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Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement Hardcover – September 2, 2014
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"An excellent workbook-like guide based on the authors’ seven strategies (that is, ways to deal with conflict): “pragmatic benevolence,” “cultivated support,” “constructive dominance,” “strategic appeasement,” “selective autonomy,” “effective adaptivity,” and “principled rebellion.” Each strategy features a business case, six reasons to use this particular strategy, 10 explicit tactics that support that strategy, building blocks or competencies you’ll need, and a skill-development checklist. For example, strategic appeasement is best exemplified by former Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, who says such things as “Over my lifetime, I’ve rarely or never disagreed with a boss” and “I’ve always been known as an accommodator where I work.” People will employ the appeasement strategy when they’re getting hazed or are gaming the system; tactics for than range from cozying up to the bully, to “forget” to ask permission, and remembering to apologize. Their concluding remarks underscore the book’s purpose: 'Know yourself better in conflict.'"
—Booklist, STARRED review
"Coleman and Ferguson have done something remarkable: they’ve written an evidence-based book on the complex topic of conflict and made it easy to read, easy to understand and, best of all, easy to use. A genuine winner."
—Robert B. Cialdini, author, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
"Navigating conflict effectively is an essential component of leadership. Making Conflict Work illustrates when to compromise and when to continue driving forward."
—Honorable David N. Dinkins, 106th Mayor of the City of New York
"This book is a necessity. As someone who has navigated the traps of power and conflict across the globe, it is refreshing to find a book that calls it what it is, and offers useful advice on turning traps into prospects for change. Read it."
—Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Liberian peace activist
"Making Conflict Work gives us a way to think about how we deal with conflict in hierarchical organizations. Especially helpful are the chapters that link conflict intelligence—how we routinely deal with conflict—to actionable strategies."
—Deborah M. Kolb, professor emerita, Simmons College Graduate School of Management
"Through a superb balance of interviews, case studies, and evidence-based insights, the authors provide valuable lessons on how leaders can manage conflict."
—Steve Cohen, executive director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University
"An innovative and practical look at how to navigate everyday disagreements to reach your goals, serving up examples of best practice drawn from the authors’ decades of experience helping others cope with conflict, power and change."
—Larry Susskind, cofounder, Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
"Managers who try to suppress conflict not only make things worse, but also stifle opportunities for creative problem-solving. Making Conflict Work should be essential reading for all managers."
—Michael Wheeler, retired professor, Harvard Business School; author, The Art of Negotiation
"Coleman, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and Ferguson, a psychologist and executive coach, examine the challenges and opportunities inherent in conflicts with authority figures and subordinates, and provide a practical guide to redirecting energies from conflict toward the achievement of goals. Grounded in more than 15 years of research, Coleman and Ferguson’s findings offer insight into the strategies and skills necessary for managing work disputes and show how to make conflict work for you instead of against you. They identify power-conflict traps and study the role of dominance, the “most common conflict-management strategy employed by power holders [which] can backfire” on the one in charge and demoralize the dominated. They also discuss problem-solving techniques such as pragmatic benevolence, strategic appeasement, selective autonomy, and principled rebellion. The authors include helpful self-development checklists and self- and organizational assessments throughout. Full of valuable advice, this book will help readers develop better strategies for workplace disagreements."
“Managers who try to suppress conflict not only make things worse, but also stifle opportunities for creative problem-solving. Making Conflict Work should be essential reading for all managers.”
—Michael Wheeler, Harvard Business School; author, The Art of Negotiation
“How to manage conflict when there are differences in power has always been a tricky problem. Coleman and Ferguson bring coherence and highly constructive advice to dealing with these situations.”
—Roy J Lewicki, Max M. Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
“Both intriguing and useful, Making Conflict Work invites readers to move beyond their comfort zones into new territories where personal responsibility makes the difference.”
—Dr. Andrea Bartoli, School of Diplomacy and International Diplomacy, Seton Hall University
“Conflict is part of our lives and cannot be suppressed. This book provides the tools to manage it.”
—Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operations at the United Nations
“Unless you live in a cave and interact with no one, you need to read this book. Conflict is an inherent part of human society. Making Conflict Work turns it from a problem into an opportunity.”
—Zainab Salbi, Women for Women International; author, Between Two Worlds
“Coleman and Ferguson transform the world of conflict management with Making Conflict Work. By exploring the interaction of power and conflict, they open new insights into the causes and possible resolutions of conflict in organizational settings. This rich offering provides leaders and practitioners with highly practical tactics and techniques to address the inevitable conflicts they will face.”
—Craig E. Runde, Center for Conflict Dynamics; author, Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader
“Conflict is unavoidable, but the self-defeating strategies and limiting tactics we often turn to are avoidable. This wonderfully practical guide will expand your mindset and repertoire of skills, enabling you to turn conflict on its head and make it work for you—instead of against you.”
—Rob Kaiser, author, The Versatile Leader: Make the Most of Your Strengths Without Overdoing It
“Managing conflict is a critical skill for career progression. For women in leadership, getting it wrong can make them look too weak, or too aggressive. This innovative book adds a new level to the discussion: the role of power. I specifically like the lists of pragmatic tactics for addressing conflict in a power structure such as between a boss and a subordinate.”
