Makarios Consulting Blog

Conflict Resolution: Need vs. Want (3 of 3)

In last week’s blog, we talked about the first two building blocks of conflict resolution: Thinking vs. Feeling. This week, we’re focusing on the second set: Need Vs. Want. These building blocks make up the elements of what it takes for us to work together effectively to solve workplace conflicts.

 Need Vs. Want

A need is something we feel we must have in order to satisfy the conflict satisfactorily. A want is something we would like to have, but is not essential.   Knowing the difference is critical to resolving conflicts.

If we apply this concept of Need vs. Want to Dave and Fred, whose conflict we described last week, we find that Dave needs Fred to complete the project by the deadline; he wants Fred to complete the project on his (Dave’s) schedule—piece-by-piece, day-by-day, preferably finishing early!

Dave didn’t understand that Fred intended to finish the project on time and meet Dave’s need. But, because Fred’s style is to work long hours, under pressure, and at the last minute, he wasn’t going to meet Dave’s want.

Let’s look at another example of a conflict situation to tie together what we’ve learned about Thinking vs. Feeling and Need vs. Want:

Meet Mary Ann and Sam. Mary Ann is VP of New Business Development at ABC Website Design Company. Sam is VP of Business Operations. At a quarterly meeting, tensions are running high.

Sam: You need to tell your salespeople to stop promising things we can’t deliver!

Mary Ann: The market is a killer right now. If we don’t give our clients what they want, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

Sam: If we can’t deliver, they’ll do that anyway. You people are promising rates that will kill our margins and turnaround times that are making our designers crazy. How many times do I have to tell you that we have to go through a proper process? You can’t give an ad hoc quote and timeline. Company policy states that you have to get estimates from design, development, and programming before you can submit the proposal to the client.

Mary Ann: And lose the client as we plod through your sacred process? By the time your people give us estimates, another company has stepped in and finished the project. That’s not even mentioning how your timelines are three times longer than our competitors!

This is a typical example of a conflict situation that our clients encounter.  To assess the situation and determine how to proceed, we follow two steps:

Step 1:  Determine each party’s thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants

  • Sam thinks the salespeople are over-promising to prospects
  • Sam feels pressured and ignored
  • Mary Ann thinks the company must land clients more quickly and that if she pushes operations, they will respond more quickly
  • Mary Ann feels irritated because the current process is wasting time
  • Sam needs to maintain profitability
  • Sam wants to address every opportunity with a disciplined process that protects margins
  • Mary Ann needs to make sales
  • Mary Ann wants instant estimates for every project

Step 2:  Determine which methods of conflict resolution would work best

Inappropriate solutions:

  • Competing is inappropriate because if one ‘wins’ the other suffers serious losses, affecting the entire company
  • Accommodating is impossible because both parties feel (justifiably) strongly about the issues
  • Avoiding is also impossible because the issues continually arise and cause serious problems

Possible solutions:

  • Compromising is not advisable because it will leave all parties feeling somewhat dissatisfied and could harm the company in the long run. If the parties did choose to compromise, they might get some of what they want – Mary Ann might get a slighting faster process, which would make Sam unhappy.
  • Collaborating is called for because the stakes are high, with long-term consequences. Everyone needs to ‘win’ and feel satisfied for the good of the company. This requires finding an ‘outside the box’ solution. In this case, Sam might devise solid pricing guidelines and timelines for project types, which would make it easier for Mary Ann’s team to give, quotes immediately, based on the type of project the customer has in mind.

As leaders, we need to understand the building blocks of conflict resolution in order to choose the best solutions for a particular conflict. In the end, it is most effective to slow down to resolve situations logically, and assessing what each party needs to get the job done.