February 13, 2012
The Bitter Fruit of Unresolved Executive Conflict

Unresolved conflict at the top of an organization invariably produces chaos at the middle and bottom.

When senior leaders avoid conflict among themselves and let key issues go unresolved because of this avoidance, the unresolved conflict ripples throughout the organization and paralyzes action at every level.

Followers of executives in power must constantly strive to show that they are loyal to their sponsors -- and so they must scrutinize everything they do to ensure they are not perceived as violating the party line. Not exactly a formula for authentic action.

To make matters worse, well-meaning members of the workforce are often enlisted to participate in task forces to deal with the various by-products of the unresolved issues at the top.

These efforts are guaranteed to fail, since any recommendations for resolution will undoubtedly compromise at least one of the contending senior managers who will usually wield their power to veto the idea, leaving the task force frustrated and progress hindered.

And the results? Pure irony -- because members of the task force will have attempted to remain loyal to their constituency throughout the proceedings and will usually end up feeling they have salvaged the most important interests of their group in the negotiation process.

The still misaligned senior managers, however -- having delegated their unresolved conflict -- will generally respond by taking an all-or-nothing posture on the outcome.


The only true resolution of this all-too-common phenomenon requires the direct participation of the protagonists -- a gathering that will usually only take place at the behest of someone even higher in the hierarchy.

- Barry Gruenberg


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at February 13, 2012 12:29 AM

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