Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘Personal Agendas

Five Reasons Why Team Communications Can Deteriorate

with one comment

groupconflict

Since leaders are dealing with individual personalities in the team environment, it is unrealistic to expect that communication will never break down. Even within the most effective and efficient team environment, issues and situations will arise that will cause an entire breakdown of team communication.

The breakdown of communication in the team environment often occurs when trust and respect are diminished or ignored by individual team members. Breakdowns also occur when chronic conflict has not been resolved within the team.

Another source of communication breakdown is when team members feel their personal interests are stronger than the needs and identity of the team. These individuals are motivated by their personal desires and will do anything to achieve them, including disrupting the team environment.

It is important for leaders to recognize that communication breakdowns will occur within the team environment. In the early stages of team growth, communication problems and breakdowns are more frequent, as individuals struggle to obtain position and retain power in a new and changing environment. However, in more mature and structured teams, leaders will find that the team itself will deal with the communication problem according to its defined boundaries, rules and standards.

Leaders should be aware that a breakdown in communication can have long-term ramifications on the structure and effectiveness of the team. Therefore, it is important for them to recognize potential problems and the symptoms in order to anticipate issues, such as those discussed below, before they occur.

Loss of Trust and Respect

If leaders allow problems to fester and lead to a breakdown of team communication, they will experience a corresponding breakdown of trust and respect among team members that can be difficult, if not impossible, to restore. These circumstances can be fatal to the team and might require the formation of a new team in order to overcome them. Broken trust requires prolonged periods of time to be reestablished. Leaders need to be aware of this and take appropriate action to reduce the occurrence of chronic problems that can result in the loss of trust and respect among team members.

Hindered Free-Flow of Ideas

Once communication has broken down among team members, leaders will observe that discussions become more emotional and subjective rather than objective and factual. When discussions are based on emotion rather than fact, brainstorming will diminish to the point that there is no free-flow of ideas among team members. This effectively halts the team process until the issues causing the breakdowns are dealt with.

Intimidation

Leaders who experience a breakdown of communication observe that certain members will attempt to take control of the team process, subjugating the team to their personal agendas and perspectives. Once done, these individuals will use emotional responses to intimidate other team members into accepting their points of view. This is where the bonds of trust and respect among team members can be broken. The communication breakdown destroys the team structure and subjects it to the will of one or more members.

Bias

Once the breakdown of communication has led to the destruction of the team order by one or more team members, a specific bias is created that supports the personal agendas of these individuals. When members allow the team process to be subverted by particular individuals, they undermine the entire team effort.

Faulty Decision Making

The breakdown of communication in the team environment inevitably leads to faulty decision making. Specific biases that hinder the free-flow of ideas prevent teams from considering all options and alternatives when making decisions. Consequently, decisions are impacted by the biases of the specific individuals controlling the team. In these circumstances, decision making and outcomes will be flawed.

Individuals who have hijacked the team process will use the team environment as a cover to mask their activities when decisions produce faulty results. As they do not want to be held accountable for their behaviors and actions, they will place blame for the decision on the team environment.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:
 
How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a TeamThe Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Negative Roles and Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

with 2 comments

conflict

Along with the existence of positive and constructive team roles, negative and destructive agendas can emerge that undermine the ability of individual teams to function and perform adequately.

Negative and destructive roles emerge for a variety of reasons, including personal agendas, resistance to change, immaturity, and lack of motivation and/or team leadership and management.

One of a leader’s major roles is to observe individual team members and watch for destructive and negative behaviors. When problems surface, they need to encourage the team to collectively recognize and handle them within the team environment. If this fails, it is up to leaders to take specific action with the offending individual(s).

Leaders need to be watchful for the following negative roles and behaviors within their individual teams:

Aggressor

The aggressor criticizes everything said within the team environment, and is in effect an active naysayer. He or she has the ability to block the introduction of new ideas and concepts by minimizing and deflating the status of other team members and creating a sense of intimidation. If this behavior and role is not checked it will tend to decrease the team’s overall motivation and subsequent member involvement.

Blocker

The blocker is a dominant personality who automatically rejects the views and perspectives of others out of hand. This individual blocks the team’s ability to brainstorm and discuss the merits of new concepts and ideas raised. Like the aggressor, this individual can be highly detrimental to the team effort as he or she intimidates individual members, limits their participation and decreases overall team motivation and involvement.

Withdrawer

The withdrawer holds back his or her personal participation and refuses to become active within the team environment. This individual focuses the team on his or her immature behavior and attempts to resolve the conflict and unrest it creates, which effectively limits the team’s ability to make progress on problems and assigned projects.