—Wanda T. Wallace , author, Reaching the Top: Five Factors that Affect the Careers and Retention of Senior Women Leaders
“Leadership puts you in position to make decisions. Having served in the Navy and the corporate world, I found Making Conflict Work to be the best book I’ve read on navigating conflict up and down the organization, key to making the best decision possible.”
—Captain John E. Cole USN (RET), former chief of staff, Commander Navy Reserve Forces Command
“In an age when global and geopolitical tensions grab headlines, many of the most complex conflicts still occur in the battle of the boardroom and warfare of the workplace. Making Conflict Work provides critical strategies and tactics to transform even the most besieged organization. From practical self-assessments to cautionary reminders of the consequences of misusing each strategy, Coleman and Ferguson lay out a user-friendly framework to navigate the minefields of corporate politics and power.”
—Johnston S. Barkat, Assistant Secretary-General, Ombudsman & Mediation Services, United Nations
“Differences of opinion are the root of innovation. Conflict is thus inevitable, and power is necessary –– we need it to reach our goals. Making Conflict Work links these two fundamental dimensions of human interaction, pointing the way toward constructive achievement by individuals and organizations.”
—Pierre Naquet, président, European Institute for Workplace Dynamics
From the Inside Flap
Every workplace is a minefield of conflict, and each day brings new challenges. How do you launch a new product when your team cant agree on a basic concept? What do you do when a promotion turns your peers into your direct reports? How do you move ahead when you and your boss dont see eye-to-eye?
Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson, leading experts in the field of conflict resolution, argue that every conflict is shaped by the same inescapable force: power. To turn any conflict to your advantage, you must first understand the true power dynamics at play. Making Conflict Work teaches you how to identify the nature of a conflict, determine your power position relative to your adversaries, and enact the best tactical approach for achieving your goals.
Coleman and Ferguson provide readers with versatile strategies for negotiating disputes at all levels of an organization. These tactics are equally effective for managers and assistants, consultants and attorneys, and anyone who has ever had a conflict with a colleague. Packed with helpful self-assessment exercises and step-by-step action plans to guide you through any problem, Making Conflict Work gives you the tools you need to become a stronger leader, a respected team member, and an agent of positive change in your organization.
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Usually I respond more from the gut than strategically either because I'm deeply invested in my point of view or because I'm not aware of or experienced with alternative ways of responding. When I do respond with an attitude of "how can we make this work for both of us?", the results are often positive, but in some situations, good will and a cooperative attitude are ineffective. This is why I chose to read this book.
What is exceptional about MAKING CONFLICT WORK is its clarity (and self-evaluation assessments) in regard to seven different methods of dealing with workplace conflict. These methods differ, applying to conflict situations in which you have more or less power or equal power than the other party.
The authors Coleman and Ferguson discuss power conflict traps in regard to a number of situations, and then presents chapters to each of the strategic methods for approaching conflict. In brief, four of the seven methods are: pragmatic benevolence (compassionate responsibility) and constructive dominance (command and control) for circumstances in which you have more power; and cultivated support (cooperative dependence) or strategic appeasement (unhappy tolerance) for circumstances in which you have less power.
The other three approaches the authors call selective autonomy (independence), effective adaptability (partnership) and principled revolution (enemy territory). The method you choose should be related not only to your power in the situation, but also how invested you are in maintaining a cordial relationship (and the job), your long term goals, and whether the other party's attitude and goals are congruent with yours.
For me. although a win/win approach has served me in the past, I've been stymied when the other party has a different agenda, is rigid and unwilling to compromise, and is threatening rather than supportive and cooperative. MAKING CONFLICT WORK actually addresses these situations in both its strategic appeasement and selective autonomy chapters – and gives useful advice.
This book does not waste time with too much storytelling (although it does have anecdotes which demonstrate each approach) or abstract theory. Its guidance is very specific and down-to-earth. Its assessments – at least two per chapter – can help you evaluate to what extent you are using particular tactics and to what extent the other party is responsive to your approach. As a result, you can clarify both your strengths and weakness in different conflict situations and pinpoint the skills you most need to practice.
MAKING CONFLICT WORK is highly organized, with each chapter divided into relevant topics, each one clearly explained. In the concluding chapter, the authors summarize their underlying approach:
"The next step for increasing your conflict intelligence is to enhance your competencies for accurately reading critical aspects of the relationships and situations in which you experience conflict. Sometimes...we need to practice taking the time to ask ourselves: Do I need to engage in this conflict and relationship? Are the others with or against me or both? Who has more power? And then act accordingly.
....Ultimately, it is critical that you consider your bottom line in conflict. Know when you need to move from more-cooperative and conciliatory strategies into more-competitive and contentious ones. Know when to respond to conflict in a manner that "fits" the situation, but also when not to. Know ... when the other disputants cross lines that you refuse to cross."
Many of the strategies and tactics presented in MAKING CONFLICT WORK are relevant to personal relationships as well as work relationships. This is a very enlightening, helpful book which I highly recommend.