Friday, January 20, 2012

Avoiding Power Struggles at Work

Occasional conflicts and disagreements at work are a normal part of the work environment. In fact, differing ideas and views shared and discussed productively can help generate new business solutions. However, conflict resulting from power struggles and the need for control is not only unproductive, it can be outright detrimental to the careers of those involved. Power struggles can play out in various behaviors. Sometimes it is an attitude and stance of being uncooperative or unwilling to compromise, listen to, or consider another’s perspective. Other times it’s as devious as withholding information, ignoring requests, and/or manipulating facts.

Avoid power struggles when you can; however, if you find yourself involved in one, the following tips may be helpful.

Focus on What Matters

Keep the power struggle from escalating by staying focused on solving the business issue at hand. Communicate your desire to find a solution that works best for the organization as a whole. Suggest working together to review the facts, brainstorm solutions, and combine ideas; then, be willing to openly communicate and compromise in reaching a successful outcome.

Be a Model of Professional Behavior

One tactic that can quell a power struggle with a colleague and help you maintain your professional integrity is to model the behavior you would want your colleague to emulate. Employ sincerity as you listen to other opinions and consider other points of view. Restate what you think you heard to ensure clarity. Find opportunities to acknowledge worthy aspects of someone else’s ideas or solutions.

If Necessary, Disengage

Sometimes the best answer to a power struggle is to disengage until a constructive and professional discussion can occur. Or, simply agree to disagree. In most cases, these are interim solutions. They provide the time needed to let go of any negative emotions or ego-centric intentions, such as a pressing desire to be right, and allow time to gain a fresh perspective. A “cooling off” period may also result in the surfacing of new information or ideas that enable everyone involved to productively revisit the issue and perhaps reach a mutually agreed-upon solution.

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