Conflict is often the elephant in the room that executives strive to ignore. But no matter how tempting this may be, avoiding conflict gets you nowhere. CIOs must learn the art of productive fighting, says Lynne Eisaguirre, author of The Power of a Good Fight and president of human resources consultancy Workplaces That Work. Eisaguirre has a few tips for “eating the elephant bite by bite.”
• Accept conflict as normal. People too often associate conflict with dysfunction, says Eisaguirre, but heated discussions are necessary for business success. “The main reason why many companies are not more productive is because they don’t know how to manage conflict effectively,” says Eisaguirre. Great innovation requires working through tough conversations and making collaborative decisions with your CEO, CFO and IT staff.
• Be proactive. Unresolved conflicts can quickly spiral out of control and require the support of a third party. Avoid this destructive path by planning conflict resolution strategies before a blowout takes place. If your company has hired a new CEO, brainstorm ahead of time how you will handle your inevitable first fight, advises Eisaguirre.
• Harness your conflict management skills. Effectively managing conflict takes practice, because it’s counterintuitive to our gut responses. When we are in conflict, our instinct is to go into fight or flight mode, says Eisaguirre, but neither approach works well in the workplace. Participate in a conflict training course, and encourage your IT managers to do the same, she says.
• Don’t fight via e-mail. E-mail is useful for many things, but resolving conflict is not one of them. “People say things in e-mail that they would never say face-to-face. It is important to see people, or at least hear the tone in someone’s voice” during a conflict, says Eisaguirre. So the next time you have the urge to unload on your CFO in writing, step away from the computer.