Conflict 101 [Book Review]

(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.
Everyone has to deal with workplace conflict. Conflict 101: A Manager’s Guide to Resolving Problems so Everyone Can Get Back to Work is the guide you need for addressing conflicts on projects.
Susan H. Shearouse covers everything, from why we are bad at managing conflict in the office to how conflict situations work and how to resolve it. You can even learn how to avoid conflict from poorly written emails.
This book was a gift for me because I had just had a difficult week at work. It was Friday night and I began reading it on the tube as I drove home. I read:
We are angered when someone says something. We suddenly find ourselves standing in the middle the room shouting at someone else. Or slamming on the door and running out of the room. We are embarrassed and ashamed to leave the room with the label of conflict. “How could she have said that to me?” “Why didn’t I just let it go?” We replay these moments over and over in our heads and feel awful about ourselves and what we have done, and how we reacted.
Shearouse continues to say that it’s okay to feel bad. I felt instantly happier after reading the introduction to this book. I felt even better after I saw a random act in kindness in my tube car – a man helping an elderly nun with her bags.
Stop playing the blame game
The book’s goal is to help you manage conflict better at a lower level, before it escalates to the point that you yell at your team for not working hard enough. Shearouse reminds us conflict is inevitable but you can overcome it. The first step is to stop blaming others. She writes:
It is tempting to assign blame to someone else. It seems like the conflict will be easier to resolve or address if we first identify who is responsible. If we can solve the problem, then it is easier to resolve the conflict. If we dig deeper into the conflict, we find that nine out of ten times we played a role in creating, contributing, or exacerbating it. Time spent blaming others is time wasted on finding a solution.
There are many stories in the book, and I found these to be my favorite part. Shearouse, who has worked with dysfunctional teams for many years, has lots of real-life examples. I was a little confused when Shearouse described passive aggressive behavior as “like grits popping into a pan”. This was not clearer than Wikipedia.
5 Responses to Conflict
Chapter 5 is about the 5 ways to resolve conflict.
It was helpful to realize that, while we may have our own preferences for conflict handling (mine being Run For The Hills), each response has its place.
Avoiding conflict is great when there is little to no problem. You can also use it when you know you won’t win, such as when your sponsor wants you implement a change you don’t like.
You can save your energy for situations where resolving the conflict will bring you closer to a solution and stop banging your head against a brick wall.
Culture and its Role
The book makes it clear that assumptions are not the only thing that can lead to conflict. These assumptions can lead to conflict without even trying. For example, a project accountant may be too focused on details and not see the bigger picture. This assumption could change the way you interact with the accountant, and lead to conflict.
Shearouse explains that we are the products of our upbringings and society. Therefore, what we react to may be very different from what we were taught.

Related Posts