When I talk to people involved in a conflict, often both tell me they feel powerless. It is a very common perception.
There are many sources of power. A few examples are: formal authority, institutional, expert information, access to resources, procedural, moral and personal power. As a mediator, I am alert to the use of power between my clients and I can help them use their power more effectively.
Use of power is a method of resolving conflict. Many of us use the power of unilateral action at an early age when we grab the toy we want from another toddler. Later in life we learn other conflict resolution methods that are rights-based and interest-based.
In addition to unilateral action, another method of power-based dispute resolution is authoritative command. The manager can resolve workplace conflict by deciding the outcome, assigning work, or transferring someone to another position. While authoritative command may seem efficient, it may not be fair, just, or ultimately effective in resolving the conflict.
Power is not static. During a relationship or during a negotiation, power shifts from one person to the other. Power is not a fixed commodity which someone can give us or take from us.
If my company is experiencing conflicts with the landlord of our rented premises, I could use my power to take unilateral action. Although the landlord has power to set the lease terms within the limit of the applicable laws, I have the power to move my company to another location, and even buy a building to avoid future landlord conflicts.
The risk is that I may lose customers who are used to the old location, and possibly create an opportunity for another entrepreneur to locate in my old premises and offer competition to my products or services. That option tilts power to the landlord.
If my business is one-of-a-kind, not reliant on customers coming to the location, or the old location is hard to rent, the power dynamic shifts in my direction.
When we are involved in a conflict it is helpful to analyse our power relative to the other person. Ask, What power do I have in the situation? As in the examples above, the manager or the landlord has power, and at the same time the tenant or the employee has power also.
One of the most effective strategies is to shift from “power over” to “power with”. If I try to use my power to make you do something you would not otherwise do, it is going to be difficult. If I choose to use my power to work with you to solve our mutual problem, I am much more likely to be successful in getting a full, long-lasting resolution.
Would you like to develop your conflict resolution skills?
Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this fall in beautiful London, Ontario.
If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation in 2018.
Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – September 26, 27, 28, October 1 & 2, 2018– 5 days – 40 hours.
Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Early registration discount ends August 22!
Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – November 14, 15, & 16, 2018– 3 days – 21 hours
Course # 3 - Advanced Mediation – December 3, 4, and 5, 2018– 3 days – 21 hours