The Paradox of Workplace Conflict Resolution

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    Who wants to collaborate with the people with whom we aren’t getting along? Not many of us. But the world seems to be designed so that we often get more for ourselves when we do. Go figure…

11 responses to The Paradox of Workplace Conflict Resolution

  1. Jim Gabbard says:

    Thanks Richard, I agree with you. I like to remind people that working together does not mean we have to agree with the other or like their behavior. The event or situation is outside of us and it helps to just treat this event as information. How we choose to act on that information is up to us. Rehearsed calming thinking and actions promote friendly, respectful solutions to “getting along.”

    Keep up the terrific work.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks, Jim. Yes, a lot of this is about how we “frame” the problem. We have to start by understanding that it’s likely in our best interest to try to work with our counterpart. All the behavioral things flow from that. Thanks for writing!

  2. Linda Stamato says:


    You summed up the situation very well, as usual. You’ve described a counter-intuitive approach that needs to gain greater acceptance given its potential productivity (and considering the alternatives of NOT working with those with whom we disagree especially when circumstances require that we do).


    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Yes, Linda. It’s “counter-intuitive.” That’s one of the things that fascinates me about it. And yes, it needs to become more widely understood.

      Collaboration is not always the best choice: Often it’s better to give our counterpart what they want, or to avoid them altogether. And man, sometimes we have to fight for what we want regardless of what our counterpart prefers.

      But what a better, more efficient, more value-creating world this will be once people understand the benefits of collaborating to resolve conflict.

    2. Michael Toebe says:


      Just looked at your website and I learned about Rutgers’ program in negotiation and conflict resolution. I read a blog post of yours too that created great emotion (cheering) in me, Smoking and the Litigious Cigarette Sellers.

      Unfortunately, bullies don’t respond to pleas to stop their behavior. Usually, they need to see significant, painful consequences enforced to stop being the bull in a china shop.

      Anyway, I liked it.

      Your comment to Richard on his video, couldn’t agree more, counter-intuitive with potential for productivity.

  3. Karen says:

    This is a helpful practice that I can use immediately. I supervise two people who have been assigned to work together. They not only have opposite approaches to the task, but they dislike each other and hate working together. (Now, I’m stuck in the middle…)

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Sounds like fun, Karen. ;o) Glad you found this useful, and good luck!

  4. Michael Toebe says:

    People in conflict may sometimes like to hear this but you’re right, the way to more value, more of what you want is often through that difficult interaction with someone.

    Not always, as you say, but oftentimes, yes.

    Working on our poise, asking open-ended and courteous questions to discover what the other person most desires, utilizing active listening and showing sincere empathy creates understanding on which to build a foundation for receptiveness to collaborate.

    Good stuff, as usual Richard. Keep spreading the good news of the work you do.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Righto, Michael. Not always, that’s for certain. But often. Surprisingly often…

      Thanks for writing.

  5. ed lake says:

    you should send this to the U.S. congress. Hopefully enough of them would watch it.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks for writing, Ed. I’m no expert, but the issue with Congress appears to be that congresspeople define their interests narrowly. They emphasize their SELF-interests, and the interests of their parties, at the expense of the public’s interests. From this perspective, collaboration just doesn’t meet their needs: They’d prefer to get nothing accomplished–something they are quite good at!–than risk doing something and have some benefit accrue to their counterparts “across the aisle.”

      The system is broken, and won’t change until we use our energy (and our votes) to fix it.

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