Eight weeks of learning, 30 minutes to tell all (part 5)

Typical sources of conflict within an organization come down to three driving forces or constraints: competing objectives or dissenting views; scarcity of resources; and interference or challenges to primacy. For example, when an organization is decentralized and the top management of the different business units is used to operating with relative autonomy and without interdependence on other business units or divisions within the organization, fiefdoms and siloes emerge that pit one group’s objectives against another in what is frequently perceived as a zero sum game. When resources are in the balance, such as money and talent, if one division gets what they want it often comes at the expense of another division, creating rivalries and setting the stage for future conflicts.

In class, we had the ability to experience a similar resource conflict first-hand with an EMOB negotiation exercise entitled, “The Ugli Orange.” Fortunately, because of an earlier exercise that ended in abject failure, both teams had learned enough to ask the right questions, understand what the competing objectives were and ultimately we found a way where both parties could achieve their respective goals without compromising the goals of the other.

Another form of conflict resolution that we observed in class was in the form of the video: Workplace Violence: First Line of Defense. The key takeaway from this video is the need on the part of management to address issues as they begin to escalate, such as an employee who increasingly appears disenfranchised and disgruntled and begins to hint at exacting revenge through violent means. Managers need to manage these situations by confronting the person and addressing the unacceptable behaviors and statements before that person reaches a breaking point and makes good on threats that many did not take seriously. Unfortunately, many managers take the “path of least resistance” and try to placate or ignore the offending party, allowing the situation to escalate to the point where it is no longer manageable.

A very helpful and illuminating EMOB exercise turned out to be the Managing Role Conflict self-assessment tool, in which I realized that where I was scoring highest, in planning and organizing and trying to fulfill all of the demands, I was actually compensating for glaring weaknesses in other areas where I need to focus more on managing the expectations up front and saying no. That was an eye opener, and I am trying to apply what I have learned here.


Personal Interaction, according to Dilbert creator Scott Adams

Scott Adams’ theory is that a typical human understands only three ways to interact with another person.
  • Pushover: I’ll do whatever you want.
  • Negotiator: I’ll do this if you do that.
  • Bully: Do what I want or there will be consequences

The value of the Adams Model of Personal Interaction is in understanding what modes of interaction are likely to work together. Obviously two Bullies will make bad partners. Two Pushovers will get nothing done. A Negotiator won’t do well with either a Pushover or a Bully, because neither will negotiate.

Zero sum game!

Tonight, we had two negotiation role-play exercises, both with dramatically different outcomes.

The first exercise, called Campus Travel Agency: a negotiation role play, involved a travel agency and an airline called Midwest Airlines. The purpose of the first exercise was to explore the dynamics of interpersonal negotiation, and to experiment with negotiating strategy and tactics.

Our teams objective was to try to maximize profitability through a commission on the airline seats. Our lead negotiator decided to push for a 20% commission rate when the airline was only willing to offer around 8%. It ended with the airline’s lead negotiator abruptly ending the meeting, and our negotiator spending the next 45 minutes explaining why he wouldn’t budge from his 20% commission demand.

Because of our teams fixation on the commission and profitability of the sale, which was written into the script, we never had any substantive conversation about other areas where Midwest Airlines could potentially sweeten the deal with other incentives and goodies.

We then moved into the second exercise, the Ugli Orange Case. Now that we had softened up the other team, we had them right where we wanted them and we were able to get them to work with us on what could have been a very difficult negotiation to secure a very rare orange of which there were only 3000 available in the world. We were able to agree to work together to offer $90,000 for the Ugli oranges, of which our team only needed the juice, and that they are team needed the rinds.

All this CHANGE is stressin’ me out, Doc!!!

Tonight we watched the video “Managing Change and Transition,” featuring Dr. Ben Bissell and his guidance on the physical and emotional toll of change.  He explained the two categories of a so-called Significant Emotional Event (SEE):

  • Professional, such as a reorganization, layoffs, relocation, or
  • Personal, such as marriage, the birth of a child, illness, loss, divorce

Upon experiencing a SEE everyone will go through five stages:

  • Shock or denial—the “I can’t believe it” phase
  • Emotional reaction—predominantly anger
  • A bargaining period—the change is sinking in but you are trying to alter its effects
  • Depression (clinically known as “grief”) because all change produces loss and all loss must be grieved
  • Acceptance, both emotional and intellectual, of the change

On average, one should expect it to take up to 1 1/2 years to work through these five stages.

Dr. Bissell shared the four signs of trouble that could have life-threatening implications:

  1. troublesome body part,
  2. short breathing,
  3. faster eating pace, or
  4. poor sleeping pattern

So, to stave off this outcome, it is vital for organizations to recognize that employees need to “go through” the stages without, however, sacrificing job performance.

Some other insights from the video include:

  • employees will mirror the behaviors of their managers
  • all low morale is really unresolved anger
  • information is minimized and perceptions get distorted during a SEE
  • an organization should keep as much of the familiar as possible during a SEE

I found this interesting graphic that shows what happens next after people move through the five stages … with the goal of moving on to new beginnings. In any case, “moving through” is important!