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Effective Techniques for Conflict Management!

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Conflict Management

Conflict is natural in any kind of relationship, whether between friends, relatives or co-workers. In human relations, evading conflict is almost impossible. The crux of all human relations is the technique of handling conflicts deftly. At work, the art of handling conflicts can sometimes solve workplace problems while, at other times, helps forge friendships and enhance good working relations among co-workers.

There are three major causes of a conflict arising at the workplace – poor communication skills, bad management and confused goals. A good manager who trains himself in conflict resolution techniques will be able to resolve such conflicts effectively at the workplace.

Below are some techniques which can help you manage conflicts effectively:

Anticipate: Remember conflicts are part of human relationships. Observe the signs of a conflict arising well before it actually arises and prepare solutions to handle it. This will help avoid unnecessary problems with co-workers or employees and safeguard productive working hours.

Practice Neutral Language: Try your best to communicate in neutral language while you are interacting with your co-workers or employees. Avoid phrases such as, “You’re not doing your project correctly.” Instead, use impartial language while expressing your feelings or reporting any matter that troubles you. The best way to express would be, “Is there any need to work in this manner? Do you need assistance in your job?”

Analyze Conflicts: While dealing with a conflict, analyze its worth beforehand. Sometimes, it’s best to avoid a discussion or avoid resolving a conflict if it does not hinder one’s job performance or have a minute impact on running a business.

Good Listener: While resolving a conflict, it’s important to lend an ear to your co-workers. Try to understand a problem according to your employee’s perspective and feelings. As often as possible, give positive feedback and pose open-ended questions. This helps to trigger a productive conversation. This will assure your co-worker or employee that you are keen to resolve a conflict rather than try to isolate him.

Find a Solution: The ultimate goal of resolving a workplace conflict is to arrive at a solution. Provide infinite number of options to resolve the problem. Also, ask your employee’s opinion regarding the best solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes, compromise to make them know that you are willing to solve the problem.

Ideally, you can implement a tool which helps meet a particular situation requirement and resolves a problem, respects the interest of the person involved and mends a damaged work relationship.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

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  • One of the most effective ways to cool down conflict escalation is TIME. Time between action and reaction. I have found that letting time pass gives both parties a chance to think about what was said and how they truly want to react. It can be a matter of seconds or minutes in face-to-face conflict or days or weeks in organizational conflict. But parties need to guard against using TIME as an avoidance technique. Steps need to be taken every day to bring conflict to resolution. Even if that step is reflecting on the conflict itself.
    I happen to be someone who doesn’t mind conflict and see it as a healthy step in growth. Here in Minnesota, that’s tough for people to swallow. Your posting lists an important first item: “Conflicts are part of human relationships.” Too many people want to live conflict-free. Which means, they wont grow or change in a truly deep and meaningful way.

  • conflict is natural and inevitable, but difficult an complex to work through. I’m looking for the best way of getting some really practical, impactful e-learning out there about this subject as I’ve seen very little that I think works. I’ve published books on this and in my view the biggest cause of conflict at work is still miscommunication and mistrust, often based on misperception, assumptions and ‘locked in thinking’. So the best remedy is effective communication and engaging, trust enhancing leadership, and openness to one another in increasingly diverse workplaces. When in a conflict you need to be aware enough of your self and your hot buttons to stay involved but not over or under react. Conflict is an emotional business so we also need to be good at managing our emotions and helping people express theirs. I developed a an effective model of conflict resolution called the interactive model in which you need to work on three levels – content, interaction and process. This involves exploring and exchanging content, so that everyone is clear what’s happening, what people want and how they are feeling. Once you’ve done this you can identify realistic options. The interactive model also suggest that you build an interaction in a conflict which sustains rapport, allows emotions to be expressed, but also has some boundaries so that people can feel safe and can trust one another. As the name suggests, to resolve a conflict you need to rebuild and interaction, restore trust and re connect communication. The final part of this model is the ability to design a process which suits the conflict and keep people moving in the right direction e.g. mediation when a win/win resolution is required, but a more directed settlement if the issues require potential disciplinary action.

