There are times when, despite our best efforts, we can’t resolve conflict. One alternative is to use what I call “clean escalation”. While it is always best to resolve a disagreement directly with the person involved, if you cannot come to alignment about how to resolve a problem, you can escalate the conflict to a decision maker. Clean escalation is the best approach. Those involved agree to take the problem to a third-party, often a manager, for resolution. It is best to be done jointly. If the other person involved is not willing to take the problem to the manager with you, let them know that you are going alone. This should never be done as a threat. By telling them you will take it to the manager for resolution, they will not be blindsighted by it later.
I like this model for two reasons. It resolves the problem and honors the person you are in conflict with because you let them know you are going to the manager for resolution and want their participation. It’s the opposite of tattling. As the mother of young twins, we have a lot of tattling in our house! My kids are slowly learning to do their best to work out their problems before bringing them to me. When they can’t, the three of us talk about a resolution which everyone can agree.
Working out problems we are highly passionate about at work is not as simple as who gets to play with Spiderman. The clean escalation process is a good way to come to resolution when you just can’t solve a disagreement on your own. Doing our best to be open and direct to resolve the conflict in a way which honors the task, our relationship, and ourselves is the best we can do.