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管理

职场冲突有好处

Keith Ferrazzi 2014年03月20日

通常,身处职场的人们不会主动去解决意见分歧,然后协同一致工作,而是会抑制内心的想法。但问题并不会自动消失,只会不断发酵。其实,存在分歧并不完全是坏事。坦率地面对分歧,遵循一定的原则弥合分歧,就能帮助培养团队的凝聚力,大幅提高工作效率。

    我曾在一家跨国化工公司,带领100名高管参加远离工作的团队活动。这些工程师的谦逊、友好和礼貌一开始就让我非常吃惊。后来我决定冒一次险,让他们知道虽然他们都很友善,但我不知道在他们礼貌的外表下,是否掩盖了随时可能爆发的矛盾。人群中传来了一阵笑声。这算是尴尬的认同吗?

    当我要求他们对公司内的人际关系进行评价时,88%的员工表示,他们来自一个“问题家庭”,人与人之间充满了未公开的矛盾。

    对此我并不吃惊。在我们合作过的公司,我们最常见到的最具有争议的一种行为就是回避矛盾。人们不会去解决意见分歧,然后协同一致工作,而是会抑制内心的想法,直到老板离开会议现场,或者他们与志趣相投的同事在一起的时候,才会聊这些问题。团队分裂成许多两极分化的小团体,每个团体都只关注自己的目标。

    这似乎是一种不健康的传染行为,但许多管理类文章却容忍了这种做法。

    事实上,当下有关职场矛盾管理的大多数文章基础都是40年前的一种模型。1974年,肯尼斯•托马斯与拉尔夫•基尔曼开发了这个模型,其中将回避作为解决矛盾的五种主要策略之一。但托马斯与基尔曼曾明确表示,回避矛盾会妨碍团队在重要决策中相互协作,结果将导致决策失败。所以,这并不是有效的策略。

    没有人喜欢跟别人对立。大多数人甚至光是想到冲突就会开始紧张。但问题不会自己消失。它们只会日益恶化。

    那么,该怎么办呢?

    让所有人坐上同一艘船

    第一步是保证每个业务单位的目标与组织目标保持一致。公司规模越大、产品越多样化,保持这种一致的难度也就更高——相互矛盾的目标更有可能在员工之间造成摩擦。保证每个人的奖励与公司目标挂钩。告诉员工,他们需要将公司目标放在首位,除非他们的绩效仅仅取决于自己所在部门的成功。

    太阳石油公司(Sunoco)前任CEO林恩•埃尔森汉斯表示,将员工的目标与奖励和公司目标挂钩将创造一个公平竞争的环境,让所有人都参与到对话当中。

    埃尔森汉斯说:“最开始,人们或许不会彼此喜欢,彼此信任,甚至认为别人一无是处。但如果公司培养所有人对公司的责任心,形成一种规范,例如所有人一起讨论问题,找出解决问题的可选解决方案,就会逐渐建立起一种相互信任和尊重的氛围。人们开始从不同的角度看待问题。‘我们要帮助彼此取得成功,进而让公司获得成功。’”她补充道,这样做会带来一种自然而然的结果,即人们会开始认为绝不能让彼此失望。

    埃尔森汉斯的方法虽然可能能够减少矛盾的数量,但却没有解决这样一个问题:如何应对与其他人公开的矛盾,最终获得所谓的“双赢”。

    I once led an offsite with the top 100 leaders at a multinational chemical company. I was immediately struck by how humble, friendly, and polite this room full of engineers was. At one point, I decided to take a risk and let them know what a pleasant bunch of people they were, but that I wondered if their polite exterior might be masking conflicts that were simmering below the surface. A ripple of laughter went through the crowd. Embarrassed recognition?

    When I asked them to rate the quality of their relationships within the company, 88% responded that they belonged in the "dysfunctional family" category, full of unacknowledged conflicts.

    I wasn't surprised. Conflict avoidance is one of the most common -- and divisive --behaviors my company encounters at the companies we work with. Instead of dealing with differences of opinion and working collaboratively, people choke back what they think until the boss has left the meeting, or when they are alone with a clique of like-minded colleagues. Teams break down into small, polarized groups that pursue their own agendas.

    Yet despite what seems like an epidemic of unhealthy behavior, a lot of management literature flirts with condoning such practices.

    In fact, most of today's literature about managing workplace conflict is based on a 40-year-old model developed by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in 1974, which cites avoidance as one of five main strategies people use to deal with conflict. But Thomas and Kilmann make clear that conflict avoidance prevents teams from collaborating on important decisions, which simply don't get made. That's hardly an effective strategy.

    Few people enjoy confronting others. Just the thought of conflict sparks anxiety in most people. Yet such problems don't go away by themselves. They grow and fester.

    So what can you do?

    Put everyone in the same boat

    The first step is to make sure individual business units' goals are aligned with the organization's goals. The larger the firm and the more diverse its products, the less likely these are to be aligned -- and the more likely competing goals are causing friction between employees. Make sure everyone's incentives are tied to the enterprise goals. Just telling employees that they need to put enterprise goals first is useless if their scorecard is solely dependent on the success of their little fiefdom. Ah, I mean business unit.

    Lynn Elsenhans, former CEO of Sunoco, notes that aligning employee goals and incentives with enterprise targets will level the playing field and make everyone part of the conversation.

    "People may not, at the beginning, like each other, trust each other, or even think that the other person is worthy," says Elsenhans, "but if you make it the norm that everyone is accountable to the enterprise -- and that we come together to discuss problems and options for solving those problems -- you'll start to build a climate of mutual trust and respect. People begin to look at things differently. 'We are going to help each other to be successful so that the enterprise is successful.'" A natural outcome, she adds, is that people begin to feel they don't want to let each other down.

    While Elsenhans' approach has the potential to reduce the number of conflicts that arise, it doesn't address the issue of how to have an out-in-the-open conflict with someone -- and come out feeling the warm glow of the proverbial "win-win."

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