Recognition Seeker

The recognition seeker looks for personal attention and in so doing monopolizes the discussion by continually asserting his or her personal ideas, suggestions and viewpoints. The recognition seeker is also attempting to win the team over to his or her ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, this behavior minimizes other individual team members input, which hampers overall team participation, involvement and motivation.

Topic Jumper

A topic jumper is unable to explore any specific topic in depth. He or she displays a short attention span and continually interrupts group discussions by attempting to change the subject. These continual interruptions diminish overall productivity by keeping team meetings off-focus.

Dominator

The dominator displays threatening and bullying behavior within the team setting. This individual uses intimidating and minimizing behavior in an attempt to take over the team and control all discussions. The dominator will typically “hijack” the team by coercing it to pursue his or her personal agenda.

Devil’s Advocate

While the devil’s advocate in the sense of introducing different viewpoints into the team discussion is a positive team function, it can become a negative role when used to block team progress or consensus. In this regard, the devil’s advocate is simply a naysayer that refuses to allow the team to move forward.

Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

with one comment

manpointing-atemployee

While internal conflict and friction can be healthy for an organization – in that it can channel that energy into creative and innovative solutions – there are times when managers must understand that conflict can be costly, especially if personal interests and agendas are placed above the needs of the organization.

By definition, managers are concerned with the entire organization, not just their own personal spheres of influence. Managers must rise above the desire to attain a power base or advance an agenda. They must direct any conflict resolution toward creating and crafting the best possible solution for the entire organization.

While conflict is healthy in most working environments, there are two general areas where conflict can be damaging and destructive to the entire organization.

Personal Agendas and Perspectives

One of the most problematic areas of conflict resolution is the application of personal agendas and perspectives to conflict resolution. A natural tendency in all individuals, this can cause difficulties if the personal agenda of one or more members of a group overpower the needs of the organization.

This is especially problematic when someone senior to the rest of the group members is advancing their personal agenda. The areas where individual personal agendas can be damaging include:

Biased Assimilation of Information

How a problem or conflict is perceived and defined impacts its resolution. Personal agendas and perceptions can create a bias that adversely affects the definition of the problem and, ultimately, the solution.

This misstep occurs when information and data is received from an external source and processed with a lack of understanding or adequate background information. Additionally, the information can be processed using incorrect assumptions, perceptions or decision making norms to frame the issue; this ultimately impacts the formation of the solution in regard to conclusions and the actions caused by them.

When personal agendas strongly influence a group—either in the form of intimidation or by the use of power over the group—there is a reluctance to question the information and perspectives being presented.

The group assumes a smoothing and avoiding conflict resolution style that allows these differences in opinion and perspective to be both minimized and glossed over. When a wrong decision is made that impacts the organization, the primary influencer can disclaim any exclusive association by pointing out the group nature of the decision. This tactic serves to mask any personal agenda at play, often to extremely destructive effect.

Partisan Perceptions

Research has demonstrated that there is an unconscious tendency in individuals to enhance their own side of a conflict, portraying it as more insightful, honest and morally upright. An associated phenomenon is the tendency to vilify the opposition, portraying them as both unscrupulous and vile.

These two phenomena have dominated research on inter-group relations for over 40 years. In more recent studies, the insidious and involuntary nature of partisan tactics has become more apparent, as it affects the nature of conflict and the specific manners in which the resolution process is undermined.

When applied to the aforementioned concept of biased assimilation of information, it is obvious how conflict intensifies when one group strongly believes in their viewpoints while simultaneously vilifying their opponents.’

Organizations feel the impact as the conflict degenerates into personal battles and animosities that can endure for prolonged periods of time. This partisanship poisons the workplace environment to the point that satisfactory resolution becomes nearly impossible without outside intervention.

Scarce Resources

The other major source of internal conflict within organizations is the battle between groups and departments over the utilization of limited resources. This situation readily surfaces when organizations lack clear direction.

In certain circumstances, larger and more powerful departments are able to dominate this battle and intimidate smaller and less influential groups.

While this “survival of the fittest” confrontation might be considered productive by some members of management, it is ultimately unhealthy and damaging if badly needed resources are diverted away from those areas of the organization most in need of them or from those who can put them to the most productive use.

Related:

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

How Employees Handle Conflict

Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution – Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series (Majorium Business Press – Stevens Point, WI, 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Leaders focus on enhancing the customer’s ‘experience’

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Across the broad spectrum of products, services and industries, and the span of over 200 years, the great leaders shared a mutual focus to greatly enhance their customer’s “experience.” This incorporated the concept of “ruthless efficiency” to drive down costs, improve quality and increase efficiencies through innovation and continuous improvement. This resulted in better products at lower costs. This generated their record of growth and success through the practice of overwhelming and eliminating their competition, who couldn’t match their performance.

