Are You Using the Pinch Theory Of Conflict Management?

Are You Using the Pinch Theory Of Conflict Management?
The pinch theory of conflict man­age­ment is based on the idea that conflict can be predicted and reduced. Unre­solved conflict affects pro­duc­tion, lowers per­for­mance and fosters resent­ment. When expec­ta­tions between people are not met, this can create a pinch or a breakdown in the existing rela­tion­ship. Pinches are inevitable, but can be reduced, managed, and avoided.

• Sharing expec­ta­tions reduces pinches
• Under­stand­ing others’ per­son­al­i­ties minimizes pinches
• Dis­cussing pinches as soon as they occur avoids esca­la­tion and reduces stress

When pinches are unre­solved, and are allowed to fester, they often lead to a CRUNCH – defined as an intol­er­a­ble pinch(es).

How Do We “Un-Crunch?”

  • 1. Introduce The Pinch
    1. a) “There is something on my mind, and I need your help in under­stand­ing it.”
    2. b) “I’m bothered by something in our work rela­tion­ship, and if I don’t tell you what I’m thinking, it’s not fair to you or me.”
    3. c) “Could you spare a minute to talk about something that is bothering me?” or, “No big deal, but I’d like to clear something up.”
    4. d) “I want to talk about something — I’m concerned it could affect our work together if I don’t share it.”
  • 2. Describe the behavior in observ­able terms. Do not be accusatory or con­fronta­tional.
    1. a) “What I saw was _____. Is that what you intended?”
    2. b) “Did I hear correctly when you said___?”
    3. c) “Would you please help me understand…?”
  • 3. Describe how you were affected — own the feelings.
    1. a) “When you (observ­able behavior) I felt/thought _______ (not, “you made me feel/think…”) If I may ask, why did you do that?”
    2. b) “When you said _____, I took it to mean _____. How did you intend it?”
    3. c) “I’m not certain I’m clear about _____. Would you mind explaining?”
  • 4. Describe What You Want
    1. a) “If you’re going to _____. I’d like to under­stand why/when.”
    2. b) “I’d prefer if you would keep me in the loop, please.”
    3. c) “Could we go over that before you do it again?”
  • 5. Come To An Under­stand­ing. Let the other party discuss their thoughts, wants, and feelings as early in the con­ver­sa­tion as possible. Forge a mutual agreement on how you both intend to respond in the future.
    1. a) “I’d like to form a plan to avoid this. How do you think this can be accomplished?”
    2. b) What do you think we can do to improve our communication?”

White-Haired Man Walking

If I visited your workplace, and an employee said about me, “It’s an old, white-haired man” (BTW, my hair is light blond). What should I do?

  1. 1. Go to a third party and express my dislike
  2. 2. Show anger toward the commentator
  3. 3. Retaliate by finding something I dislike about them
  4. 4. Calmly discuss with the com­men­ta­tor my dislike

Seems pretty silly doesn’t it? Have you ever done any of the above? Let’s try the following, instead:

Pinch Meeting Procedure

  1. 1. Put your thoughts in writing before the meeting
  2. 2. Meet in a private room without interruptions
  3. 3. Turn off your phones
  4. 4. Com­mu­ni­cate respect­fully with understanding
  5. 5. Do not be angry, emotional or petty — treat each other with courtesy
  6. 6. Listen attentively
  7. 7. Forge an agreement, an understanding
  8. 8. Honor the agreement/
  9. 9. Do not share the agreement with anyone else

The majority of pinches should be resolved at this time; however, if a res­o­lu­tion is not completed, a facil­i­ta­tor might be needed for a second meeting. Try this pdf to guide you through the process.

At one time, I was the most acces­si­ble senior manager to over 100 employees. I found much of my time spent resolving conflicts, which had little to do with work. I had always con­sid­ered myself someone who wanted to help others, but this was not the help I imagined. I wanted to help people improve work skills, character devel­op­ment, lead­er­ship training, etc. Resolving the conflict of one employee eating another’s snacks didn’t fit my def­i­n­i­tion of education. The Pinch Theory was intro­duced and incor­po­rated. It was added to the policy book, intro­duced in new hire ori­en­ta­tion, and explained in sub-group meetings. My time spent on work and non-work related conflicts was dras­ti­cally reduced.

About Randy Clark

Randy Clark is the Director of Communications at TKO Graphix, where he regularly blogs for TKO's Brandwire. Randy is passionate about social media, leadership development, and flower gardening. He is a beer geek and, on weekends, he fronts the rock band, Under The Radar. He is the proud father of one educator, one principal, has four amazing grandchildren, and a public speaker wife who puts up with him. His twitter handle is: @randyclarktko, Facebook: Randy Clarktko, Google+: Randy Clark on G+
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  • Barry

    Thanks for this great summary. I learned about the Pinch Theory a few years ago and we are about to implement it at my current orga­ni­za­tion. Just a note that the last link in your post seems to have broken since this was posted.