Office Politics: Dealing with Conflict at Work
Amy Gallo is an author, speaker, and editor at Harvard Business Review. She mainly focuses on how you can build your career, how to communicate ideas effectively, how to influence and lead others, and how to manage conflict. She is the author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict and spoke about the premise and purpose of the book at her SXSW session Office Politics: Dealing with Conflict at Work.
The very first question Gallo asked the audience was, “How did you feel during the last conflict you had?” and many people shouted out answers on the line of frustrated, angry, mad, upset, etc. Gallo pointed out that no one said conflict is happy or that they enjoy it, “No one likes conflict.” Gallo said.
Gallo mentioned that she has loved conflict and uncomfortable situations ever since she was a little girl. The reason she wrote the book is because conflict and those conversations from work are taken home and can affect personal lives, such as disrupt sleeping, and she also wrote the book to, “Rid the world of bad conflict.”
Dealing with conflict at work can impact personal lives at home and also consume a lot of working hours. Gallo noted 2.8 hours a week is spent dealing with conflict at work and that’s $359 billion in paid hours. 18-26% of manager’s time is spent dealing with conflict and 65% of performance problems are connected to strained relationships.
“Create conflicts that are healthy and constructive and not personally destructive.” Gallo said.
It is important to know what conflict is and Gallo defines it as, “a situation in which two or more people have interests, needs, goals, or values that interfere with each other.” Gallo also says it is important to be ready for conflict at any moment and dealing with conflict is an essential skill set.
According to Gallo, there are four types of conflict: relationship, task, process, and status. Most conflict situations start by task, process, or status. It is rare for a conflict to start because of the relationship. A task conflict is when two or more people are not agreeing with what the task is or should be. A process conflict is when two or more people are disagreeing with how the task should be handled. Task and process is usually how conflict starts in the workplace.
The first step to solve conflict, as Gallo said, is to know what you’re fighting about and understand the situation. The second step is to understand what kind of conflict person you and the other person are. Are you an Avoider, you avoid conflict as much as possible, or are you a Seeker, you seek out conflict? It is possible to be both of these types depending on the situation. And lastly, analyze every conflict. Take a few seconds to analyze the situation and understand your counterpart. “We are naturally narcissistic when we enter a conflict” Gallo said. It’s important to quickly think about the other personal and not only think of yourself.