Edward Harriman (Union Pacific) illustrated this attitude.

“Walking some Southern Pacific track one day with one of his finest officers, Julius Kruttschnitt, Harriman’s restless eye seized on one of the bolts holding a rail in place. ‘Why does so much of that bolt protrude beyond the nut?’ he asked abruptly.

‘It is the size that is generally used,’ replied Kruttschnitt.

‘Why should we use a bolt of such a length that a part of it is useless?’ persisted Harriman.

‘Well,’ admitted Kruttschnitt, ‘When you come right down to it, there is no reason.’

After walking a bit farther, Harriman stopped suddenly and asked, ‘How many track bolts are there in a mile of track?’

Kruttschnitt did a quick calculation and ventured a figure. ‘Well,’ snapped Harriman, ‘in the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific we have about eighteen thousand miles of track and there must be some fifty million bolts in our system. If you can cut an ounce off from every bolt, you will save fifty million ounces of iron, and that is something worthwhile.

Change your bolt standard.’” [1]

Contrary to today’s focus on shareholder value, the great leaders attributed their success to the maintenance of a fanatical focus on the well being of their customers. The customer is the key constituency and is placed first, even at the expense of the stockholders.

Common sense told them that before profits there needed to be sales. And happy customers generated sales. Any actions that diminished the customer experience would be detrimental to the health of their businesses. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) stated,

“Customers want three things; the best selection, the lowest prices, and the cheapest and most-convenient delivery. At Amazon, all decisions flow from those fundamentals.”

When leaders lose their focus on building their business, and maintain a balance with their constituencies, their professional credibility suffers. Many who attain prominent positions are faced with numerous temptations, which come with the trappings of power. These can become the impetus that destroys their credibility and in certain instances, their careers.

Focusing on the attainment of their personal agenda, including prominence, personal notoriety, and popularity often tops the list of problematic behaviors. Some leaders are enamored with politics and the possibility of political office, while others are consumed with personal interests and activities.

Carly Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard) fell into this trap as she was accused of acting like a rock star during her tenure as CEO. “Some critics said she became caught up in high-level strategy and high-profile marketing events to create buzz (such as appearing on stage at a trade show with pop singer Gwen Stefani a month before her firing), rather than homing in on the nitty-gritty operational issues…” [2]

James Cayne (Bear Stearns) was participating at a championship bridge tournament as his company faced imminent financial collapse in 2007. He was later accused of being more focused on his bridge activities than his company in the critical period leading up to the financial disaster.

“On July 12, chatting with visitors over lunch, Mr. Cayne seemed less interested in discussing the markets than in talking about a breakfast-cereal allergy and his stash of unlabeled Cuban cigars. On another occasion, he told a visitor he pays $140 apiece for the cigars, keeping them in a humidor under his desk. Five days later managers of both funds informed investors their holdings were virtually worthless.” [3]

Undoubtedly, many problematic leaders feel if their companies are performing well, they are free to pursue their own interests. In the case of Carly Fiorina, her personal focus was transparent and she was severely criticized in the press and in the company. This undermined her credibility, which ultimately led to the loss of her validity, and authority to lead. Her actions alienated her constituencies, who ultimately abandoned her when she needed them. She lost her professional credibility.

“CEOs can grow arrogant. They stop listening to trusted advisors and begin to breed negative energy, reflecting that back on the company. ‘Roger Smith became shorthand for a generation of managerial puppetry,’ says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute and an associate dean at the Yale School of Management.

To be sure, when highly visible CEOs make bad decisions or fail entirely, their companies suffer as well. ‘Personal actions, such as political decisions, take on more weight,’ says Peter H. Coors (Coors) ‘What we might do personally would have an impact on the company.’” [4]

P.T. Barnum (Barnum & Bailey Circus) offered sound advice, which is just as applicable today as it was then, when he said,

“Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until you succeed… When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value… There is good sense in the old caution against having too many irons in the fire at once.”

References:

  1. Klein, Maury, The Change Makers (Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2003) p 128-129
  2. Zapler Mike, Analysts: Carly Fiorina Long on Vision, Fell Short on Execution at HP (Oakland Tribune) April 21, 2010
  3. Kelly, Kate, Bear CEO’s Handling of Crisis Raises Issues (The Wall Street Journal) November 1, 2007
  4. Benezra, Karen and Gilbert, Jennifer, The CEO as Brand — Their Names Are Synonymous With Their Companies’ Products — And That Presents A Slew of Unique Challenges (Chief Executive) January 1. 2002

For more information on this topic, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Reasons Why Team Communications Can Deteriorate

with one comment

Since leaders are dealing with individual personalities in the team environment, it is unrealistic to expect that communication will never break down. Even within the most effective and efficient team environment, issues and situations will arise that will cause an entire breakdown of team communication.

