Where there are people there is conflict. I believe women bring their unique lens and strengths to managing conflict with care, empathy and courage.  Where conflict can be managed by an ego centric approach, it can also be managed with a strong spine and open heartedness.

A capacity to explore dialogue and embrace differences is a superior skill in managing conflict well. This is much needed in today’s conflicted world. I invited 2 leaders  to share their thoughts on this question. 

Soundari Mukherjea (CEO, Soundbytes11; Organisational Consultant & Business Storytelling Coach):

Soundari, I met you through the Aspire for Her community ( pls tag)  a few years ago. I feel connected to you owing to your joie de vivre, bindaas attitude and your warmth. You are never one to shy away from saying what is needed and you do it so well.

I learn much from your open, empathic and relational approach to establishing relationships, Sounndari..I love your storytelling. I enjoy the nuggets of pure insight and provocation that you have been putting out recently. Your clients are lucky to have you partner with them. You bring an earnestness and involvement that is so crucial to a meaningful conversation.  

Jacintha Jayachandran
(Consultant, Change Management & Leadership Coaching; Founder, Trustee HopeWorks Foundation; Founder, Skills Cafe; Consultant, Change Management & Leadership Coaching; Founder, Trustee HopeWorks Foundation; Founder, Skills Cafe):

Jacintha, you are a force of nature. I aspire to dream like you, and inspire action like you. Apart from collaborating on women’s leadership work I see that we share an interest in contributing to those who are socially on the fringes.

This year I see us collaborating more than ever to grow our influence and impact in this space of women, girls and more. Your energy is infectious and may Hopeworks grow in all ways you can dream of. You are a gift to the world. Dream on and may each of it come true!

Soundari’s mantra:

One thing in our lives that significantly affects us is our relationship with other people. Be it our partners, friends or family and with employees, coworkers, colleagues, bosses. 

Conflict is not uncommon. As human beings, we experience it in our day-to-day lives – with our friends, families, and in our professional lives. 

Having a fight with a close loved one, a friend not responding to our texts or a harsh remark from our boss can ruin our day. We may spend hours or days fretting over it.

Whereas going out with friends or having a good conversation with loved ones can make one super happy and fix our mood in a jiffy.

As Bev White, the CEO of Nash squared said, “It’s more of a complexity than a trend perhaps, but it’s crucial to remember there are now five generations in the workplace at the same time. That’s an incredible stat that has big implications. You have to adapt and be agile in your style, in the way you communicate and influence, and how you ask people to do things.”

In a working environment, where people have disparate outlooks toward the same problems, disagreements are bound to happen. This conflict causes a massive degree of frustration, pain, discomfort, sadness, as well as anger.

In my teenage years, I read this book called Paalangal பாலங்கள் (Bridges, in Tamil), written by the renowned author, Sivasankari. The story takes the reader through three different generations (split in timelines – 1907-1931, 1940-64, 1965-85) and how the culture, habits of people have changed over time, from the protagonist’s point of view. It was very real for me as I was living it, in a household spanning 3 generations – my grand mom, parents and my sister and I.

A Harvard Business Review’s article on “Getting the best out of the Five Generation workforce” reminded me of a couple of lines from Paalangal when referring to ideas about generational divide:

Thappu kanakku    தப்பு கணக்கு

Thavaraana kanippu    தவறான கணிப்பு

The above roughly translates to: Wrong calculation/maths and wrong estimation.

What is the way forward?

  • Move beyond labels. 
  • Question our assumptions. 
  • Adjust our lens to take advantage of the diversity of thought.
  • Embrace mutual learning at the workplace.

Managers and Leaders must also look for ways to cultivate community and camaraderie among employees. This is more difficult to do in a hybrid or remote-work environment, where people are not together in person. It is not impossible though.

Leaders of the future will all be Relationship Workers. Technology will help track petabytes of data generated by the firm, the customers and employees. The leadership skill test lies in how well the leaders are able to navigate the complex web of stakeholder relationships.

And, I see this kind of Relationship Management as a way to resolve conflicts – requires intent, requires attention/nurturing and requires time.

Jacintha’s mantra:

Conflict is welcome for growth. I think I have gotten better and better with it. I believe some conflicts are worth indulging in because it brings better understanding or growth.  Some are best ignored as toxic conflicts are best left far behind.

The most important part I have learnt in growth oriented conflicts is that it helps one explore the deeper ground- the third spot in a conflict. That’s where true dialogue begins. I can speak volumes on not the middle ground, but the ‘new’ ground in conflict. It takes effort, time, listening and a genuine need to understand and to be understood.

For example, at work there may be two proposals made to solve a particular problem. Instead of either approach, or coming up with a middle ground accommodating the features of each, it may help to ask if both had to come up with a third solution which has no features of the first two, then both the parties will sit down and talk. This helps us develop greater insights into each other and also into the problem.

In conclusion:

These leaders’ responses surely got me thinking. It is clear that conflicts, small or big, need a higher ground to look at it from. A higher ground allows a full seeing, a panoramic view and a bit of distance too. This is significant in creating an estimation as well as for creation of our response. I say create because a conflict response should be a matter of choice not a reaction.

Workplace conflicts can do with some more feminine approaches to solutioning. Listening, connection, standing your ground from ease rather than from superiority and the capacity to hold dualities too. 

Are you seeing some ideas for creating that ‘new ground’? 

Sailaja Manacha
Sailaja Manacha

Sailaja Manacha, a Master certified Coach from ICF, is known for her programs and coaching methods that combine psychology with leadership practices. In her work, Sailaja draws from Psychology, Ontology, NLP and Spiritual frameworks as well as rich, real-world experiences.

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