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Conflict Management: Do it the right way!

“What is your opinion?” is not an argument.

Conflict is not necessarily bad. Healthy conflict can be good for organizations because it encourages open-mindedness.



Where did we start?



With the first installment of a blog post on conflict management, Conflict Management: The Jungle Book way, we started with learning what conflict is, the types of conflicts, and styles of handling the conflicts using the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict mode Instrument (TKI). We recommend you reading our previous blog before you proceed with this installment on the conflict management topic.




What to expect from this blog?

This blog post mainly focuses on the skills needed by the conflict manager and the general steps involved in effectively handling a conflict.

We understand that learning with Mowgli was more fun, but some theory is unavoidable to conclude this topic. We tried being as crisp as possible with the content.


Skills needed for conflict management

A conflict manager may not know the exact resolution to every conflict but should be instrumental with the necessary skills. Working with these skills helps the manager bring the right solution to the table.

The first step is that the aim should not be to avoid conflicts but to resolve them effectively.


Active Listening

This skill secures information from others and helps to understand the point one is making.

  • Listen ACTIVELY (very important)

  • Read nonverbal gestures

  • Know exactly when to interrupt

  • Be constructive in feedback

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

  • Display self-discipline

  • Motivate

  • Self-aware

  • Empathetic

  • Be positive

Patience

Patience adds flexibility and recognizes the need to wait. It emphasizes that decision-making should be slow and thoughtful.

  • Self-control

  • Humility

  • Generosity

Impartiality

A very tough skill to master, but essential for a conflict manager. Fairness is the key, and decisions must be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias or prejudice.

  • Ask for feedback

  • Build trust

  • Understand and overcome your own conscious or unconscious bias

Accommodating

A conflict manager is supposed to be eager and willing to help others, for example by changing his or her schedules. Accommodation should not be limited to plans and communications.

  • Acknowledging and accepting someone else’s views or perspectives

  • Know when accommodating might be harmful

  • Avoid any body language that signals anxiety or shows disbelief

  • Use empathetic statements, like “I am sorry….”, “I understand ….”, and “I apologize…”


Reactions to a conflict


Psychologists agree that conflicts have to be dealt with to prevent deadlock and recrimination and restore stability and communication. Principally, there are six different ways of dealing with a conflict situation. They are grouped into emotional and rational headers.

Emotional reactions: Flight, flight, and give up.

Rational reactions: Evade responsibility, compromise, and consensus.


Flight

  • Denying everything

  • Runaway

  • Ignoring

  • No/reduced collaborative efforts

  • Avoiding

  • Taking days off from work / high attrition

Portraying ‘flight’ reaction implies the conflict may amplify as it's unnoticed for a long time until there is an unavoidable situation where it comes to light. In order to deal with this, managers and owners need to remain vigilant enough to identify this and encourage an open-door policy to discuss this.

Longer time may lead to frustration and amplify the friction.


Fight

  • Verbal abuse

  • Deeds to bully or discredit

  • Damage the reputation

  • Destroy them financially or professionally

  • Intention to win by any inappropriate means

  • Litigation

  • Humiliate

  • Physical assault

It's one of the most damaging reactions that may damage relationships beyond repair. Most people’s professionalism will prevent this from happening but is not unheard of. This will cause an extremely toxic work environment that is to be addressed immediately.


Give up

  • State of emotional or mental fatigue

  • Resign to failure

Those who give up their own position in a conflict, solve it by retreating, i.e. they lose. The result is a lose–win situation. This could be short-term prevention from direct friction, but may potentially lead to a bigger conflict when similar situations occur between the parties.


Evade Responsibility

  • Overwhelmed parties

  • Delegated decision

  • Output depends on the delegator’s interest

  • Risk of lose-lose outcome

In this type of response, the confrontation and the final decision are escalated to a third party, usually a higher authority. The outcome is dependent on the interest of the delegator, his involvement, and handling, and always carries a risk of failure for both/all the parties involved in the conflict.


