24 Oct Mushroom Management
In all businesses there are groups and individuals competing for resources or influence. Whether at an individual, group or organisational level, there are a wide range of differences in priorities, values and opinions.
The question of whether conflict should exist or be ironed out, whether it is helpful or destructive, and whether it is a natural outcome or if it should be managed not eliminated, prevails in all businesses.
Businesses are inevitably attempting to reconcile differences much of the time so that outright conflict does not become a barrier to good performance.
Resolving differences or potential conflict takes large chunks of management’s time and energy. When asked to describe their biggest problems over the past few months, the majority of managers in one local study mentioned conflict as a major issue.
Some managers felt groups lacked co-operation and poor communication was rife and others felt that some conflict was never really resolved.
Yet, businesses without differences of values, opinions, and personalities are bland. Forward thinking companies like Apple, Microsoft and Virgin are exploiting differences for creative purposes and to inspire development.
However, arguments and competition between individuals and groups can become disruptive and degenerate into serious conflict. The dilemma faced by practice owners and partners is how to prevent damaging conflict situations from arising and how to resolve them effectively when they do. This can be complicated by the fact that some people thrive on conflict and some avoid it at all costs.
No one can work in a business and escape conflict. Socio-economic differences as well as cultural expectations, interests, beliefs, preferences, levels of self-esteem, ability to tolerate stress etc., all lead to inevitable conflict.
Situations where one’s opinions, interests or actions are never resisted by someone else are unlikely. Conflict is an outgrowth of business life, because working with others requires negotiating and renegotiating, undertakings and outcomes.
Understanding the context for the conflict leads one to focus on the important consequences of the conflict. Conflict has possible future consequences, both positive and negative, for an individual. But to understand, we must analyse the underlying factors that lead to the conflict situation and the related feelings, perceptions and behaviour.
This can be a very difficult managerial challenge. For many owners and managers, the truth is that asking for help can have connotations of weakness or perhaps be seen as negative. So at times, it may be challenging to admit negative reflection on our competency in communication skills.
Some owners and managers are careful about what information or psychological angst is shared with colleagues and partners. The owner may feel that he or she may have to present a very confident and ‘in control’ image.
Through the coaching process we use effective cognitive tools to enable individuals to see themselves from various perspectives, understanding how they are perceived by others. This helps the individual look at the quality of their communications, relationships and develop self-awareness.
Leaders have a big responsibility to promote a culture and expectations for open, honest, positive, helpful, constructive, sensitive communications and the sharing of knowledge throughout their business. Top performing groups, departments and companies always tend to have a culture of open and positive communication.
Do you or your management team have a ‘blind spot’? Are you communicating effectively and efficiently? Or are you keeping your teams in the dark and adding to uncertainty and creating conflict?
We all know how difficult it is to work well when kept in the dark. No-one works well when subjected to ‘mushroom management’.
By Debbie Robinson