal with conflict as well as they should
- 67% of employees have gone out of their way to avoid a colleague because of a disagreement at work
SmallBizLady: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR BUSINESSES TO MANAGE CONFLICT?
R.W. Burke: Most companies are all aiming to lift the collective performance of their employees. Why? To establish a sustainable competitive advantage. Managers at all levels have the same concerns: “How do I move my organization forward by getting more out of my people?” They do that by elevating employee engagement.
According to Gallup, employee engagement is at an all-time low—only 27% of employees are “highly engaged.” Employee engagement is a direct result of the health and the strength of the relationships that exist between people. Unmanaged conflict jeopardizes those relationships.
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN MANAGERS BECOME BETTER MANAGERS OF CONFLICT?
R.W. Burke: Most managers struggle with trying to change behavior…his own, or someone else’s. And it’s usually someone else’s.
The struggle with that behavior is mostly caused by the lack of understanding of it.
Once a basic understanding exists, managing it becomes easier. The same is true of managing conflict.
Managing conflict is not only a state of mind, but a state of understanding.
And it’s easiest to learn to manage it within yourself before trying to manage it in others.
SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE KEY INSIGHTS MANAGERS MUST UNDERSTAND TO EFFECTIVELY MANAGE CONFLICT?
R.W. Burke: Some keys to addressing conflict between employees, managers and employees, between departments, divisions, etc. Understand that all human behavior is a function of personal values. Recognize that conflict exists when someone feels as though one of their personal values has been offended; or, when someone feels like another is imposing their personal values on them. Realize that we sometimes create the behavior in others that we don’t want. Learn about the specific situations that are prone to offend our personal values to anticipate them, manage them, and proactively avoid them.
SmallBizLady: WHY DO PERSONAL VALUES MATTER IN A BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT?
R.W. Burke: When one of our personal values is offended, we become emotionally reactive.
When we’re reactive, we’re not our best selves, nor do we produce the best outcomes. We don’t recognize that others’ behavior is simply their honoring their values. And that recognition is the keystone to eliminating the offensiveness we perceive in their behavior. Recognition leads to transformation of our reaction into a response, flipping it from a negative to a positive interaction
SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO MANAGING CONFLICT?
R.W. Burke: There are 5 Steps to managing conflict:
- Step One: Identifying and declaring your personal values
- Step Two: Recognizing “hot” situations, those prone to offending your personal values
- Step Three: Understanding your default style of emotional reaction
- Step Four: Learning to interrupt your emotional reaction
- Step Five: Discovering how to transform your negative emotional reaction into a positive response
SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY AND DECLARE YOUR PERSONAL VALUES?
R.W. Burke: There are a couple of reasons it’s important to identify your personal values.
- The first is, all human behavior is a function of personal values. Your behavior will either honor a value or defend one.
- The 2nd is, your personal values are also your triggers.
Any situation that you encounter that challenges 1 of your values will cause you to become emotionally reactive.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR “HOT SITUATIONS?”
R.W. Burke: Conflict exists when someone feels like a personal value has been offended,
and by answering this question, they identify their individual “hot situations” –
or those that are prone to offend a particular person’s values.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU DETERMINE YOUR DEFAULT STYLE OF EMOTIONAL REACTION?
R.W. Burke: Once becoming emotionally reactive, what remains is to identify someone’s “default reactionary style.” People will react as “victims” or “in conflict.”
If reacting as a victim, that person will withdraw, stop communicating, feel helpless and powerless, and the prevailing idea is “I lose.”
If reacting in conflict, that person will lash out, become angry and aggressive, argumentative and combative, and the prevailing idea is “I win.
Regardless of the default reactionary style, the ultimate challenge is to learn how to interrupt
the negative emotional reaction and transform it into a positive response.
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN THE NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS BE INTERRUPTED?
R.W. Burke: There are two levels of interruption, one is simple restraint. That is where the emotion still exists, but the destructive action does not. The problem with restraint though is it is a diminishable resource…you can run out of restraint.
The second level, is where the emotion no longer exists by virtue of dissociating the perception of intentionality with respect to the observed or witnessed behavior. Without the emotion, there is no fuel for the reaction, and without the reaction we are simply left with a situation that we would like to be different.
SmallBizLady: IN YOUR BOOK, YOU SAY: “SOMETIMES WE CREATE THE BEHAVIOR IN OTHERS THAT WE DON’T WANT.” HOW DO WE DO THAT?
R.W. Burke: Conflict also exists when another feel like someone else is imposing their personal values on them. It’s natural for an organization to reflect the persona of its managers and owners. Too often though, those managers and owners are judging everyone else in the organization with respect to how much like them, those others are. And when they feel someone isn’t enough like themselves, they attempt to change them…making it natural for employees to rebel against that.
SmallBizLady: IN YOUR BOOK, YOU TALK ABOUT SOMETHING CALLED A “SUPER WICKED PROBLEM.” WHAT IS THAT?
R.W. Burke: A Super Wicked Problem exists when: the people that want to solve the problem also create it. That means to say, if you want to productively manage conflict, you must first understand how you may be participating in it…in other words, creating it. When we allow ourselves to become emotionally reactive, our behavior contributes to the problem, not the solution.
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