Conflict in business is simply unavoidable. Disagreement over actions, a clash of perspectives and opposing visions can result in problems between people. Some reactions may be inappropriate, while others seem justified. When it comes to effective communication, a professional’s ability to manage conflicts is one of the most challenging and rewarding skills there is. Dealing with, and understanding the source and outcome of conflict, is where knowledge becomes the key.
There are three types of conflicts
Difficult to recognise and difficult to live with. This could occur from a lack of life-work balance. Those small emergencies which can spring up and soak away your family-time. Or it could be from a disagreement with a senior who has a view or an objective you don’t understand. Maybe you have a direction suddenly offered to you and it conflicts heavily with your ambitions? Inner conflicts typically challenge integrity, values and ethics. The reactions can be widely diverse and extreme.
Between two or more people where differences are brought to the surface. These differences can be in the way individuals communicate, their tone of voice and attitude, or their need for decision or compliance. The most prevalent areas which incite conflict are prejudice and bias, stubbornness (either perceived or established), sensitivity, and differences in perception, facts, goals and methods.
Sometimes there are underlying issues or a history of resentment which may surface when one of these catalysts are activated. People from different countries can harbour deep feelings based on political, religious and ideological views. It is therefore important to understand the true source of conflict and not be misled by assumption-on-the-apparent.
Personality, culture and values can clash. Workplace policies and practices, resource competition and an inadequate reward system may also be responsible for conflict, especially if unfair treatment is perceived. Polarisation occurs when two or more take a united stance which clashes with another’s view. This is how the union movement was established, and shows that we shouldn’t assume all conflicts are bad. It is important to note that the area most affected will be the breakdown of trust, so this is where your efforts must be focused.
Resolving conflict in 5 steps
1) Remove all masks and encourage participants to be sincere and committed to turning the problem into an opportunity.
2) Identify the problem and allow each person to:
- state their position
- their needs
- their assumptions
Trust building should be the goal of the discussion.
3) Clearly state a win/win only position and ask for options. If someone is keen to block and be stubborn this is where they will announce their intentions. Ensure all participants agree that it is win/win at all costs.
4) Allow participants to openly consider and evaluate all options tabled. There is a clear opportunity here to show each other respect, so any criticism should be avoided at all costs.
5) It is about building the relationship. The resolution of the conflict should strengthen the relationship and not weaken it.
Conflict resolution requires you to be a highly efficient, productive and performance-based leader. It is about rising to the challenge to unite others – the question is, do you have what it takes?