"If people have an issue with me about the way I do my job, that's not an issue with me as a person. It doesn't strike at the core of who I am. It's feedback about the way I do my job, so I don't take it personally ."
”John Doumani, president-international,
Senior executive teams exercise an almost gravitational pull on the collective psyche of an organization. They are ultimate role models who deliver a powerful, implicit message to others: This is what operating as a senior executive entails; do likewise.
When Goliaths clash, organizations become polarized. Davids down the line mimic their counterparts at the top in functional rivalry and mano-a-mano combat, especially during the typical pinch points of organizational life, such as the budget cycle, resource-allocation decisions, and handoffs needed to accomplish tasks . That is why conflict at the top is often so deadly .
In a large southern retail chain, senior executives managed conflict within their executive committee by running away from it and building firewalls around functions to keep fellow senior executives at bay. Not surprisingly, work down the line became highly fragmented . Cross-functional business processes were almost nonexistent. Work moved across boundaries haphazardly and in fits and starts. Problems were rarely resolved between functions, even when there was sufficient information to resolve them.
Typically, when product development had an issue with marketing, the issue was sent up the chain of command to the vice president of product development to be messaged further by him. He then sent it back down to his team for further comment, whereupon the issue was once again recirculated upward. Finally, the vice president of product development would meet with his counterpart in marketing for a discussion. In our estimate, such yo-yoing stymied decision making by more than 50 percent.
The top team of a multinational beauty and health care company put a premium on creating what it termed an affiliative environment, in which everyone played as a team member. Employees down the line followed the lead and adhered to the conflict-averse culture. Political correctness triumphed over issue resolution, leaving unresolved key issues that required confrontation.