When it comes to conflict management and negotiation, there’s no single style, no one-size-fits-all model, no “best.” Versatility is the key.
At least it is according to Leanne Meyer, director of the Carnegie Mellon Leadership & Negotiation Academy for Women, who will speak about “Conflict Management Style and Negotiation” at 1 p.m. today at the Chautauqua Women’s Club House.
“So much time is spent telling women they don’t ask — for salary increases for instance — and preparing people and strategies for negotiation,” Meyer said. “But very seldom do we look at our own predispositions to keep negotiating in a certain way. Our style may not work for us.”
For Meyer, depersonalizing negotiation is important. She said many women do not like to negotiate. They get anxious and step back. Instead, she advises them to choose one of the five conflict-management styles she will introduce during her talk.
Given time constraints, Meyer said she will use the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument to quickly assess individual conflict styles and ascertain how they might play out in one’s personal and professional life. She said she will use (but not endorse) the “TKI,” a self-scoring assessment designed to measure an individual’s behavior in situations in which two people’s concerns do not appear to be compatible, according to the e-learning organization Kilmann Diagnostics. Completing it takes about 15 minutes.
“Conflict styles are very situation-specific,” Meyer said. “We always think collaboration is the best way. But for win-win solutions, you need someone who will share and whom you can trust. What if someone isn’t trustworthy and they’re playing a very competitive game? It’s the situation and purpose that define the most appropriate style.”
In addition to her roles at CMU, Meyer coaches and consults regularly with corporate executives. She is a principal at Transitioning Season, a boutique executive coaching and consulting firm concentrating on leadership development as an identity transition.
Since 2003, Meyer has also served as an adjunct faculty member and an executive coach at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. With Frank Lehner, an adjunct instructor in Duquesne’s School of Leadership and Professional Advancement, she co-founded Naridus International in 2007, where for four years she focused on narrative and identity development consulting and training.
A South African by birth, Meyer earned a B.A. and M.A. in industrial psychology at the University of Johannesburg, where she studied humans in their work environment, including what motivates and demotivates people and how to optimize performance.
She said research shows women tend to negotiate about their own self-interests four times less than men do. In other words, they negotiate far more for anything other than their own self-interests.
“Women over-personalize, or try to be nice or not hurt anyone,” she said. “I want them to step back and ask, ‘What is our goal?’ ”
According to Meyer, when women negotiate for others — such as for children or the environment — they play into the stereotype about women.
“The minute they start negotiating for themselves, they’re going counter to the stereotype, and there’s a backlash,” she said. “It’s important for women to know how to negotiate for their own interests.”
Women need to learn how to work through people to achieve results, and to understand that building networks is not about schmoozing and isn’t “dirty.” For promotion, she said, they have to learn how to shift from “worker bee” to strategic resource.
“To grow as leaders, women have to learn new ways of working and negotiating,” Meyer said.