Turn Enemies Into Allies: The Art of Peace in the Workplace (Conflict Resolution for Leaders, Managers, and Anyone Stuck in the Middle)

Turn Enemies Into Allies: The Art of Peace in the Workplace (Conflict Resolution for Leaders, Managers, and Anyone Stuck in the Middle)


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“An essential addition to the conflict resolution toolkit.” —Marshall Goldsmith, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Triggers

In today’s workplace, managers, leaders, and HR professionals often believe they don’t have the time to help employees navigate conflict. More often than not, however, it takes more time not to address conflict than to constructively intervene. But before you can successfully guide others in managing disagreements, you must be able to manage yourself--your mindset, presence, and behaviors.

Turn Enemies into Allies offers a way of working with clashing employees that is deliberate and systematic--one that draws on the author's expertise in conflict and communication skill-building and a decades-long practice in mind-body principles from the martial art aikido.

Following the author’s step-by-step guide, you will:

  • Acquire the skill and confidence to coach conflicting employees back to a professional, effective working relationship, while simultaneously changing their lives for the better.
  • Restore control and peace of mind to the workplace.
  • Increase your leadership presence.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632651549
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 05/01/2019
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,020,263
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Judy Ringer is the founder of Power & Presence Training, and the author of Unlikely Teachers. An international speaker, coach, and seminar leader, and third-degree black belt in aikido, Judy brings to life essential conflict skills such as self-management under pressure and appreciation of other viewpoints. Clients include the National Institutes of Health, the Chicago Federal Executive Board, GE, Sony Corp., Honda, and Frito-Lay. Judy was born and raised in the Chicago area and now lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

James Warda is the author of Where Are You Going So Fast?.  

Read an Excerpt


Work on Yourself Alone

With life comes conflict. We must learn to joyfully dance on a shifting carpet.

— Thomas Crum, The Magic of Conflict

Primary Purpose

Working on yourself is ongoing, foundational, and critical to maintaining the presence, power, and purpose required of you as you help your employees regain balance and centered presence with each other. In this phase, you determine your motivation for learning how to facilitate conflicts on your team, knowing that your intention and clarity are important to the success of the intervention. You also develop and maintain a positive mindset and learning orientation toward what is to follow.


Consider your purpose for beginning the intervention. Refer to Appendix A, "Before Action Review," on pages 167–168 for help with this step.

* Clarify your desired outcomes for each individual, yourself, and the organization.

* Be aware of your assumptions, judgments, and concerns.

* Be open to surprises.

* Enter with optimism for a positive outcome.


* A Positive Mindset

* Centered Presence

* Personal Power

* Clarity of Purpose

* Practices and Attitudes to Maximize Presence, Power, and Purpose

* Practices and Attitudes Detrimental to the Process

* Before You Engage

* Understand the Process

A Positive Mindset

No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.

— Peter F. Drucker

Research shows that a manager's attitude toward a conflict is crucial to how the impasse is resolved. In 2016, the International Journal of Conflict Management cited an Australian study of 401 employees in sixty-nine work groups. The study was designed to investigate what happens when a third-party supervisor intervenes to help manage a conflict. In cases where employees had a supervisor with a positive conflict-management style (CMS) the result was reduced anxiety, depression, and bullying. In addition, researchers discovered a strong connection between a positive CMS and a decrease in the number of times employees thought about filing a workers' compensation claim.

Especially in situations with a lot of history and high emotion, before you can successfully guide others through a conflict, you must first examine your own attitude, emotions, and beliefs around what is possible and understand what your role is in bringing out those possibilities.

I call this way of self-reflecting "working on yourself alone," a concept from the writings of Arnold and Amy Mindell, founders of the Process Work approach to resolving conflict.

"Working on myself alone" means observing the mindset with which I come into the process of resolving a conflict. For example, what judgments might I have made about Douglas when I first entered the room with him? I could have seen him as trying to diminish me and devalue my attempts at support. Instead, I changed my mindset to appreciate his unfamiliarity with this process, which increased my ability to redirect his behavior by helping him understand the process.