The breakdown of communication in the team environment often occurs when trust and respect are diminished or ignored by individual team members. Breakdowns also occur when chronic conflict has not been resolved within the team.

Another source of communication breakdown is when team members feel their personal interests are stronger than the needs and identity of the team. These individuals are motivated by their personal desires and will do anything to achieve them, including disrupting the team environment.

It is important for leaders to recognize that communication breakdowns will occur within the team environment. In the early stages of team growth, communication problems and breakdowns are more frequent, as individuals struggle to obtain position and retain power in a new and changing environment. However, in more mature and structured teams, leaders will find that the team itself will deal with the communication problem according to its defined boundaries, rules and standards.

Leaders should be aware that a breakdown in communication can have long-term ramifications on the structure and effectiveness of the team. Therefore, it is important for them to recognize potential problems and the symptoms in order to anticipate issues, such as those discussed below, before they occur.

Loss of Trust and Respect

If leaders allow problems to fester and lead to a breakdown of team communication, they will experience a corresponding breakdown of trust and respect among team members that can be difficult, if not impossible, to restore. These circumstances can be fatal to the team and might require the formation of a new team in order to overcome them. Broken trust requires prolonged periods of time to be reestablished. Leaders need to be aware of this and take appropriate action to reduce the occurrence of chronic problems that can result in the loss of trust and respect among team members.

Hindered Free-Flow of Ideas

Once communication has broken down among team members, leaders will observe that discussions become more emotional and subjective rather than objective and factual. When discussions are based on emotion rather than fact, brainstorming will diminish to the point that there is no free-flow of ideas among team members. This effectively halts the team process until the issues causing the breakdowns are dealt with.

Intimidation

Leaders who experience a breakdown of communication observe that certain members will attempt to take control of the team process, subjugating the team to their personal agendas and perspectives. Once done, these individuals will use emotional responses to intimidate other team members into accepting their points of view. This is where the bonds of trust and respect among team members can be broken. The communication breakdown destroys the team structure and subjects it to the will of one or more members.

Bias

Once the breakdown of communication has led to the destruction of the team order by one or more team members, a specific bias is created that supports the personal agendas of these individuals. When members allow the team process to be subverted by particular individuals, they undermine the entire team effort.

Faulty Decision Making

The breakdown of communication in the team environment inevitably leads to faulty decision making. Specific biases that hinder the free-flow of ideas prevent teams from considering all options and alternatives when making decisions. Consequently, decisions are impacted by the biases of the specific individuals controlling the team. In these circumstances, decision making and outcomes will be flawed.

Individuals who have hijacked the team process will use the team environment as a cover to mask their activities when decisions produce faulty results. As they do not want to be held accountable for their behaviors and actions, they will place blame for the decision on the team environment.

Excerpt: Boosting Team Communication: Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about enhancing team communications, refer to Boosting Team Communication: Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

with 14 comments

Along with the existence of positive and constructive team roles, negative and destructive agendas can emerge that undermine the ability of individual teams to function and perform adequately.

Negative and destructive roles emerge for a variety of reasons, including personal agendas, resistance to change, immaturity, and lack of motivation and/or team leadership and management.

One of a leader’s major roles is to observe individual team members and watch for destructive and negative behaviors. When problems surface, they need to encourage the team to collectively recognize and handle them within the team environment. If this fails, it is up to leaders to take specific action with the offending individual(s).

Leaders need to be watchful for the following negative roles and behaviors within their individual teams:

Aggressor

The aggressor criticizes everything said within the team environment, and is in effect an active naysayer. He or she has the ability to block the introduction of new ideas and concepts by minimizing and deflating the status of other team members and creating a sense of intimidation. If this behavior and role is not checked it will tend to decrease the team’s overall motivation and subsequent member involvement.

Blocker

The blocker is a dominant personality who automatically rejects the views and perspectives of others out of hand. This individual blocks the team’s ability to brainstorm and discuss the merits of new concepts and ideas raised. Like the aggressor, this individual can be highly detrimental to the team effort as he or she intimidates individual members, limits their participation and decreases overall team motivation and involvement.

Withdrawer

The withdrawer holds back his or her personal participation and refuses to become active within the team environment. This individual focuses the team on his or her immature behavior and attempts to resolve the conflict and unrest it creates, which effectively limits the team’s ability to make progress on problems and assigned projects.

