TC's Coleman: "Strategic Adaptation" Can Help Employees Succeed in Conflict-Ridd | Teachers College Columbia University

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TC's Coleman: "Strategic Adaptation" Can Help Employees Succeed in Conflict-Ridden Workplace

Peter T. Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education and Director of TC's International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution; and Robert Furguson, psychologist, management consultant, executive coach  and author, write in the Huffington Post that in studies which they published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, they found that "people who strategically adapt their approaches to conflict" at work "fare better" in the long term than those who do not.

Effective strategies vary with the nature of the conflict, Coleman and Furguson write. Successful employees "read challenging situations... carefully, consider their short and long-term objectives, and then cater their resolution strategies to the specific situations in front of them in order to increase their chances of success."

The authors list six strategies that can work:

  • Strategic appeasement in situations where their boss is an unreasonable jerk but they need to buy some time;
  • Seeking support and clarification in conflict when facing problems with a generally cooperative boss on whom they are highly dependent;
  • Disengaging from a conflict you don't need to be a part of and finding alternative ways to meet your goals; 
  • Taking the high road in situations when a generally cooperative peer or employee has caused a problem;
  • Coming on strong, direct, and even demanding in situations requiring firm, command-and-control leadership;
  • Rebelling by naming and shaming those in authority when you are asked to do things that are clearly unethical, immoral or illegal.


Coleman and Ferguson are co-authors of Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement (September 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

The views expressed in the previous article are solely those of the speakers to whom they are attributed. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the faculty, administration, or staff either of Teachers College or of Columbia University.

Published Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015


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