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Conflict-resolution mode #1: Accommodating -- 'It would be my pleasure'

An overview of one of five conflict-resolution modes -- accomodation -- and how and when to use it.

The following tip describes the accomodation conflict-resolution mode. Return to the main page for information on the other four modes and how to work with them to help keep your job. Brought to you by CONNECT: The Knowledge Network.

Few people would argue that helping others is not a worthy cause. The desire to lend a helping hand is part of human nature. During times of crisis, people almost universally reach out to help their neighbors, friends, colleagues -- even total strangers. This is clearly a redeeming quality of mankind. Too much accommodation in the workplace can trigger problems, however, resulting in conflict that can quickly spread through an organization.

People who default to accommodation can easily become dissatisfied with their job. A perfect example is a database administrator (DBA) who had difficulty saying no. Her manager was not intimately familiar with the nuances of database administration, and thus would often make requests that she felt were unreasonable. But instead of informing the manager that certain tasks would require greater time, she took the approach of working long hours.

A classic case of over-accommodation developed. The DBA became increasingly frustrated, then downright angry. Her productivity went down dramatically, and she soon began to adversely affect morale on her team. When the problem became inter-departmental, we were brought in to help heal relationships and restore balance.

During discussions with the one DBA, she admitted that she simply hadn't considered other options plausible. Upon reflection, she realized her responsibility to be candid with her manager about workload, instead of bottling up her feelings and letting the problem fester. She then understood that she would need to practice standing up for herself (competing), as well as working more closely with others (cooperating and collaborating).

Ideal uses:

According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), accommodation is characterized by low assertiveness and high cooperation. Following are some ideal uses of accommodation:

  • Good will -- By helping someone, you foster a sense of good will that can often translate into a stronger relationship and reciprocal favors in the future.
  • Gaining respect -- When you come to the conclusion that you were wrong about something or realize the validity of someone else's recommendation, you can earn respect by showing that you're reasonable and accommodating.
  • Career development -- As a manager, you can use accommodation when allowing team members to try out their theories and learn from their own mistakes. This encourages risk-taking while empowering your team.
  • Minimal control -- In situations where you have minimal control or are otherwise being outmatched, it may be best to retreat by giving in for the time being.
  • Maintaining peace -- Accommodation can be useful in times of great stress or change, when any added conflict might mark a tipping point.
  • Trivial issues -- When a particular issue is more important to someone else than it is to you, it's often wise to let the other person have their way.

Excessive usage:

Many people overuse the accommodating mode because they like to please others, or because they're worried about rocking the boat. Others accommodate because of low self-esteem, presuming that the ideas of others are always superior. The dangers of overusing accommodation include:

  • Minimal influence -- By giving in to others too often, you greatly limit your impact in the company. With insufficient influence over others in your environment, you are likely to soon feel disenfranchised or ostracized.
  • Sub-optimal decisions -- If you always defer to others, you are depriving your team and your company of valuable insight. Everyone has a good idea sometime, but ideas must be voiced in order to be heard.
  • Motivation loss -- The more you accommodate others, the less you'll fulfill your own goals, which can eventually translate into unhappiness and loss of motivation. Most people need to enjoy their work somewhat in order to be truly productive.
  • Anarchy -- Too much accommodation may foster an environment in which people feel they can do whatever they want. Rules and regulations go out the window, anarchy ensues, and productivity quickly drops.

Insufficient usage:

People who usually get their way, or who feel they are right most (all?) of the time, tend to underuse the accommodating mode, as can people who simply don't recognize good opportunities for the mode. Problems caused by underuse include:

  • Lack of rapport -- Excessive stubbornness will strain relationships as people begin to feel that you're not sensitive to their ideas or concerns. Without a strong rapport, it may be difficult to earn the trust, respect and cooperation of your co-workers.
  • Low morale -- By rarely giving in to the needs and concerns of others, you can create an image of yourself as being unfair or unreasonable. Over time, this can cause serious morale problems, resulting in significant loss of productivity.
  • Missed opportunities -- You may have difficulty recognizing when exceptions to policy are warranted, or when other courses of action will produce better results. Others may label you as a "by-the-book" type who doesn't see the big picture.
  • Immobility -- If you have difficulty admitting when you're wrong, or you can't see other sides of an issue, you may not realize when accommodation is appropriate. This can lead to excessive conflict that could easily have been avoided.

Necessary skills:

Accommodating comes naturally to many people, but others have difficulty giving in or recognizing good opportunities for acquiescing. The skills required to effectively accommodate include:

  • Sacrifice -- You must be able to accept not having everything go your way.
  • Selflessness -- You need to be sensitive to the needs of others, and be able to demonstrate that sensitivity such that it isn't under-appreciated.
  • Obedience -- Accommodation frequently comes in the form of obeying orders. You must be able to take direction professionally, even if it's not always given in a considerate manner.
  • Maturity -- You must be mature enough to yield on occasion, to take a back seat to the needs or concerns of others.

Return to the main page for information on the other four conflict-resolution modes and how to work with them to help keep your job.

About the authors: Maureen Clarry and Kelly Gilmore Dignan are co-owners of CONNECT: The Knowledge Network.

CONNECT is the only company that uses a workforce effectiveness approach called Human Performance Optimization™, to connect their clients with the best Information Technology consultants to solve specific business problems. CONNECT optimizes IT personnel performance through management consulting and training around organizational issues related to IT.

CONNECT was featured in The Data Warehousing Institute's (TDWI ) Best of Business Intelligence 2003 for an article entitled, "Predictable Pitfalls, Paths to Partnership." CONNECT is on the faculty of TDWI and teaches regularly on leadership issues related to data warehousing. Other TDWI publications authored by CONNECT include: "10 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Data Warehouse Team, 10 mistakes to avoid when choosing a data warehousing consultant and How to choose a data warehousing consultant. CONNECT also participates on the Data Warehousing Advisory Board for The Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.

CONNECT was recognized as the 2000 South Metro Denver Small Business of the Year, and has been listed in the Top 100 Women Owned Businesses, the Top 250 Privately Owned Businesses in Colorado, and by the Denver Business Journal as one of Denver's Forty Under 40 Business Leaders.

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