Compromise

  • Parties walk away with some sense of victory

  • Not in Win-Win as consensus, everybody walks away with something

  • Conscious awareness of outcome being less than the original hope

  • Agree to disagree

  • The outcome is acceptable, but not optimal

This is an honest attempt to respectfully understand the position of the opposing party. It is often felt that, although the solution is not ideal, it is reasonable in the circumstances, and thus offers a win–lose/lose-win outcome.

People respect those who are willing to compromise as a sign of maturity. When compromise or other efforts to find a resolution fail, it may be feasible to bring in a third party for better communication as mediator or arbitrator.


Consensus

  • General discussion, general approval

  • Asking "Are there any concerns remaining?"

  • Revised proposals to reach agreements

  • Results in motivation for improvement

  • Objections and criticisms can be heard

  • Require tolerance and a willingness to experiment

  • Trust and respect

  • Unity of purpose

  • Nonviolence

  • Self-empowerment

  • Cooperation

  • Commitment to the group

  • Active participation

  • Equal access to power

  • Patience

  • Collective ownership of success and failure

Handling with consensus demonstrates the right values and effective principles which form the basis of commitment to work together to resolve conflict. The consensus outcome needs to be clearly defined and accepted by all involved parties.

Consensus can be regularly seen in an open environment where healthy conflicts are promoted, valued, and channelized appropriately. It is the environment in which disagreement can be expressed without fear.


Steps involved in conflict resolution/handling

Though conflict resolution is very subjective to the conflicts, here are six steps that will assist the conflict handlers. These steps may not lay out the exact plan for a conflict resolution, but the guidelines will certainly help the conflict manager design the path to resolution.


1. Direct and assertive communication

Direct, yet respectful communication helps to build trust. Assertiveness increases the chance of delivering your message successfully. It confirms that the listener need not spend energy and time reacting to the speaker's emotions.


2. Relationships/people are important than winning the situation

Winning and losing are not the only parameters. Building/nurturing relationships and getting along with people is a key to success. If caught in such a situation arrest it immediately, if not, can cause irreparable damage in a relationship.


3. Separate people from problems

Address the problem than the reactions. Separate the relationship from the substantive problems and design a solution that allows moving past the conflict.


4. Second is to talk when first is to Listen

Good listeners actively try to understand what is being said. They listen to the message and also interpret the non-verbal cues. Studying the tone of voice, facial expressions, posture aids the listener.

The focus should be more on listening, than adding to the conversation.


5. Set out facts in line with ground rules

Setting ground rules is an early step to generate a productive discussion by clearing the expectations for involvement. When combined with skilled facilitation and thoughtful involvement by participants, ground rules help make meetings more effective.


6. Explore and brainstorm together to generate solutions

'Together Everyone Archives More' is the essence of a TEAM. Even in conflicting situations, we can demonstrate collaboration and care. Everyone should put efforts towards inducing an overall generative culture in teams that value the differed opinions and encourages healthy conflicts. Exploring and brainstorming ideas to solve will then be a natural way of conduct.


Conclusion

Conflicts are an unavoidable state in any working environment. Effective managers/organizations know this and they train, coach, and prepare the hierarchy line with the required skills to address workplace conflicts in a desirable manner.

Members across the organization need to have ways of keeping conflict to a minimum and addressing problems arising due to conflict before it becomes an issue at work. The unmanaged conflicts are costly, often result in absenteeism, employee retention issues, and a negative institutional reputation.

Conflict can be useful as a creative, fine-tuning instrument to our ideas by hearing another person's perception that potentially will open our eyes to new perspectives on our ideas.


Understand that, “what is your opinion?” is not an argument.

Conflict is not necessarily bad. Healthy conflict can be good for organizations because it encourages open-mindedness.




Ashish Bhojane

Yogesh Ganvir

Ashish Lotangane


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