As you begin to work with your employees, are you looking forward to supporting them? What judgments are you making? What is your attitude toward each one?

The skill- and rapport-building sessions that you conduct with the parties involved in the conflict offer continuous opportunities to notice your beliefs, assumptions, and emotions. Who you are and how you choose to be present with the parties help determine the success of the endeavor. Your goal is to use yourself intentionally as an instrument of influence in the process. If you become uncentered at any point — for example, by losing your composure or becoming emotionally triggered — it's important that you find your way back. By training yourself to notice your own anger, judgment, blame, and premature conclusions, you can learn to let them go and return to supporting the parties and the process.

Knowing about the ways in which my presence can affect the process, I continually cultivate an awareness of my own physical and mental behavior as I lead an intervention. By lead, I don't mean control. I ask honest, open-ended questions, listen nonjudgmentally, stay centered and curious, and always keep purpose in mind. I smile a lot. I work to minimize nervousness, fear, and judgment in the room, and I find things I like and appreciate in each of the parties.

My posture, demeanor, eye contact, and even the way I walk into the room speak volumes. As I learned with Douglas, my belief in whether this is a learning experience with a positive outcome or a situation fraught with challenge is communicated before I say a word. Consequently, I look for positive benefits and believe in the learning that will take place. I can't pretend. I have to truly believe the intervention benefits the parties involved and that I am a supportive factor in facilitating the resolution of the conflict. My mindset is a principal ally throughout this process, as it is in life.

Presence, Power, and Purpose

As you work on yourself alone, there are three nonverbal qualities you bring with you at every phase of the process:

1. Your centered presence

2. Your personal power

3. Your clarity of purpose

As we go forward, these three qualities help you manage your mindset and behavior. They are your guides when questions arise and decisions are made. When you feel you've lost your way, let these qualities bring you back to where you need to be. The steps in this process are not as important as how you enact the steps, and my practice in aikido informs how I understand and embody these qualities.

Centered Presence

Underlying and connecting all aspects of the aikido-conflict metaphor is the ability to direct our life energy consciously and intentionally. Call it what you will — self-control, composure, mindfulness — your ability to manage you is where it all begins. On the aikido mat, when the attack comes, we learn to "center and extend ki." (Remember: Ki is the Japanese word for "energy" or "universal life force.") To be centered in this sense means to be balanced, calm, and connected to an inner source of power. In life as in aikido, when you're centered, you are more effective, capable, and in control.

When you center and extend ki, you increase your ability to influence your environment and your relationships. An awareness of how you are managing your energy is vital in helping others manage conflict.

Personal Power

In your role as manager, parent, partner, or workmate, have you noticed how you influence a conversation by your presence in it? We are always influencing because we're always giving and receiving energy. When you enter the room, the energy in that room changes. The more intentional you can be with your energy — by purposefully extending your ki — the more influence you have in the outcome of events. In other words, by observing and drawing on your personal power — your ki — you enhance your ability to bring about your stated purpose.

Clarity of Purpose

As you move toward intervention, consider your purpose for doing so. Some purposes are more useful than others. From the following list, choose the ones you think are useful and the ones you think might not be.

* Help the parties learn that conflict can lead to greater understanding of each other as well as a more productive and positive workplace.

* Make sure these people get over their difficulty and stop acting out.

* Change the relationship in any way I can.

* Help the parties see and maximize what they have in common as well as leverage their differences.

* Get through this situation as quickly as possible.

You may laugh at some of these examples, but purposes can be hidden. For example, I may think my purpose is to communicate a difference of opinion, but hidden in the background is an intention to make sure you know how angry I am. Or I may say I want to help the parties use the conflict to learn about each other and create a more positive workplace, but my actions say I just want to get through this and move on to more important things.

What do you really want for yourself, the parties involved, and the organization? What is your highest and best purpose? Continually clarify your purpose, and keep it at the forefront of each session you conduct.

