Collaborative Conflict

December 12, 2013
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collaborative conflict in healthcareI decided to title this post Collaborative Conflict because I want to explore the apparent contradiction between collaboration and conflict.  Conflict makes many healthcare professionals uneasy because it:

collaborative conflict in healthcareI decided to title this post Collaborative Conflict because I want to explore the apparent contradiction between collaboration and conflict.  Conflict makes many healthcare professionals uneasy because it:

  • robs us of time and energy
  • brings to mind difficult personalities with whom we have to cope
  • makes us feel bullied
  • threatens to unmask us as pretenders
  • diminishes our self-worth

In Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for An Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus, Michael Roberto wrote that in affective conflict:

  • People repeat worn-out arguments
  • Parties dig in their heels
  • Loud voices dominate

However, collaborative conflict:

  • Raises interesting questions
  • Provokes new lines of discovery
  • Aids in understanding others’ positions
  • Displays openness to new ideas

I submit that the reason most healthcare professionals with whom I work shy away from conflict is that they experience mainly affective conflict and do not obtain the benefits of new perspectives, which can be transformative, especially in times of disruptive innovation, which we undergo daily.

One way to increase the ratio of collaborative to affective conflict is to use frameworks that trigger empathy and curiosity rather than hot-button words that polarize situations.  I recommend Sally Hogshead’s seven triggers to manage conflict:

  • Power: Think through arguments before taking a stand
  • Passion: Show consideration and caring for the other party’s feelings
  • Mystique: Ask questions to clarify the issues rather than attribute motives
  • Prestige: Acknowledge contributions that others make
  • Alarm: Organize in advance to prevent unproductive (affective) conflict
  • Rebellion: Think outside the box to offer a new context and unique solution
  • Trust: Nurture relationships so that the focus becomes the team rather than individuals in conflict

Sally’s research shows that using a range of triggers can balance communication and lower conflict by contributing solutions rather than contaminating the environment.

As always, I welcome your input to improve healthcare collaboration where you work. Please send me your comments and suggestions for improvement.

Kenneth H. Cohn

© 2013, all rights reserved

Disclosure:

I have not received any compensation for writing this content. I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.

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