Slide 2

Tag Archive | "conflict"

Change from the top down

For any conflict system to work once implemented it must be embraced

from the top. The conflict management program must be seen to have the

support and weight of higher level management in order to create buy-in of

the models and benefits of actively engaging in conflict resolution practices

from mid-level and lower-level employees.

From the findings of CEDR in their UK survey 2005, they found that ‘many

managers do not feel comfortable addressing conflict. Half (49 per cent)

would rather attend an event at which they knew no one than tell a client

a home truth, and over two thirds (69 per cent) would rather send back

a bottle of wine in a restaurant than confront a boss’s underperformance

directly’. This is why it is important that necessary measures are taken to address the real and expensive issue of conflict in the workplace. It is too expensive not to.

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What is your conflict management style?

Based on the work of Thomas and Kilmann (1974) who identified

five conflict management styles, studies show we each have a conflict

management style that we prefer to use while having a blend of all five. It is

the knowing of which one to operate in which that determines the outcome

of the conflict, whether constructive or destructive. This preferred conflict

management style is influenced by your personality, family background,

and personal development.

Your conflict management style is a combination of two variables namely:

  • The measure you fight for your needs being met
  • The measure you take into consideration to see other’s needs being met

Five combinations of these two variables determine five conflict management


Competitive Style

This style is all about winning and usually by any means necessary; there

is no regard for the relationship, and it’s all about achieving the goal and

getting the result they need. This can be seen as ‘put-downs’, criticisms,

browbeating, or violence. This style is best used,

  • When all options have been exhausted and there is no loss on your part.
  • When you have a time constraint and action is required immediately, which is in your sphere of control however unpopular the choice.
  • When after much analysis, if a decision is still to be made, may require assertive lead.

Accommodating Style

This style has more of an emphasis on preserving the relationship and not

wanting to rock the boat. In so much that their own needs are neglected,

you seek an agreement at any cost just to keep everybody happy or just to

have the situation go away. This style works best,

  • When you don’t have a vested interest into the direction of an outcome.
  • When the amount of bargaining power is small or winning seems an unrealistic projection.
  • When you want to maintain an environment of peace and harmony; you don’t want to rock the boat, so to speak.
  • When right and wrong are not an issue for you but rather the preserving of the relationship.

Avoiding Style

This style pretends that conflict doesn’t exist; there is low emphasis on

meeting their own goals or in preserving the relationship. Oftentimes they

hold the belief that things will work itself out if it’s left alone.

Times when this style is best used is,

  • When tensions are too high and a timeout is required in order to allow emotions to settle to enable rational thought processes.
  • When you undoubtedly know the unlikelihood of winning the conflict.
  • When you feel others can better handle the conflict than you are
  • able to.
  • When timing is wrong and to engage in a conflict situation while not being in the best frame of mind to recognise the issues involved.

Compromise Style

This style is about trying as best you can to meet halfway. The aim is to try

and give up something you want in a bid to gain something else that does not pose as much objection by the other party and vice versa. It is about

the willingness to share or give up positions held and still feels that all is

not lost.

Times when this style is best used is,

  • When you can settle for a temporary solution.
  • When you want to reach an agreement when factors such as time are against you.
  • When using the collaborative approach and there being no resolution  •at the end.
  • A compromise is best used when it saves a relationship rather than negotiating only to gain nothing at all.

Collaborative (Cooperative) Style

This style yields the greatest results and bears with it the greater benefits.

This style places a high value on both relationship preservation and personal

goals being met. The difference with this style is while it is time consuming

and requires much more skill, it seeks to understand the position of the

other party and offers suggestions in a cooperative way, in a full and open


This style is best used,

  • Wwhen you want to flush out deeper needs which go beyond the initial wants presented in the dispute or in the positions held
  • When you have an interdependent relationship
  • When there is surplus time to deal with the problem
  • When the issues at hand are equally important for both parties and individuals.
  • When there is a genuine willingness to invest resources in order to find a mutually agreeable outcome

By understanding your preferred conflict style and that of another, you are

better positioned to make strategic decisions when dealing with conflict

that will enhance the relationship and not break it down. When you do

not consider other styles and are locked into your own preferences, you risk

gridlock and polarisation between conflicting parties. This is because you

fail to adopt styles that work in favour of the combined goals in light of an

awareness of repeat patterns of conflicting interaction.

