Power is a term that we’ve discussed over the last few weeks as it relates to attaining the secret handshake. Last week we looked specifically at how to enhance your own personal power. One way you can enhance your personal power within an office setting is learning how to manage the micropolitics of conflict. According to Dr. Reardon in her book The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle, “You could adopt all of the political skills we’ve addressed […] and still not achieve the secret handshake if you can’t manage conflict. Conflict is inevitable” (178). In fact, she states one of the key skills that separate the politically savvy from the rest is their ability to manage conflict in a way that encourages innovation, motivation and relationship building. Here are some conflict negotiation strategies you can put into practice immediately, which will help you manage the conflict you encounter within the workplace, or anywhere for that matter.
1. Choose Your Battles
Needless to say, this is often easier said than done. However, it is entirely necessary if you are to access the secret handshake. Dr. Reardon suggests using the PURR model: pause, understand, reflect, reinterpret and redirect.
2. “Never try to teach a pig to read”
When navigating the complicated world of conflict in the workplace, it’s important to know who can be managed and who cannot (this is why teaching a pig to read is a useless exercise – pigs will never be able to read). In addition, many conflicts in the workplace are over issues that have already passed, so it’s important to know when to move on.
3. Fluffing the Dove
This is a conflict management strategy that interprets events in a way that is favorable to both parties. For instance, one scenario would be to meet an attack with a compliment; it diffuses the situation and often serves to enhance your personal power. Apologizing is another way this can be accomplished. The idea here is simple: take the high road and make the other person feel good about themselves.
4. Managing Gender Issues
According to Dr. Reardon, men and women experience the working world in different ways. For instance, one of the things that prevents many women from accessing the secret handshake is believing that it’s best for them to keep a low profile. In addition, research shows that women are less inclined to self-promote, creating potential roadblocks that don’t need to exist.
Conflict is an inevitable part of life, and hence business. It is not, however, a negative thing; research continues to show that conflict is important in reaching optimal solutions (Reardon 197). It is in how potential conflicts are dealt with where there are opportunities for you to sink or swim. Dr. Reardon suggest that dealing with conflict by engaging in enlightened self-interest without damaging the other party in a public manner is the best possible way to deal with conflict. The next time you encounter conflict at work, try putting one or more of these options into practice and observe the results. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Reardon, Kathleen Kelley. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle.New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.