When asked to describe conflict, most people use negative words. They often indicate that they prefer to avoid dealing with it when possible. This leads to a particular kind of passive destructive behavior described in the Conflict Dynamics Profile as Yielding. Yielding involves giving in to the other person or accommodating them in order not to have to address the conflict directly. In practice it may sound something like, “Ok, we’ll do it your way” or “Whatever you want – I’ll go along.”
Yielding is described as a destructive behavior for several reasons. First, the person who yields may get some temporary relief by not having to interact about the conflict. Yet, this often comes at a personal cost – individuals can get down on themselves for not standing up for what they believe. If yielding becomes a frequent occurrence, the person can get a reputation as a pushover which presents problems of its own.
Another downside of yielding is that organizations can lose good ideas if people prefer to yield rather than having open, robust debates about important issues. If someone has a great idea but doesn’t present it because they are afraid that someone else might criticize it, the organization can lose out.
When teams make a habit of yielding, it can lower creativity, decrease the quality of decision making, and impair implementation. Creativity decreases because the benefits that come from having ideas bounced off one another is lost. Decision quality is hampered when ideas are inadequately vetted because people shy away from critiquing each other’s views. Implementation is hurt because people have not felt a part of coming up with a solution. We once worked with a group that routinely yielded in conflict discussions. People would nod their assent to a particular solution even when they did not believe in it. The person putting forth that solution often mistook this signal for honest support and would move forward only to find that the people who nodded yes did not participate in active implementation.
How to Overcome Yielding
People who tend to yield often do so because they are uncomfortable engaging in conflict discussions with other people. So a first step in moving away from yielding behaviors is to understand what makes one uncomfortable. This might be a desire not to hurt another’s feelings, not to be hurt by others, or some other factor. Once a person has a sense of why they yield, it gives them a basis for exploring what they need to do to overcome it.
When people yield on issues that matter to them, in a sense they are discounting themselves and their interests. In these cases it becomes important to help individuals consider what they want in various situations and reflect on the legitimacy of caring about or counting their interests.
Helping people develop constructive communication techniques for managing differences can also help them overcome concerns that they will harm others simply by standing up for their own interests. A person can disagree without being disagreeable, and they can find common solutions that take into account their interests and those of others.