Practices and Attitudes to Maximize Presence, Power, and Purpose

Bringing the three qualities of centered presence, personal power, and clarity of purpose to a conflict situation is easier said than done. Conflict usually robs us of all three, as we struggle to do the right thing, find the perfect answer, and maintain psychological safety and equilibrium.

Fortunately, conflict can also provide the perfect crucible to practice bringing these vital qualities to any situation. On the following pages, I discuss ways of acting and being that I've discovered add to my power and presence as well as help me return to purpose when things get difficult.

1. Reframing

In aikido, it's often said that the opponent's attack is a gift of energy. At first glance, it is difficult to imagine conflict or aggression as a gift. In many cases, I would rather not have to deal with a problem. Nevertheless, it is present and taking up mental space. The question becomes: Should I waste valuable life energy (ki) wishing it away, or should I turn it into a positive force?

After many years of practicing and teaching aikido, and applying its principles in the workplace, I've found that things change dramatically when I reframe an attack as incoming energy that can be guided toward a mutually supportive outcome. In aikido, my goal is to keep myself safe while supporting my opponent-partner. Regardless of my partner's intention, mine is clear: I intend to disarm without harming and guide the energy toward a mutual purpose (the key word here is "mutual"). Enter, blend, and redirect. The spirit in which the coaching is entered into makes a huge difference.

When dealing with your employee conflict, you can use the conflict energy to reframe the problem in the following way.

This conflict is an opportunity for both parties:

* To change their relationship for the better.

* To learn valuable work and life skills.

* To see each other's positive aspects.

* To step into leadership roles and model conflict competency in the organization.

* To solve problems together using their differences as assets.

All of these statements could also be useful purposes for your intervention.

2. Possibility

When coaching people in conflict, I ask what possibilities exist for each of the participants as well as how the resolution affects the larger team and organization. Although you may be working with just two people, a positive change in their relationship can create constructive waves throughout the system. For example, dialogue may flow more freely between all team members when the logjam of this particular relationship is cleared. Time and energy previously claimed by the conflict is released and freed up for the people and processes that need them.

It's the coach's role to help everyone see how a positive outcome liberates untapped potential — for the parties in the conflict and for others. Wherever possible, I recommend documenting drained resources, reduced momentum, and other hidden or indirect costs that are likely to improve when the conflict is resolved.

3. Non-Judgment

When you coach, if at any point you start to draw conclusions about which party is right and which is wrong, it becomes difficult to do your job effectively. If you judge one of the parties as the problem, it will be hard for you to see their positive intent. And you may miss constructive actions or recast neutral behaviors in unhelpful ways.

As human beings, we are practiced at forming judgments about everything, and we're usually unaware we're doing it. For example, if I have a workshop to give and there's a blizzard raging, I automatically judge this as a bad thing. When I make this assessment, my body tenses, my mood deteriorates, and I become angry. This doesn't change the weather — it is what it is. I still have to decide what action to take. Do I cancel the workshop or continue as planned? Seeing the weather as a neutral event reduces my stress level, saves time, and improves my ability to make a wise decision.

4. Curiosity and Inquiry

More than anything else, a mindset of curiosity and inquiry empowers you and keeps your conversations safe and on track. When the atmosphere in an intervention becomes charged with emotion, I practice using the aikido principles of entering, blending, and redirecting by asking open-ended questions, such as:

* "How did you feel when that happened?"

* "What were you hoping for?"

* "What do you think your coworker's intention was?"

* "What was your intention?"

A previous client of mine — while technically savvy and an outstanding leader in a Fortune 100 company — found it difficult to practice curiosity and was easily triggered by behavior she considered irritating. In one session, we talked about a colleague's email etiquette. The colleague's penchant for copying a long list of people on every email angered my client, particularly when the email reflected poorly on the department. During one practice session, I asked the client to devise questions she could ask her colleague to understand the intent behind copying so many people. One question she came up with was, "Why did you copy everyone on that email?"

The content of the question was fine, but as we role-played asking it, my client sounded confrontational. I asked if she noticed the tone of her delivery (she did) and what would have to change for her to ask the question in an open, curious way. She answered, smiling, "I'd actually have to be curious." We both laughed as she absorbed the "aha moment." It's not what we say, but whether we're curious or judging when we say it.

