If you search the word conflict in the dictionary, you are likely to find plenty of negative connotations. Many explain conflict as: coming to collision or a disagreement; clash; contention; controversy; fighting or quarreling, states Random House (1975). As these definitions are negative in nature, most people tend to withdraw when they enter an arena with conflict.
Business Environment Conflict
If you can recognize and understand exactly what creates conflict within the realm of business during its infant stages, there is much more likely to be a quick resolution. However, one must be able to spot the warning signs. Lundine (1996) explains five primary detection signs of conflict:
Romance amongst employees, particularly when one is in a position of power over the other. This can breed favoritism, discrimination and increase the likelihood of harassment allegations.
Lack of consistency when it comes to performance. For example, diminished work output, slower pace and sales fluctuations.
Too much time spent on personal issues such as phone calls, surfing the net, too many breaks or longer lunch times.
Drug abuse or drinking before or on the job.
Visible alterations in character traits. For example, someone who is normally gregarious and talkative, suddenly seems withdrawn and quiet.
What Perpetrates Conflict?
To be able to detect potential conflict, it helps to be aware of the aforementioned warning signs. Conflict can easily infiltrated a group of people who have varying views on politics and religion. If one questions or insinuates a lack of moral ethics in another persons life based on religion or politics, they are likely to receive an emotionally charged response. This may create a barrier of defensiveness, and this can be hard to break. Also, each person has their own unique needs and goals, and if those are not met, it can create conflict within a group. Weeks (1992) says "Within our diversity as humans there are differences in perceptions, needs, values, power, desires, goals, opinions and many other components of human interaction. These differences often lead to conflict" (p.33).
How Important Is Conflict Resolution?
The reduction of conflict within the workplace is crucial. The following are some of the benefits reaped from incorporating a dispute resolution process:
Increased levels of productivity.
Less likelihood of wrongful dismissal claims
. Fewer opportunities for claims of human rights violations
Complaints that are received are more likely to be resolved effectively and with dispatch.
Absentee employees due to work related conflict will be reduced.
A conflict resolution procedure is more likely to engender trust, loyalty and commitment amongst employees.
Conflict Resolution is Paramount For Managers
Any productive manager realizes that conflict resolution at work is one of the most important aspects of managing employees and the company effectively. It can help resolve disagreements and decreased production output because of poor morale within the work space.
At one point, I worked with a lady who owned an engineering company that generated multi-millions of dollars in profits each year. She was one of the best conveyers of conflict resolution that I have ever known. I asked her what her method to conflict resolution was, how she dealt with the problems and she explained that when she first started her company, she found conflict resolution difficult. Like most novice business owners, she allowed conflict to fester into a large problem and her staff was unable to address conflict. As time went by, she understood that the best way to handle conflict in the workplace was to really listen to her employees with care and concern, to listen to everything they had to say and learn how to forgive.
All the talk about conflict makes it seem as if it is cast in a negative light at all times. However, there are some types of positive conflict a manager and utilize to create a strong bond among employees and increase productivity. This is the kind where an issue or problem must be solved by a group instead of just an individual. The adage, "two heads are better than one" comes into play here. If a group of co-workers can pull together, put their two cents in, solve the issue, or at least improve them, it strengthens the output of the company. This environment should be one where any members ideas or concepts can be put on the table without fear of scrutiny or flat rejection. Each idea can be evaluated for advantages and disadvantages, until a plan is hatched where everyone can agree. It is clear one can see how successful this plan is when everyone involved can take pride in the fact that they help solve a difficult task within a team environment.
Conflict Resolution Sources
There are a plethora of books, training courses, internet sites, media, conventions and seminars available to those who wish to develop more effective conflict resolution skills. Several common threads in most of the references show up throughout training; communication and avid listening skills are two of the most important. However, there are many rules involved with effective facilitation that include:
Go after and solve problems, without attacking people.
Realize that listening and understanding your teammates is just as important as you being understood.
If you speak to a group, be sure to acknowledge every member and do not concentrate your focus on one or two people. Avoid having inside discussions with friends.
Create ideas, aspects and alternatives, then be certain the group understand one another before finding the right solution.
Conflict Resolution Methods
1 Be prepared to facilitate a comfortable atmosphere for everyone. This means getting to know a little about each person first and setting the meeting in an environment that everyone enjoys.
2 Perception for one person may not be the same as another. This should be clarified in the beginning to be sure each person views the same situation.
3 Don't zone in on only group needs, but include individual needs as well. If a member feels their needs are forgotten, conflict can arise.
4 Create positive energy and power amongst the group. Once this is shared by all, conflict resolution will be much more successful.
5 Have the capability to see what will happen down the road, as well as learn from past mistakes. For optimum success, one must be able to learn from the past, tend to the present and look to the future.
6 There is more than one way to skin a cat. That is another cheesy adage, that means multiple options must be used. Try to meet each persons needs by combining all suggestions from each team member.
7 Create a call to action that utilizes every team member in order to be successful. There should not be one person favored over another and all party members must participate to accomplish a task. This means positive power is built upon and incorporates each need of the people in the group, without leaving anyone out in the cold.
If the techniques above do not work, it is possible to call in professional mediators to solve the issue. Many people have been trained in arbitration and plenty of companies specialize in this field alone. One should know the precise definitions for mediation and arbitration;
Mediation: This is a formal procedure where a third party who is not partial to either side, helps settle a dispute and set rules for negotiation. This person is able to open the lines of communication and lay out the needs of each party, identify the problem and make recommendations on how to go about finding a remedy.
Arbitration: Like mediation, this is another formal procedure, however it tends to be in a more escalated nature. A third party, likely a judge or esquire, has been picked to form a decision based upon legalities of a particular situation. This…