Our approach to each conflict depends on the perception or value we place on two different factors. The first is our perception of the problem at hand and how it should be resolved. The second is the value we place on maintaining or improving the relationship with the other person.
When we highly value our preferred approach to a solution, our assertiveness is increased and we become more competitive. When we value the relationship more than the problem, our cooperativeness is increased and we become more accomodating.
If we find ourselves butting heads and feeling particularly stubborn, it is helpful to ask ourselves these simple questions: “What is more important to me? Having this problem solved ‘my way ‘? Or having a good relationship in the long run?” Competitiveness has its place when things need to move along. Being respectful is a large part of healthy competition.
Alternatively, people with high cooperativeness may choose to hold back because they are worried about damaging the relationship. This also cost the team’s productivity because these accommodating people are keeping their brilliant ideas to themselves. We could ask ourselves a different set of questions: “Am I giving this person all the data they need from me to make this decision? If I am not fully engaged, how might that impact our relationship in the long run? Will that affect their perception of my abilities? Do I sometimes regret not speaking up?”
The more interdependent a team is, the more conflict they may have because they have to agree to move forward. Independent workers only rely on themselves so there is nobody to disagree with.
An advantage to team conflict is that there is a richer understanding of the issues and more innovation than with the same number of independent workers. The disadvantages happen when there is no leadership or a lack of mutual trust and respect. However, even in those situations, when conflict does get resolved, group cohesiveness and work relationships can come out ahead.
Good conflict management occurs when approached with a dose of both competitiveness and assertiveness. In all relationships, at work and at home, knowing how we perceive the severity of the problem compared to the importance of the relationship is the foundation of improving our outcomes.
Finding balance between these two elements, assertiveness and cooperation brings the best results. That balance is the sweet spot of performance where collaborative teams live.