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Conflict management

What is conflict management

What is conflict management?

Conflict management is the practice of managing conflicts between people sensibly and reasonably, allowing you to identify emerging conflicts promptly and quickly resolve them. Knowing how to use conflict management techniques is an essential skill you will need in the workplace, regardless of your profession. Especially if you hold a managerial position, manage your team or are aiming for the position of a project manager soon. Since conflicts are a natural part of daily and working life, knowing how to manage them can make your life much easier. Therefore, conflict management theory is considered fundamental among soft skills.

Does conflict management always prevent quarrels? Well, alas, no. That's because the definition and meaning of conflict management are to minimise the negative consequences on all parties. Then, the aim is to bring the conflict to an end with the agreement of the parties involved.

Conflict management models have been around for decades: the first academic works on the subject date back to the 1970s. Their emphasis was on examining the intentions of the conflicting parties. For example, the researchers believed combining these intentions could be the key to resolving conflict without losing resources and trust. By 2000, the first classifications of types of conflict management had been drawn up, which are still used by theorists today. We will discuss them later in this paper.

The Importance of Conflict Management

Why are conflict management skills considered so important? Can't you do without them, as many people do?

If you want to build a successful career, you can't. This skill improves team management and helps you build long-term relationships with the people around you, for instance, clients, partners, and colleagues. It also makes you more aware of their interests and where and how they overlap with yours. Thus, conflict management is not just about adapting to other people's characters and finding a compromise. Instead, conflict management is about controlling those factors that can lead to quarrels, consciously avoiding confrontation in favour of consolidation to achieve shared desired outcomes.

Conflict management in an organisation also helps allocate employees' roles more effectively according to their skills, experience, and abilities. Conflict management skills also play a greater role in motivating teams and tracking their performance in the workplace. When there is a good team atmosphere, and all employees are involved and trust each other, their work is much more productive, and the business is more profitable. Conflict management training for managers, in turn, helps reduce stress and tension in the team, ensuring that all employees respect each other and participate in decision-making and solving common problems instead of getting involved in conflicts.

Conflict Management Styles and Techniques

Conflict Management Styles and Techniques

There are five styles of conflict management:

  • Cooperation. This style provides the best long-term results, but is considered difficult to use and maintain. According to this style, the needs and desires of all parties to the conflict must be considered. The resulting resolution must be equally satisfying for all involved. You must agree that this is very difficult to achieve in real life and requires a lot of time, patience and possibly even outside resources. Therefore, it is best to resort to this style only if you must maintain good relations with all involved in the conflict.
  • Competing. Competing is one of the models used all the time in the workplace. No compromise, no thinking about the desires and needs of others. Negotiation is an unknown word in this paradigm. Either things will work out the way one of the parties to the conflict wants, or they won't. This option is only suitable for crises when there is no time to discuss solutions for a long time and look for compromises. Then the most competent employee, who can prove their authority and knowledge in the field in question, has the last word. It's also essential to bear in mind that the morale and productivity of other employees will likely suffer in the long run.
  • Avoidance. Avoiding style is something that many business coaches advise you to stop using. You avoid conflict by all means; you try to ignore it out of an unwillingness to participate in its resolution. You should only use the method of avoidance when the whole team needs to pause and reflect on their positions, find arguments for their opinions and "cool down". Otherwise, there is a risk of escalating the conflict and breaking up the team.
  • Concessions. When you choose an accommodating style, you put other people's needs ahead of yours. This behaviour is appropriate if you want to end the conflict quickly, save the relationship with someone important to you, or minimise the time required to resolve the quarrel. However, in all other cases, this strategy can lead to more conflict in the future because the unmet needs of one party will not go away but will only become more acute over time.
  • Compromise. This style implies collaborative communication with all parties to the conflict and the choice of a solution that best satisfies them. We can also say that it is a joint aspiration of all participants to end the quarrel most favourably. Most likely, all parties to the conversation will have to compromise and give up some part of their judgement to reach an agreement. Nevertheless, this style of conflict management ensures long-term cooperation.