  • Josh Askew

    I would say you first have to break conflict into external and internal causes. External causes could be family issues, health issues or financial issues. Internal causes could be heavy workload, personality clashes, and misunderstandings. For resolution, I’ll discuss external first.

    HR departments typically provide an array of resources to prevent all of the causes I mentioned. Health issues are usually addressed by healthcare plans and health management services. Health management services of course seek to prevent health issues from occurring. Many companies also offer insurance plants for elder care and on-site facilities for child care. These seek to solve both family and financial issues. Additionally, many companies hire a third party to provide crisis management for all three issues.

    I think, however, you are looking more for actions we can take as individuals. This pertains almost entirely to the internal causes. The causes I mentioned could probably be resolved or lessened by honest, two-way communication. Of course, for the communication to be effective, there are certain techniques that should be implemented: reflecting and active listening, for example. Reflecting involves repeating back parts of the conversation to show you are listening. Active listening means staying engaged during the conversation (eye contact and good body language) while acknowledging the speaker. Unfortunately, even good communication skills may not help personality conflicts. In this situation, I think minimizing interaction works best, but that’s just my opinion.

  • While there are many external causes of conflict within a work place, which need to be examined, and many ways of taking a ‘time out’ to cool down and think about it, there is an instrument called the “Thomas Kilman Conflict Inventory” (CPP Press), which assesses “situations where the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible” (Buros Mental Measurements Yearbook, 2010). While all 5 modes are considered to be useful in some situations, each “represents a set of useful social skills.” The 5 modes are: Competing Collaborating, Compromising, Avoiding, and Accommodating. It is offered online. Buros’ review suggests that it has not been well-validated other than for research purposes and that the manual is lacking in detail (I have it, and it is), but I have used it in a way to depathologize the notion of conflict and to discuss varying ways of recognizing the over- or under-use of each mode. More data needs to be collected, but I believe that this is the best out there at this time, unless someone else has experience with another instrument.

  • Conflict can be caused by a clash of communication styles.

    However, you should then ask yourself what drives the way people communicate, ie why are they talking angrily, passionately, rationally, sensitively etc ?

    I subscribe to Dr Elias Porter’s theory that people go into conflict based on their personal values.

    If a disagreement is about something not dear to our heart, we may well adopt the “life’s too short” approach and not go into conflict.

    However, if our personal values are at stake we are likely to go into conflict. Depending on our values we will have different conflict triggers.

    If we have what Porter calls “Blue Values”, ie altruistic and caring about people and relationships, then people being made to suffer is likely to send us into conflict.

    If we have “Red values” based on task completion and achievement, then slowness and lack of drive in others, may send us into conflict.

    If we have “Green values” where we want thoroughness, fairness and justice, then cavalier attitudes and reckless decision making without thinking of consequences is likely to be the trigger.

    Once our values are challenged and we go into conflict, the colours will determine how we respond.

    Blue will look to preserve the relationship, and will be more likely to give in or compromise.

    Red will probably stand their ground and immediately argue.

    Green will probably walk away and reflect then come back with rational argument.

    The key thing to be aware of here, is that we all have the ability to behave in a “red”, “green” or “blue” way, but our driving colour will normally stay the same.

    For example a “blue” person may borrow “red” behaviour and argue, but it will be for “blue” reasons. They may see someone being bullied and immediately rise to the challenge and confront the bully. “Red” behaviour for a “blue” reason. They are unlikely to argue passionately, because a target has not been met.

    If we get to know the people we work with and their values, we can understand the triggers, and also predict the response and deal with it constructively.

  • Leny Correa

    Hi Praveen, in my opinion interpessoal conflicts will always occur – is is from the human nature. As you mentioned this is manageble and can strenghts relations. Self-knowledgement and ability of negotiation are essential points. I try to take advantage of behaivour theories to better understand co-workers and manage conflicts. I did liked the article – congrats!