We are programmed from an early age to avoid conflict. Conflict-resolution skills are not part of any high school, college, or business school curriculum that we are familiar with. Yet, the potential for conflict exists whenever we interact with others. As Pat Parenty, senior vice president and general manager of Redken, U.S.A., points out, "Expecting people to resolve their differences without giving them conflict-management skills is like giving a computer to someone who's never seen one before and saying, 'Have fun using this.'"
Campbell's John Doumani sums up his commitment to conflict-management skills training in these words:
Looking at conflict situations as part of the job, as a business case, doesn't come easily, but it is critical that people learn how to do it. They also need to become aware of the impact they have on others and to learn how to process the feedback they get from their colleagues. They don't learn these lessons unless you are willing to put a lot of time and energy into modeling the behavior and building the skill base in the organization. We've put in place quite a few conflict-resolution and influence-management training modulesnot just for the leadership team, but throughout the organizationas a way to get people moving in the right direction. At first, it was hard for people to change their behavior, but as people practiced the skills, they became second nature. The way our organization views conflict, and deals with it, has really changed.
While this chapter focused on old-fashioned conflict in the social space of an organization, what kind of skills are required for dealing with conflict in the wired organization of the twenty-first century? That is the subject of Chapter 6.