5 Ways to Deal with Conflict … in the workplace!

Conflict InterpersonalThere will be conflicts in the workplace and you must decide how to deal with them.

Conflict refers to some form of friction, disagreement, or discord arising within a group or team. Conflicts occur when the beliefs or actions of one or more members are resisted or deemed to be unacceptable to other team or group members. Conflict within teams or groups often follows a predictable course. First, normal group interaction is disrupted by a differences of opinion, disagreements between members, or a scarcity of resources. If the team or group is fragmented, an effort must be undertaken to resolve the conflict so that the team can return to the primary goal of achieving their performance objectives.

Intergroup conflict has been increasingly studied as a part of group dynamics due to the increased deployment of various work groups and teams across all levels of many different organizations. Generally, the two types of intra-group conflict involve task conflict and relationship (or emotional) conflict.

A study of the literature suggests that there are five (5) initial methods of developing a plan to resolve the conflicts. The first step is to understand the conflict and the underlying issue. Once this is achieved, you can develop your overall strategy. This strategy will most often include selecting one of the following methods of resolving the conflict in part, based on the amount of leverage or power you have.

Here are the five (5) strategies:

  1. DecreeThere are times when a quick and decisive action is required, making an unpopular decision, particularly in an emergency situation or eminent organizational, market or physical danger. Examples of unpopular or difficult actions are cost reductions, serious disciplinary decisions, enforcing regulatory rules, or other issues that are vital to the organization’s welfare when or if you are ultimately held accountable. You may have to take unilateral action against unfair competitive behavior, as well.
  2. CollaborationIn certain situations, it may be possible to integrate or blend a solution or resolution if both sides agree that the issues are too important to be compromised or when the primary objective is to research and learn as much about the issues as possible. As information and research emerges, it may facilitate the merging of insights from people with different perspectives. If this approach is chosen, it will be necessary to gain commitment by incorporating the various concerns into a consensus position. It may also be necessary to work through some bad feelings from the past to arrive at a point where a new and respectful relationship can be developed.
  3. CompriseSome goals or objectives may be urgent or important, but not worth the potential disruption of relationships and prior agreements. One factor that is important to compromise is that the key parties must have adequate power to authorize a change in position. This factor is even more important when trying to achieve a permanent settlement of complex issues under time pressure. This strategy may also be utilized as a backup plan if collaboration is unsuccessful.
  4. AccommodationThis is not necessarily a bad strategy. If you learn that there are some reasonable positions on the issues that had not come to your attention, it is reasonable to consider them. Sometimes certain issues may be more important to others than to you or the organization, it could be an opportunity to attain or maintain cooperation among team or group members. This may also allow you to “bank” or “pay forward” some credits for future issues. Even if you are unable to “pay off” a future issue, you may be able to minimize a loss if you are holding a weak hand and the other party has a Royal Flush with Ace high. An additional benefit is the continuation of cooperative relationships, harmony and stability. Finally, it can be viewed as a developmental opportunity for team members to develop their conflict resolution skills and learn from previous mistakes.
  5.  AvoidanceThere will be times when a very important issue must be resolved and lower priority issues must be deferred. There could be issues that are determined to be trivial or unsolvable. Although it may seem counter intuitive, some potential disruption could outweigh the benefits of resolution to certain issues. It may be advisable to resort to a strategy that is frequently employed in labor negotiations called a “cooling off” This will provide all parties an opportunity to cool down and regain or adjust their perspective. During the “cooling off” period, all parties can gather additional information. One benefit of additional information is that the parties may find that new information moderates the need for an immediate decision or that others may be able to resolve the conflict more effectively because issues may be tangential or symptomatic of other issues.

Related Articles:   Conflict Resolution … here’s how!   and   Listening … the internal obstacles!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Conflict Resolution, Professional Skills, Team Building

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