NAVIGATING CORPORATE RELATIONSHIPS THE 7Cs © COMPASS
At workplace, as with life in general, each human interaction carries the potential for conflict. In order to deal with it, we need first to understand what conflict is. While there is no universally accepted definition of conflict, in workplace context it can be described as an adversarial expression of opposing interests. It emerges when two or more positions, opinions, assumptions and views clash. This clash is perceived as a threat to the needs, interests, money, or more seriously, to life and security of those involved. Whenever people wish to act in mutually incompatible and inconsistent manner, their desire to do so causes conflict. The competitive corporate world adds its own unique trials and tribulations to the already stressful impact of conflict. Another element of conflict in the world of workplace is when we are competing with ourselves and end up being our own adversary, standing in our own way. This, internal conflict is a huge subject and more suited to be discussed separately. For now we will confine ourselves to conflict involving two or more parties. Despite the negative connotation, conflict can be a very positive force injecting some friction and traction in the workplace. The challenge of conflict can actually give us opportunity to transform an apparently negative situation into a positive learning experience. We can’t elude conflict in the workplace. Given that it is unavoidable, we have to ask, “is there anything we can do about it?” The answer is a resounding “yes, of course”. There is a lot in our control for which we don’t need anyone’s permission or approval. We can, and we must, at the very least do our part beginning with making choices that are right for us and for the organization. We can deal with conflict in a way so the resolution process is not experienced as entirely negative but can actually heal the workplace instead of further wounding it. The 7 Cs formula gives us a methodology appreciably different from other processes like investigation, mediation, litigation, or for that matter use of force and violence. The 7Cs approach is designed to help us navigate through the shark infested voyage of stormy relationships of the corporate world. It provides an overarching blueprint which, if followed properly, can guarantee the best outcome under the given circumstances. Most importantly the correct application of this approach can minimize the destructive impact of workplace conflict on the individual and the organization. All or some of the 7 Cs can be applied to almost any situation we are faced with in the workplace. What we need to do is understand how components of each of the following Cs are applicable to a specific situation at work.
- Conciliation: The first step in addressing any problem is to conciliate with the fact that it exists. Conciliation differs from explaining the issue to someone or simply articulating your viewpoint. The act of accepting what IS is the most crucial stage of a process that can lead to successful resolution of most conflicts. We can not bury our head in the sand and deny that the existence of the problem. A problem will never be truly resolved unless we accept it as a problem. It is only once we have conciliated with the reality of the problem that we can begin to do something about it.
- Commitment: No matter in what capacity we are involved in a conflict, as a victim, alleged perpetrator, manager, policy maker or as top leader, we must ask ourselves if we are fully committed to resolving the issue that we are facing. We must be clear in our own minds that we are really prepared to do all it takes to confront and deal with the problem. We must be fully honest with ourselves about our own motives. It is not uncommon to find that when a conflict is brought to the attention of the mangers or decision makers, the stated contentions are generally very different from the true motive of the initiator. We have got to know if we are seeking a resolution or playing games. We should be committed to seeking the best alternative to safeguard our interests under the given circumstances and making allowance that our adversary feels the same way about his or her interests.
- Communication: The magic of words, spoken, written or silently communicated contains the key to opening the mysterious locks of conflicts. We must learn to listen and accept silence as a pronounced part of communication. Our listening skills can make or break the chances of a successful conflict resolution. Reiterating what we heard to the satisfaction of the speaker and reversing the process can remove most misunderstandings. We have to watch the body language and be mindful of the signals we are sending. It is quite possible to say one thing and send an opposite message.
- Compassion: This is a key component and may even permeate some other steps by preventing the conflict from escalating to a point where we have to treat a situation as a conflict to begin with. We need to deal with all relationships with a sense of compassion in line with the golden rule of never imposing on others what we would not choose for ourselves. The supposed adversaries can actually be our partners assisting us find a resolution. We must ask ourselves what would we do if we were in their shoes; would we have found our suggested solution as fair? Compassion always produces fair and win-win resolution
- Concentration: Peripheral issues or shifting priorities of workplace can easily distract us from concentrating upon the issue at hand. These distractions simply add to the complexity of the situation and each layer of complexity can gobble up more and more precious resources, efforts, energy and money needed to resolve the issue. Once we make sure that both sides are on the same page about the nature of the problem, we need to concentrate like a laser beam on seeking the solution. If peripheral issues arise, acknowledge them and come back to them after dealing with the core problem
- Compromise: This does not mean compromising your core beliefs or values. However, in a fair resolution no one gets one hundred percent. We need to aim at the best alternative which can be mutually beneficial rather than trying to get all and ending up getting nothing or something highly dissatisfactory. We need to pause and consider that the other side just might be right. Remember we can always disagree without being disagreeable.
- Culmination: Once we begin the 7 Cs process to address a conflict, we should keep at it till the resolution is reached or the process culminates because the parties determine that it is an un-resolvable conflict, which in itself is a resolution. We must then put the dispute behind us and move on with our lives. New complications always intrude if the process is interrupted. Once we arrive at a decision or an agreement we must bring the matter to a complete closure for those segments on which agreement has been reached and not rehash the same issues over and over again.
In conclusion we have to remember that workplace conflict is only one element in our potentially rich lives. We have to look at all of life’s challenges in a holistic manner. The impact of workplace conflicts does not confine itself from nine-to-five or within the four walls of the office. It influences, sometime even shapes, our home, personal and social life. It is up to us to ensure that no conflict should be allowed to scar us for ever. In this one short time on earth, the avoidable aggravation is just not worth it. Our lives are too precious for us to be overwhelmed by bitterness, anger or frustration in the workplace. All workplace relationships should instead be a source of joy, enrichment of the quality and fulfillment of our being.
OUR RESPONSE TO PARIS ATTACK
We live in a world which is unrecognizable from pre-9/11 times. Extremists of all shades find emotional justification and distort people’s commitment to faith, democracy and civilization to carry out mayhem in the name of what they regard as sacred, and the great majority finds abhorrent. The language of hate has taken over. The very questioning of why this violence is taking place is regarded as treasonous and unpatriotic, even blasphemous by those with the power to wage these acts of terror. The latest monstrosity in Paris must be condemned forcefully, but not allowed to justify a backlash against victims of violence escaping bloodshed and trying to reach Europe and Canada. Our government should not be discouraged. As Canadians, we need to continue our humanitarian work with a balanced approach that will keep Canadians safe. We must find a way to address the conflicts of the 21st century with contemporary understanding. Otherwise, the declarations of war and revenge will only bring more hate, more killing, more war and the vicious circle will continue until we destroy our sense of personal security and humanity with it. There are no adequate words to express the outrage over the killing of innocent people anywhere. But our outrage must not be selective. No one should feel they can justify taking innocent lives be it in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Israel, Palestine, Sinai, Africa, New York or Paris. We have seen both state and non-state terror and are committed to continue our efforts to ensure that “Never Again” is a promise kept. We should refuse to play into the hands of those who would goad us into violence and the quicksand of mutual destruction and call for healing and justice for victims of intolerance everywhere. Let us contribute whatever we can to create a world where all human life is precious regardless of nationality, creed or color.