Whenever two or more people work together, there are bound to be differences.
The key is how to manage and resolve those differences, says Stanley Wachs, a management and organization consultant and owner of Wachs Associates in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Wachs says physicians and CEOs may differ in their objectives and their methodology for achieving common objectives. They may disagree about the facts of an issue. They may have different personal values that affect their decisionmaking. And they may not trust each other's motives, feeling that the other person has a hidden agenda, has divulged to others secrets they discussed in confidence or hasn't fulfilled promises to which they agreed.
At the same time, people are dealing with emotional issues. These can include a struggle for control, desire for inclusion in decisionmaking and the need for acceptance and affection.
Wachs stresses dealing with differences before they erupt into conflict. "I believe strongly that there are conflict management skills, just like there are medical or administrative skills, that one can learn," he says. "And you can use these tactics and skills when having difficulty with people."
His technique includes:
- Confront the issue.
- Listen to and try to understand the other person's point of view, especially the emotional side: how upset he is and how important the issue is to him.
- Compare your differences and similarities. State out loud that "I think we agree on points A and B, but we differ on Y and Z."
- Create solutions.
- Manage impasses. Meet in good faith to hammer out details. If you can't agree, take a break for a while, call in a mediator, flip a coin, use your legitimate power ("I'm the boss, so let's do it my way") or say "Let's try it your way because you feel so strongly about it."