Making Everyone in a Team a Winner
How to reconfigure conflict situations in a way that makes everyone involved more productive
Creating Healthy Competition
Healthy differences in the workplace energize without distracting from productivity. They challenge the mentality that is satisfied with good enough, and prompt workers to strive to perform better and better.
Promoting healthy competition
You cannot just develop healthy competition by chance. You must identify and implement some specific ways of behaving that will stimulate the right sort of competition. To create healthy competition, you should:
- make opportunities available to everyone,
- distribute rewards evenly,
- use objective performance measures, and
- explore the following three factors.
Opportunities must be open to everyone. The chance to be promoted, to bid for work, or to implement ideas must not be restricted to a favored few. You must let it be known that challenges can come from anywhere and anyone in the organization and opportunities are not only for a select few individuals.
If staff members just think that they only have to wait it out to get the next job, it breeds complacency. Making opportunities available to everyone creates a positive working environment because everyone is encouraged to progress, and discouraged from stagnating.
Do not restrict rewards to winners. Let everyone know that if they are unsuccessful in some endeavor, that you will help them to be successful next time. For those who do not succeed, the recognition may encourage them to make more effort next time.
Objective performance criteria
Use objective criteria to define success. Reputation and status should not be significant. Objective criteria need to be fair and transparent. That way, everyone can be measured against the criteria, and all who meet those criteria will succeed.
In recruitment matters, for example, the reasons for an appointment should be clear to everyone so that no one can make accusations of favoritism or unfair practices. Such accusations could damage staff morale, and discourage people from applying for vacant positions in the future
Encouraging competition is a difficult situation in which you try to achieve several different things at the same time. By opening up opportunities and making the criteria for success visible, you can reward more staff members. Then staff members do not have to fight to succeed.
Rules of Effective Arguments
Democracy is one of the greatest forces for good in Western society. An integral part of this democratic tradition is debate, which is formalized argument and challenge.
Democracy is based on the notion that when people argue, they learn from each other. Arguing your case and being challenged to justify your opinion is a positive force in business, as much as in any other part of life. Of course, too much can mean argument for argument’s sake. But not enough can result in the failure to express feelings, which often leads to a sudden overreaction.
Effective arguments are energizing, and make both parties think, rethink, and justify their positions. If an argument is to be effective, then it needs to follow certain rules to ensure that it is rational. To be effective, arguments must be:
- Justifiable — this means using facts that can be verified, and not subjective opinions. Cigarettes cause cancer is a fact-based argument. John Wayne was a good actor is just opinion. Arguments based on opinions rather than facts can easily turn into personal disputes — personality clashes are usually very damaging forms of conflict and are difficult to resolve.
- On the same terms — one person might argue that oranges are the best fruit, but your favorite vegetable might be peas. This argument will never be effective because each person is arguing about something different. To be effective, an argument needs to be on the same terms.
- Open-ended — effective arguments do not necessarily have to end in agreement; sometimes people cannot, or do not, agree with each other. Good arguments can end with both sides agreeing to differ, and accepting and honoring their differences.
Although people will not always agree with each other, if arguments are based on facts and equal terms, then the outcomes can be positive because the debate can cause bad feelings between people to disappear and help individuals to move forward from a disagreement.
Remember that arguments work best when people are rational. An argument must have a purpose — engaging in a dispute just for the sake of it wastes time, energy, and resources.
Similarly, if an argument is to be effective, parties must be flexible and reasonable — it is useless to hold on to an untenable position out of stubbornness.
Argument and challenge can often be disruptive and upset the status quo. But you can handle them effectively if you choose so that the arguments will be productive and energizing for your organization.
Making Everyone a Winner
When you think about conflict in the workplace, as in sport, the usual assumption is that if there is a winner, then there must also be a loser. But you can reconfigure conflict situations in a way that makes everyone involved a winner.
Creating the right climate
Operating a win-win approach entails cultivating the right climate in your workplace. The following are guidelines for creating this climate:
- express a spirit of cooperation,
- exercise a high degree of trust between other parties,
- anticipate synergy (that the shared solution will be better than an individual win).
A win-win approach signals that the intention in the conflict is not to defeat the other side, but to collaborate to achieve a shared victory. Win-win solutions often come about because both parties realize that if they work together, they will gain. The parties also recognize that if they work against each other, often both sides lose.
Once you have created this favorable climate, you are ready to tackle any issues that need to be resolved without fearing that the process will degenerate into destructive conflict.
To promote win-win solutions to resolving conflict in the workplace, you need to apply three principles.
Avoid the zero-sum approach — The zero-sum approach is one in which the rewards of any negotiation are entirely given to one party. You must aim for a better allocation of rewards so that all sides can gain from the solution. This may not result in actual equality, but it must be more equitable than the zero-sum idea.
Achieving a degree of equality prevents resentment from creeping in — resentment tends to grow and can generate harmful conflict.
Advocate flexible compromises — You need to be creative and flexible in identifying what you are trying to gain from the solution and where you can compromise. A vital starting point is knowing what your bottom line is, the point below which you will not go.
Compromise can be applied in most situations. For example, if you find yourself in a position where you are contemplating laying some staff off, it may be worth consulting them to see if you can identify alternatives — it may turn out that several of them would like to switch to working part-time, meaning that you could avoid making full-time layoffs and thereby preserve high staff morale.
Take a long-term perspective — One of the key principles of win-win approaches is that although in the short term you might not achieve all that you wanted to, in the long run, you will gain more by being cooperative. You always gain something, whereas, with an all-or-nothing approach, you might get nothing.
By suggesting sensible compromises, all parties can find a measure of satisfaction. They can all see that, over time, they will benefit equally.
When you promote win-win solutions, you will find that people enjoy the benefits of this flexible and reasonable approach to conflict. After a while, everyone will recognize it as the most effective way to operate.