When you feel judgmental, shift your mindset. Get curious. Ponder. Wonder. The more you practice this important skill, the more you'll learn about each person's perspective. And the more you model it for others, the more you encourage their curiosity.

5. Appreciation

Appreciative Inquiry is another example of aikido in the workplace, one that maximizes the power of noticing what is already working rather than focusing on what is broken. Since David Cooperrider introduced the concept in 1987, organizations and individuals have been using Appreciative Inquiry to solve problems and imagine what could be. Practitioners have learned that as soon as you align with the positive, you gain energy and move toward a compelling future.

A concrete example of Appreciative Inquiry happens every time a beginner learns a new technique on the aikido mat. Invariably, the new technique is easier to do on one side of the body than the other. Instead of trying to fix the "bad" side, the instructor tells the student to focus on the "good" side (the side that can do the technique effortlessly). Since that side knows how to do it, aikido instructors say to "let the good side teach the other side."

In my coaching interventions, I encourage people to appreciate what's positive and learn from it. For example, when coaching Douglas and his colleagues at their health-care practice, I learned there were often times when the team collaborated without conflict. I inquired what it was about these situations that allowed the team to work together harmoniously. At first they weren't sure, but with some reflection, it came to light that when things flowed more easily, the teammates were clear on their roles and the purpose for the endeavor. Ah! Clarity of roles and goals! We began to investigate how the team could be clearer about roles and goals in other situations.

When you help your employees focus on the good, you reinforce their strengths, knowledge, and positive attributes. When they find the areas in which they work well together, coworkers can apply that awareness to areas in which they have difficulty. Setbacks, too, are part of the process and teach us what needs to happen next. Throughout the coaching, whether you're reinforcing strengths or acknowledging achallenging setback, you can appreciate the employees' commitment as they build a new relationship and a foundation for solving future problems.

Practices and Attitudes that Are Detrimental to the Process

Harried, overworked, and overwhelmed as we are, we often experience our students, patients, clients, colleagues, and children as difficult, irresponsible, rude, dull, or simply too numerous to keep track of. But if we mean to choose the world, we must see God in the people who come under our care. That is, we must see them as at bottom no different from ourselves.

— Philip Simmons, Learning to Fall

Just as certain practices and mindsets promote success in managing conflict, others can derail the process. Have you ever found yourself uttering the following phrases — or thinking them? I know I have. Consider the phrases and their antidotes.

This is not my job.

This is exactly your job. As a supervisor, manager, owner, or CEO, you are a leader — and leaders lead. You show the way. You model. You put forth a vision and invite others to join in.

This is why it's vital to manage your attitude for maximum power and presence, and to keep your purpose in mind. If you don't feel ready to lead in this way, consider calling in someone else you believe is right for the job.

I don't have the skills to do this.

This may be true. If so, this is a great opportunity for you to learn the skills to become a more effective, respected, and responsible manager. Through your learning, you will increase trust and build influence with your team.


Excerpted from "Turn Enemies Into Allies"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Judy Ringer.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Introduction 1

Phase 1 Bowing In

Chapter 1 Work on Yourself Alone 19

Chapter 2 Align and Engage 39

Part 2 Entering and Blending (Individual Sessions)

Chapter 3 Measure Willingness and Ability 55

Chapter 4 Develop Power and Presence 77

Chapter 5 Demonstrate Communication Strategies 101

Phase 3 Redirecting (Joint Sessions)

Chapter 6 Look Forward 129

Chapter 7 Resolve, Reflect, Reinforce 137

Phase 4 Bowing Out

Chapter 8 Review and Follow-Up 157

Appendix A Before Action Review 167

Appendix B Style Instruments 169

Appendix C Turn Enemies Into Allies "Lite" 173

Appendlx D Support Between Sessions 177

Appendix E 6-Step Checklist Worksheet 185

Appendix F Sample Agreement 189

Further Resources 193

Acknowledgments 197

Index 201

Customer Reviews