Beacon Hill Training

“Where knowledge meets experience”

What is Conflict Management?

What causes conflict?

In any group of people there will be differences, whether they be cultural, social or even in personality.  People also respond very differently to pressures and challenging situations.  We should not be surprised when tensions exist between individuals and groups.  This will in turn lead to conflict where people disagree or clash over an issue.  If everyone were all the same, there would be little or no conflict.  Thankfully we are not all the same; the price that we pay for the richness of diversity is that conflicts will arise at certain times.  It is fair to say that conflict is inevitable and will occur at some point.

In an organization people are recruited to fill differing roles focusing on their individual abilities. People are not recruited (as a rule) on how they will get along with one another.  You can’t stop conflict, but you can manage it. 

Conflict in the work place can result in:

  • Animosity
  • Factionalisation of the work force
  • Absence, sickness, stress / poor functioning, and the reduction in capacity of the worker.  
  • Other conflicts arising

If this is not resolved members of staff may ultimately leave the organization resulting in the loss of experienced and valuable workers. If on the other hand the outcome is positive, more effective communication and understanding may result. The mistake too many people make is assuming that all conflict should be avoided and that conflict always results in poor outcomes, negative outcomes are often the result of poorly handled conflict.

What are the reasons for conflict?

Here are some examples: 

Poor communication, Opposing points of view, Incompatibility of aims between individuals and/or groups, Work pressures / deadlines, Poor Management, Difficulties in people’s personal lives, Staff are not trained or prepared to deal with conflict, Short-term, crisis approach to problem-solving, Blame cultures / poor team working, Differences in personality, Differences in approach to tasks and individual values, Racial or cultural background differences, Changes within the organization.

Often one of the biggest issues is miscommunication.  When looking at a conflict this is always the best place to start, to look at not only what was said but also to look closely at what was meant.  Most conflicts are due to people assuming they understood the others communication, when in fact they did not.  Sometimes however the issues are due to how one person sends out their messages, a common one is the use of emails to pass on information.  How a message is meant and how it is received are often two very different things, email is terrible for losing the greater meaning of a communication.  Emails can come across as rude, impersonal, bossy or offensive.  Very often the sender of the message is totally unaware of how they are being viewed.

What is the role of the mediator?

A mediator is not just someone who listens to the issues but someone who is entirely impartial, not emotionally involved in any one side but is able to look at what actually occurred.  A good mediator needs to be aware of the theories around mediation, understand peoples ‘conflict styles’ as well as having the training and knowledge to do so well.  This is not a role anybody can ‘step into’, it actually takes understanding of this complex role. 

Here is a very basic overview of how a conflict can be managed and the steps involved:

  • The situation (look at what is occurring, the effect of this conflict, find out what both people want)
  • Gather information (what occurred, why there is a conflict, what are people’s viewpoints)
  • Agree the problem (break down the issues and the impact it is having, try to find areas of agreement, sometimes people hearing one another’s views gives understanding)
  • Brainstorm possible solutions
  • The solution (by this point the solution should be obvious to all involved, Not everyone will have all the want but the solution should be mutually satisfactory).

For a solution to be found people need to find a common ground, or a point they both agree.  The starting point is often the fact that two people both wish for the issue to be resolved.   I have only been able to give a very brief over view around conflict resolution, I hope you have found this blog useful.  For further information, please follow the links below.

Comments? Questions?