A Win-Win versus a Win-Lose Approach to Conflict
Most conflicts in the workplace are minor. Many, in fact, are healthy. That's fortunate, because let's face it, the probability of two individuals or groups fully agreeing on everything is approximately zero.
Still, people vary in their tolerance for conflict. Some people thrive on it, and as a result are likely to provoke a good bit of it just to stir things up. Many other people prefer to avoid it in hopes that the conflict will resolve itself, or they learn to tolerate the circumstances that triggered it. More than anything, these people want to keep the peace.
The problem is that too often when people address a conflict, whether by choice or necessity, they take an I-win-you-lose approach. That's a mistake because it distracts from focusing on opportunities for agreement and can make ongoing relationships difficult. When people have to work together, the wise approach is one that serves the best interests of both parties.
But what if you really are right and you've got the facts and figures to back you up? Tempting though it may be, this is not the time to lord it over the other party. Instead, state your case, show your evidence, and give the other person time to reflect on it. The natural reaction when proven wrong is to fight back (some of my most irrational arguments have emerged in just this situation), and that will exacerbate the conflict. But given time, the person in the wrong may consider your viewpoint and accept it. This approach allows the person to save face, thus maintaining dignity and avoiding humiliation. This way, the relationship remains (or becomes) a harmonious one.
If the issue at the heart of the conflict isn't all that important, sometimes the most astute move is just to concede. Conceding is sometimes the best way to resolve the conflict, preserve the relationship, and get on with your work. And sometimes, you can serve your own best interest by giving the other party what they want. This is not a trivial matter if you're in organizations that shuffle people like cards. The reality is that it pays to get along with everyone—you never know who your next boss will be.