Apologies have a role in conflict management

August 31, 2009

Published by Deborah on August 31, 2009 in Developing Conflict Competence. 0 Comments

It happens, as an intervention proceeds, that parties in conflict learn more about the other parties’ perspectives. Often, the result is that someone wants to apologize for behaviour that seemed reasonable at the time. Learning from the discussion in the mediation what the impact of that behaviour was on the other people, can put that behaviour into a whole new light.

This week, one of the parties took me aside and asked a great question: is it seemly for a manager to apologize to someone he supervises? He was concerned about losing face, or diminishing his authority in the employee’s eyes. It’s a legitimate concern and it’s based, in part, on a belief that power comes from being strong and always in the right.

After he and I discussed it, he shared his insight into a different way of managing. He returned to the mediation table and told the employee he was sorry for how he had acted. He said he hoped that they could repair the relationship and continue to work together with more 2-way feedback than they’d had before.

The manager wasn’t giving up any power; his authority remained unchallenged. What he was offering was to learn from the communication they would henceforth have with each other. The employee was happy with the outcome and the manager felt empowered with his new knowledge.

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