- Conflict can run the gamut from minor annoyances to physically violent situations. At the same time, conflict can increase creativity and innovation, or it can bring organizations to a grinding halt.
- There are many different types of conflict, including interpersonal, intrapersonal, and intergroup.
- Within organizations, there are many common situations that can spur conflict.
- Certain organizational structures, such as a matrix structure, can cause any given employee to have multiple bosses and conflicting or overwhelming demands. A scarcity of resources for employees to complete tasks is another common cause of organizational conflict, particularly if groups within the organization compete over those resources.
- Of course, simple personality clashes can create intrapersonal conflict in any situation.
- Communication problems are also a very common source of conflict even when no actual problem would exist otherwise.
- When conflict arises, it can be handled by any number of methods, each with varying degrees of cooperation and competitiveness. Different situations require different conflict handling methods, and no one method is best.
- Negotiations occur during many important processes, and possessing astute negation skills can be an incredible tool.
- A key component to negotiations involves having a BATNA, or “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.”
- Negotiations typically move through five phases, including investigation, determining your BATNA, presentation, bargaining, and closure.
- During a negotiation, it is important not to make any number of common mistakes. These mistakes can include accepting the first offer, letting ego get in the way, having unrealistic expectations of the outcome of the negotiation, becoming too emotional during the process, or being weighed down by previous failures and letting the past repeat itself.
- It is important to keep in mind that many cultures have preferential methods for handling conflict and negotiation. Individuals should understand the cultural background of others to better navigate what could otherwise become a messy situation.
A Case of Listening: When Silence Is Golden
Listening can be an effective tool during negotiations. William Devine was representing a client on a land purchase. “The owner and I spent 2 hours on the phone horse-trading contract issues, then turned to the price,” Devine explained. “We were $100,000 apart.” The owner then said, “The price your client proposes will leave us well short of our projections. That makes it very tough on us.” The line went silent.
“My impulse was to say something in response to the silence, and I started to speak, then stopped. As I hesitated, I sensed that if I said, ‘My client can pay all cash,’ or ‘It’s still a good deal for you,’ then the owner would take my comment as an invitation to joust, we would battle over the hundred grand, and my client would end up having to pay some or all of that sum. The owner had not asked a question or proposed a compromise, so no response was required from me at that moment. I decided to remain silent. After what felt like days but was probably less than 30 seconds, I heard, ‘But I guess it’s good for us [i.e., his company] to just get this deal done, so we’ll do it.’”
Devine saved his client $100,000 by staying silent.
Questions to Think About
- What does this case suggest about the role of silence in negotiations?
- Have you ever had a similar experience when saying nothing paid off?
- Are there times when silence is a bad idea? Explain your answer.
- Devine, W. (2002, September 30). Anatomy of a deal-maker. California Real Estate Journal. Retrieved November 14, 2008, fromhttp://www.wdesquire.com/pages/dealmaker.html.