A practical guide intended to aid in the alleviation of everyday workplace conflicts.
Coleman (Director/Columbia Univ. Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution; The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts, 2011, etc.) and executive coach Ferguson base their discussion of conflict on research studies of power relations and how these are shaped not just by specific issues, but also by personalities. “Conflict is not an inherently bad thing,” they write. “It is a natural, fundamental, and pervasive part of life.” They draw primarily from more than 15 years of research work in the lab at Columbia, research that has been tested around the world in workplace studies, international conflict resolution and international trade negotiations. The authors aim to enable those in conflict to contribute productively to solutions by making “conflict work for you, not against you.” The authors developed a spectrum of mindsets that they associate with certain uses of power. While the authors define the extremes as dominance at one end and what they call “strategic appeasement” at the other (they offer “Zen Master” NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson as an example), they stress constructive solutions. For each of their different power levels, Coleman and Ferguson provide a series of tactical approaches drawn from conflict case studies in which they have been involved. They provide self- and organizational-assessment questionnaires for each, along with the reasons for using the proposed method and mistakes to avoid. They argue that even though “talking about power differences openly is still taboo in most places in society,” their strategic approach can improve productivity by tackling conflict at any level. The authors also discuss the history of the field of conflict management.
A useful guide to developing capabilities for dealing with many sorts of conflict. Good reading for human resource managers.