occurs when two or more people’s differences escalate to a level that negatively affects or might affect productivity, quality service, morale or working relationships. Conflict has both an immediate and residual impact. Immediate effects might be obvious (like missing a deadline or losing a sale) or not so
obvious (like absenteeism or lack of cooperation). Even after the conflict has been resolved, there can still be long-lasting residual effects on the working relationships of the parties involved, like passive/aggressive, underhanded behaviors.
Stages of Conflict
Personality conflicts in particular can start out slowly and gain momentum without your noticing them. Likewise, judgments, prejudices, and divergent opinions can escalate to discord and finally to arguments. Being aware of styles of resolution at any stage, a conflict can have an outcome of either discovery or damage.
If conflict is escalating but you do nothing to help resolve it, damage is the ultimate result. On the other hand, if at any stage of a conflict you appropriately guide people toward resolving it, you could lead them to a path of growth and development, personally and professionally.
Signs of Escalation
Addressing Conflict with Key Principles
1. Maintain or enhance self-esteem:
2. Listen and respond with empathy:
3. Ask for help and encourage involvement:
4. Share thoughts, feelings, and rationale (to build trust):
5. Provide support without removing responsibility (to build ownership):
The interaction process, illustrated below, equips you with the skills you need to address or mediate resolution tactics.
1. OPEN by identifying the conflict and its impact:
2. CLARIFY causes of the conflict:
3. DEVELOP ideas for resolving the conflict:
4. AGREE on plan for resolving the conflict:
5.CLOSE by summarizing and confirming confidence:
Discovery or Damage
While differences in age, gender, personality, etc., might contribute to misunderstandings and conflict, here “differences” mean differing ideas, goals, or points of view. Such differences can promote creativity and innovation.
Discussing opposing opinions and building on one another’s ideas can result in unique solutions and lead to positive, productive outcomes for the organization.
However, these same differences also can lead to conflict. Tight deadlines and heavy workloads can reduce people’s tolerance levels. Sometimes, processes force people into adversarial roles. They might have opposing goals or even the same goals, but different ways to achieve them.
The following signs indicate that differences are escalating in an unproductive way:
The following signs indicate that people are experiencing discord:
The following signs indicate that people are experiencing dispute:
The Interaction Process
When people interact, they generally have two kinds of needs:
Esteem • Empathy • Involvement • Share • Support
1. Conflict occurs because we have different maps of reality.
2. The meaning of communication is the response you get.
3. If you are not getting the response you want, change what you are doing or communicating.
Conflict: Using Tension Creatively
Conflict and Differences:
Conflict positions and results:
Problem solving strategies:
Reclassify the problem
The outcome factor
Four words to unblock conflict:
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