The Secret to Conflict Resolution


Leadership Institute: A Year of Advancement

Leadership Institute: A Year of Advancement, is an ongoing series that shares the experiences of our 15 cohort members as they focus on developing their leadership and management skills through monthly workshops.

Dear Abby:   My (male) boss always asks me to take notes at our weekly meetings. There are ten other people in the room. Is it because I’m a female? Is this part of my job? How do I talk to him? Please help. I’m getting cramps in my fingers and feeling undervalued. Sincerely, Not Your Secretary One of today’s topics at the September Leadership Institute was conflict resolution. Our guest speaker was Pari Karim, Training Director at the Center of Conflict Resolution Training. Quick background: the Training Center has been around for almost four decades, originally located in Uptown, it was created by the Chicago Bar Association and they offer free mediation and conflict management training to Chicago area institutions, organizations and businesses.

In 2017, they mediated over 2000 cases! “Most of the time, we think conflict is a bad thing,” says Pari “Conflict is actually a good thing.  It is the only way we know when it’s not working.” Pari introduced us to the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) for addressing conflicts (below). It represents the approaches in which we deal with conflict. It also measures the assertiveness and cooperativeness each approach brings forth.

Each approach is valid in different circumstances. Below is a brief outline generated from our discussion with Pari of what each approach looks like and the strategies that could be useful.

COMPETING -talking over someone, arguing, debating, saying no, putting your needs over others Uses: when there is a deadline, a decision needs to get made, or if safety is involved

AVOIDING-not getting what you want, ignoring, letting it go Uses: when you don’t particular care about the outcome or when it doesn’t affect you. It can be a good short term strategy.

ACCOMMODATING -giving in to the other person, selfless-acts, the “yes-man” Uses: when a large group is making a decision or when your supervisor asks you to do something, however, it can lead to burnout and not empowering people to develop.

COLLABORATING -your idea + my idea = something new and fantastic! Uses: when looking for innovation, building moral and value.  However, it involves a lot of thinking, not doing and takes a lot of time and skill.

COMPROMISING -distributional bargaining, 50/50 split, trade agreements, both parties needs being met Uses: when building and valuing relationships, however, over time it can lead to negativity and resentment. Ideally in the workplace, you use all of these at different times and for specific outcomes.  Next time you have a conflict, think about using one of these strategies or reach out to the professional mediators at the Center for Conflict Resolution Training.

Dear Not Your Secretary: It sounds like you have been accommodating your boss’s request which makes you an excellent team member.  I recommend that you try being more assertive and suggest to your team a more compromising approach, such as taking turns on the note-taking and including your boss in the cycle. If your boss is resistant, then you might want to consider bringing this issue up to your HR department or see if you have a trained moderator on staff to further talk about the conflict.  Hopefully, sharing the workload amongst the team will be a good solution for you and additionally builds a stronger foundation for the team.   Signed, Abby


Ilana Bruton | LinkedIn

Ilana is the public programs manager at the Chicago History Museum and is responsible for the design and implementation of programs to expand and diversify CHM’s audiences through interpretive experiences. She has served on many committees during her tenure at CHM, which includes acting as program director for the exhibition “Shalom Chicago,” supported by The Covenant Foundation, and as a founding member of GeoConvos, a Chicago Community Trust-funded Hive grant that focuses on digital learning practices for teens. In 2014, Ilana coauthored the article “The Goal of the Emancipated Spectator: A Dramaturg and Museum Educator’s Facilitation of a Theater and Museum Collaboration” with Kristin Leahey, currently at the Seattle Rep, published in the academic journal, Theater Topics. She also graduated from The Second City’s Improvisational Training Center in 2012. Ilana has a Master’s in Museum Education from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and a Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Michigan State University. You can follow her on Twitter at @iBmuseum