In the workplace, employees, managers, and supervisor all say they desire more collaboration overall, but in particular when conflicts arise. The desire for greater collaboration is often conflated with more teamwork, or strong team bonding, or building better teams at work, but collaboration is not any of these things. And, much of this stated desire is based in generating more productivity per person in order to generate larger bottom line profits.
The other drawback to collaboration is that the rewards for engaging in it (in the majority of organizations) are not outsized, but the losses in the event of failure are. Collaboration is still viewed by many organizations as The Alamo; that is, the place to make an organizational “last stand” when the resources run out.
However, when what matters is internal (employee) and external (customer) organizational trust, workplaces would be well advised to consider collaboration as a key metric of moving an organization forward and past conflicts and disagreements. This metric becomes even more of the platinum standard when an organization is in an industry space of rapid change and uncertain outcomes. Both of these factors create stressors on internal and external constituents and can lead to conflicts—places where collaboration actually is a useful tool.
We have an idea of what the collaboration mode should look like in actual practice, but as a behavioral choice in conflict, here are some high points:
- The novice collaboration mode is marked by initial mistrust of other parties in the conflict (based on past relationships, current secondary conflict issues, the nature and content of the conflict at hand, etc.); but, is also based in the strong desire to work with the other party to get to resolution for the self, rather than the organization.
- The advanced beginner collaboration mode is marked by growing trust and belief in the efficacy of individual personal emotional strengths in addressing the conflict scenario. This mode is also marked by growing resiliency and confidence in the resolution process itself (negotiation, mediation, arbitration, etc.).
- The competent collaboration mode is marked by a desire to grow other parties in the conflict to the level of collaboration that this mode has already achieved. This mode of competency is also marked by frustration when parties refuse (or are incapable) of growing out of their own modes and toward collaboration.
- The proficient performer collaboration mode is marked by a determination to allow other parties in conflict the autonomy to choose whatever mode they would like to choose to get to resolution (e.g. assertiveness, avoidance, accommodation, competing/controlling, etc.) but to not get “caught up” in those modes. Other party self-determination (and preserving that self-determination) becomes key at the proficiency stage.
- The expert collaboration mode is marked by open communication, authenticity, honesty, as well as positivity and patience. This mode allows for other parties in the conflict to determine their own path through the conflict, but also advocates for collaboration as the ultimate mode of addressing issues.
In the workplace, collaboration is rarely seen, and is mostly associated with individuals who have attained emeritus status in an organization. Freed from the daily competition based in an organizational cultural perception of resource lack, those individuals become organizational ambassadors and diplomates in this mode.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: email@example.com