Conflict Management Strategies

Conflict Management Strategies

Since every conflict has its characteristics and peculiarities, no universal and transparent conflict management approaches exist. However, there are several stages of conflict management that any manager faced with the need to resolve a quarrel should go through. If you want to fix it as effectively and professionally as possible, proceed as follows:

  • Listen to all parties to the conflict. Has someone not spoken up? Does someone disagree with your opinion? Then it would be best if you fixed it. Why? Because silence and disagreement can provoke confrontation again in the future. Don't ignore confrontation unless you're sure it won't cause a deterioration in relationships within the team.
  • Take the position of arbiter. Make sure you assess the conflict as objectively as possible and have no personal interest in one of its outcomes. Do not get involved, but do not be passive or overly aggressive. Consider all arguments, but check them against the facts.
  • Examine the background. Without background information, you can't resolve the dispute without making it worse. Find out what happened and between whom and when. Establish why and get to the root of the problem. Find out what the parties involved in the dispute feel. Yes, even if you are arguing with someone yourself. After all, in conflict management, the goal is not to win but to end the conflict effectively. If it's your employees - talk to them individually, and then try to identify the root causes of the conflict. They may not be evident, but don't jump to conclusions. Take your time because you don't need to rush.
  • Think about what you can do about the situation. Is it a serious dispute? If not, what are its prospects? Can it gain momentum later? Is it within your area of responsibility? Is it related to legal issues? Do you need to approach a higher authority to resolve the conflict? Can you solve the problem yourself? Do you and the team need time to think about what is being said and decide? Answer these questions and determine what you can do to resolve the conflict. Be open to collaboration if the situation is conducive to that.
  • Negotiate a solution to the problem. The most crucial step in the conflict management process is to develop options for resolving the dispute. You need to recognise the real issue, investigate the causes of the problem, identify where and what went wrong, analyse those points - and, moreover, actively encourage your employees to do the same! Then, work out a solution to the conflict through negotiations with those involved or on your own. Try to solve as many of the issues as possible. It may take some time to find a solution, so you probably won't be able to do it in five to ten minutes.
  • Implement the solution. Implementation, among other things, includes steps to prevent similar conflicts from happening again. Keep your finger on the pulse, monitor the situation, and intervene if you realise it is necessary. Don't be afraid of preventive strategies. Learn from conflicts, communicate them to employees, and think of ways to change the situation next time.

Conflict Management in the Workplace

Conflict Management in the Workplace

What are the features of conflict management in the workplace? What else must you, as a manager, learn to do so that conflicts do not spread over your entire office? In addition to those we have already listed above, conflict management in the working framework is about the following.

  • The ability to ask an endless number of questions. Until you get to the root of the problem, no conflict management strategy can help you. To find the cause of conflict, you must not be afraid to ask questions. Let them be (even too) many, let them be uncomfortable but honest, and let them make you feel like you're being meticulous and picky at first. Then, accept that without this skill, you won't effectively manage conflicts of any scale.
  • Understanding the difference in approach to different people in a team. The same technique can work once, twice, or three times, and then you suddenly stop having good luck with employees with the same mindset. That's why some managers go for training in working with different people's mindsets. For example, some people need to talk in private; some cannot concentrate in the morning; some would like to discuss a problem with the whole team; some are afraid of problem-solving meetings, whilst others want to take the lead, and so on. Everyone is different, so approaches should vary too. Don't try to overwhelm someone or impose a single style of conflict resolution on everyone - not only will this not lead to the desired result, but it will quickly tire out the whole team.
  • The skill of finding the seemingly invisible reasons for a particular behaviour. It appeals to experience (including life experience), personal contact with the person, and intuition. You may not have been told about the real reasons for the conflict, or only partially. Therefore, emotional intelligence and a high level of empathy are essential in conflict management. After all, office conflicts are often not about the fact that someone's decision is not to someone's liking but about the fact that the employee is overlooked, not supported, and not given the hoped-for feedback.

How do you learn to manage conflict and stop having unproductive arguments with colleagues and loved ones? The solution is to take Lectera's conflict management course. In our course programme, "Conflict management: how to create a positive atmosphere in the team," you will quickly learn how to identify the types of disputes and discover their causes. You will be able to trace the dynamics of conflict and the behaviour of people in conflict. You will also learn how to manage your emotions, resolve conflict, and maintain a calm and productive team environment. Our experts will help you to resolve disputes through meditation and masterfully sidestep controversial moments in turbulent times for the company. Inside the course, you will find an hour of video tutorials, seven tests, and seven case studies. These will help you practice your skills before graduating from the programme. So, what are you waiting for? Register now to book your spot!

Examples of Conflict Management

You can find examples of conflict management every day and in every office. Moreover, perhaps every home. The most obvious example is discrimination in any form, from gender to ageism, which is imperative to stop at the root because any discrimination damages a company's productivity and reputation.

Another example of conflict management is exit interviews, where employees can tell the HR manager what they think of the company. Here, the manager must channel someone's thoughts not into "How annoying you all are" responses, but into "How can we change things for the better?" Indeed, it is a skill in its own right.

Conflict management will also work if you want to create a comfortable working environment for all your subordinates. Of course, the word "comfort" will have different connotations for each of your employees, and skilfully manoeuvring between interpretations of the term is your responsibility. Conflict management enters the scene even as you decide which work email to start your day with by looking through your inbox. The choice is also a kind of conflict of interest in your head.