For more info see my book

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The cost of conflict and health

Health is a casualty of conflict in the workplace. This is highlighted in

the case of Yasmin Rehman, head of diversity for the Metropolitan Police

in the UK in 2008, who had been off sick for the one year due to stress

related problems in her workplace. Rehman earns a salary of £60,000 a

year which had been paid to her in full whilst she was on sick leave owing

to the consequences of unresolved conflict in her organisation.

A further cost results is the need to employ temporary staff to fill the

position of an employee who is suffering illness and injury as a result of

conflict. This means that not just one but two salaries are being paid during

periods of extensive sick leave.

The severity of conflict in the workplace resulting in health issues affects

the premium paid by an employee to its health insurance provider.

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The threat of unresolved conflict

Conflict that is not resolved gets pushed further and further ‘underground’

but does not die. Instead, it grows in size until it explodes in an array of

forms to challenge the harmony within the working environments. The

key is to catch conflict at its early stages so that the moaning, the rows,

slammed doors, broken trust, and negative energy resulting in violence or

resignation do not erupt.

There can be times when conflict is positive, although for the most part it

is usually not unless you are equipped with the necessary skills to deal with

it accordingly.

Lewis A. Coser, in his book Functions  of  Social Conflict, said, ‘Far from

being necessarily dysfunctional, a certain degree of conflict is an essential

element in group formation and the persistence of group life.’

The point must be stressed that unless conflict brings about a greater

understanding between parties, except there is more motivation for

collaborative negotiating and broader perspectives that offer greater

alternatives as a result of conflict, it is not positive and should not be

something to strive for.

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What is conflict?

Living on a planet filled with people with different pasts and world

experiences, everyone with their own needs, values, perceptions, and

differing communication styles, it would be easy to think that we could

not possibly get along without conflict. Nevertheless we must celebrate

our differences since they add variety and spontaneity to life. Differences

are not the problem or cause of conflict; it is the mismanagement of these

differences that is the cause of all conflict. If people operate out of a scarcity

mentality, that is to say that no two people can really walk away getting

what they want, then you enter into a win—lose mindset. This then sets

you at odds with one another because you are now trying to compete

over positions rather than moving for collaborative problem solving. In a

conflict, there is the belief that one person is right and the other is wrong,

and together with this there is an insistence or demand that each person act

according to one’s own personal values and beliefs. To expect any person to

act outside of their own values would be nonsensical.

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Conflict in the workplace

Conflict in the workplace is one of the highest and most unrecognised

reducible costs incurred by an organisation. In a conversation with an

executive CEO, who owned a midsized company, he said, ‘I have no time

for all this soft stuff and people’s feelings and needs . . . The real issue is a

matter of talent and bottom line results.’ Even with the best talent, if the

environment is not conducive for drawing out this talent and focusing

on productive efforts, then this so-called ‘fluff ’ will cause the company

hundreds of thousands and, on several occasions, millions. A study based

on a Gallup survey showed that 31 per cent of staff is actively engaged

while 52 per cent are not. Subsequently, 17 per cent are actively disengaged

(over 23 million U.S. workers) as the result of unresolved conflict in the


It seems the soft issues of conflict are not so soft after all but are indeed

central to the business success of any organisation. According to a recent

survey from CEDR, the key conclusions drawn were:

  • Eighty per cent of disputes have a significant impact on the smooth running of business.
  • In a case that is a million pounds in value, a company will consume an average of over three years of manager’s time trying to sort it out
  • Over a third of managers would rather parachute jump for the first time (35 per cent) than address a problem with their team at work,and just under a third would rather shave their head for charity (27 per cent). Some even said they would rather eat bush tucker bugs for a week (8 per cent).

For more information see my book The Hidden Cost of Conflict in the Workplace for more information

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