Recognition Seeker

The recognition seeker looks for personal attention and in so doing monopolizes the discussion by continually asserting his or her personal ideas, suggestions and viewpoints. The recognition seeker is also attempting to win the team over to his or her ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, this behavior minimizes other individual team members input, which hampers overall team participation, involvement and motivation.

Topic Jumper

A topic jumper is unable to explore any specific topic in depth. He or she displays a short attention span and continually interrupts group discussions by attempting to change the subject. These continual interruptions diminish overall productivity by keeping team meetings off-focus.

Dominator

The dominator displays threatening and bullying behavior within the team setting. This individual uses intimidating and minimizing behavior in an attempt to take over the team and control all discussions. The dominator will typically “hijack” the team by coercing it to pursue his or her personal agenda.

Devil’s Advocate

While the devil’s advocate in the sense of introducing different viewpoints into the team discussion is a positive team function, it can become a negative role when used to block team progress or consensus. In this regard, the devil’s advocate is simply a naysayer that refuses to allow the team to move forward.

Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about effective team roles refer to Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

with 4 comments

While internal conflict and friction can be healthy for an organization – in that it can channel that energy into creative and innovative solutions – there are times when managers must understand that conflict can be costly, especially if personal interests and agendas are placed above the needs of the organization.

Inherent in any conflict is the base struggle for survival. It may be the survival of one’s point of view, perspective or power base. In other instances, it may be the struggle of one group or department over another. In all cases, this struggle must be recognized and balanced against the needs of the organization.

By definition, managers are concerned with the entire organization, not just their own personal spheres of influence. Managers must rise above the desire to attain a power base or advance an agenda. They must direct any conflict resolution toward creating and crafting the best possible solution for the entire organization.

While conflict is healthy in most working environments, there are two general areas where conflict can be damaging and destructive to the entire organization.

Personal Agendas and Perspectives

One of the most problematic areas of conflict resolution is the application of personal agendas and perspectives to conflict resolution. A natural tendency in all individuals, this can cause difficulties if the personal agenda of one or more members of a group overpower the needs of the organization. This is especially problematic when someone senior to the rest of the group members is advancing their personal agenda. The areas where individual personal agendas can be damaging include:

Biased Assimilation of Information

How a problem or conflict is perceived and defined impacts its resolution. Personal agendas and perceptions can create a bias that adversely affects the definition of the problem and, ultimately, the solution. This misstep occurs when information and data is received from an external source and processed with a lack of understanding or adequate background information. Additionally, the information can be processed using incorrect assumptions, perceptions or decision making norms to frame the issue; this ultimately impacts the formation of the solution in regard to conclusions and the actions caused by them.

When personal agendas strongly influence a group—either in the form of intimidation or by the use of power over the group—there is a reluctance to question the information and perspectives being presented. The group assumes a smoothing and avoiding conflict resolution style that allows these differences in opinion and perspective to be both minimized and glossed over. When a wrong decision is made that impacts the organization, the primary influencer can disclaim any exclusive association by pointing out the group nature of the decision. This tactic serves to mask any personal agenda at play, often to extremely destructive effect.

Partisan Perceptions

Research has demonstrated that there is an unconscious tendency in individuals to enhance their own side of a conflict, portraying it as more insightful, honest and morally upright. An associated phenomenon is the tendency to vilify the opposition, portraying them as both unscrupulous and vile. These two phenomena have dominated research on inter-group relations for over 40 years. In more recent studies, the insidious and involuntary nature of partisan tactics has become more apparent, as it affects the nature of conflict and the specific manners in which the resolution process is undermined.

When applied to the aforementioned concept of biased assimilation of information, it is obvious how conflict intensifies when one group strongly believes in their viewpoints while simultaneously vilifying their opponents’. Organizations feel the impact as the conflict degenerates into personal battles and animosities that can endure for prolonged periods of time. This partisanship poisons the workplace environment to the point that satisfactory resolution becomes nearly impossible without outside intervention.

Scarce Resources

The other major source of internal conflict within organizations is the battle between groups and departments over the utilization of limited resources. This situation readily surfaces when organizations lack clear direction.

In certain circumstances, larger and more powerful departments are able to dominate this battle and intimidate smaller and less influential groups. While this “survival of the fittest” confrontation might be considered productive by some members of management, it is ultimately unhealthy and damaging if badly needed resources are diverted away from those areas of the organization most in need of them or from those who can put them to the most productive use.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution – Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series (Majorium Business Press – Stevens Point, WI, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about conflict resolution techniques in the workplace, refer to Conflict Resolution – Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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