Another unique aspect of conflict: It generates ideas. The best ideas stem from finding the best solutions to problems that exist. For instance, many organizations seek trainers with high self-esteem, but at the same time, trainers who have high self-esteem tend to provoke conflict to develop. Therefore, it is important to build the team member's self-esteem as well by initiating exercises that promote idea generation. Conflict arises when people with high self-esteem confidently throw their ideas out on the table; and the more ideas that are thrown out, the more conflict is developed. The next step is to then teach team members how to resolve conflict and choose an idea that allows the company to build innovative products or solutions.
When a diverse team is able to transform conflict and ideas into an innovative solution, then you have true teamwork and it does not matter if the team members are gay, straight, white, or black. The differences no longer matter: What matters is that the team was able to use its ideas to create a solution, and its members have worked together.
However, just as there are benefits to conflict, there are also negatives. When conflict does not create innovative solutions, it often creates destruction. Many employees are unable to work when there is conflict brewing, even if it is for the generation of new ideas. What tends to happen is that people become sour and negative. They have petty arguments that hurt their relationships with their team members. They gripe and complain about company policies and particularly those that are mandated by federal law, over which the company has no control.
Many conflicts related to diversity are never beneficial, and then we see the "isms" present themselves again. Organizations must have a zero tolerance policy for the "isms," as hatred only leads to conflict that cannot be solved and no compromises can be made. Sexual harassment is one area of conflict that many companies cannot seem to overcome. This kind of discrimination causes many problems, including:
· Decreased productivity;
· Low self-confidence.
A survey by Working Woman in 1988 found that women lose self-confidence and their production level decreases when they know that sexual harassment exists in a workplace. Victims of sexual harassment tend to experience a 10 percent decrease in production as well. Those who witness the sexual harassment have a 2 percent decrease, according to the survey.
As time goes on, this does not change much and shows the impact that sexual harassment can have on an organization. A more recent study has shown that an estimated 15 percent of women will leave their job due to sexual harassment, and this causes an increase in turnover for the company. Additionally, the lawsuits generated by sexual harassment are expensive, costing an average-sized company approximately $8.7 million.
It is vital to be as constructive as possible when communicating with your team members when these conflicts and misunderstandings occur. There are five response skills that you must use to reduce and respond to these situations:
1. Support: Show that you recognize when diverse groups of people are working together and communicating effectively.
2. Clarify: Paraphrase and ask for more information to increase your understanding of another person's perspective.
3. Suggest: If you hear something clearly stated, but you think it is not appropriate or the correct solution, then suggest something different by using phrases such as "I feel…" or "I believe…." Use humor when possible, but be specific and creative.
4. Request: We often need to establish our boundaries when a situation goes too far. Asking for cooperative action allows you to solve the problem with a sense of shared responsibility.
5. Insist: In more serious conflict situations, you need to utilize a quick response, such as, "Tom, this is the third time you have interrupted Sherry during our meeting. Please let her finish speaking."
If you begin a sentence with "I," your statements have a greater positive impact and can clarify what you are thinking, saying, or feeling.
Compare these two statements:
"I feel that you…"
When you begin with "I," it is apparent that you are speaking from within your perception. When you begin with the word "you," people think you are blaming them, even though that may not be your intention.
Below is an example template for "I" statements:
"I have a concern. When I saw your _________, ____________ happened, and I felt ______. I'd like __________. How would you feel about trying ___________?"
Here is a situation in which to apply the template:
"I have a concern about what happened in our meeting today. When I saw you did not acknowledge my suggestion, I felt undervalued. I'd like you to make more of an effort to recognize what I say in the meetings. How would you feel about trying my idea?"
By using these types of statements, you are showing the person that you value your working relationship and you are taking ownership of your feelings and perceptions.
Remember, "I" statements should:
· identify a shared problem and claim ownership of your perception of it.
· describe the behavior the problem presents.
· express concrete consequences.
· express feelings you experience as a result of the problem.
· express a preference for change, ask for ideas, and offer suggestions.
Managing Conflict Diversity Tips
· Some conflict is beneficial and promotes innovation.
· Some conflict is harmful and can cause destruction.
· Constructive response skills allow you to resolve conflict productively.
· Using "I" statements allows you to reduce conflict.
· Avoid conflict-increasing behaviors and unproductive conflict strategies.
The Team-building Wheel
When team members refuse to acknowledge that each one is different from the next, then they are essentially sweeping their differences under the rug and waiting for them to arise at an inopportune time in the future. When people hold back minor prejudices, then assumptions are made about one another. This causes work production to become sloppy and leads to performance problems. When performance problems occur, then blame is assigned. Eventually the team becomes so dysfunctional that it simply does not work. Members end up sabotaging one another's work. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge differences.
· Where did you grow up? How did that influence who you are today?
· What specific area of your culture is important to you, that you are not likely to give up?
· What do you remember about your favorite holiday or tradition when you were growing up?
Building on Uniqueness
· How important is the diversity in our team?
· How does diversity in the team affect our response to conflict?
· How does diversity positively impact the team's mission?
· How do our differences shape our values?
· How does our diversity of values come together to form a single set of values?
Continuously Evaluate the Team
|Improvement in team member relations is a constant process. Continuous improvement is also one of the reasons that leading-edge companies are so productive. The best way for a team to be productive and innovative is if its members are constantly evaluating and growing. They should give feedback to one another on a regular basis and constantly communicate. A good team should never stop communicating. By communicating, the team will never stop growing.