Managing Conflict at Work – Part III

| February 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

This is the last in a series of articles focusing on Conflict in the Workplace. In Managing Conflict at Work Part I we talked about the value of Conflict – greater clarity on issues, individual and group growth and improved relationships, to name a few. Managing Conflict at Work Part II examined the different tendencies people use in response to Conflict, i.e. Competing, Accommodating, Avoiding, Compromising and Collaborating.
Let’s now take a look at four types of conflict, keeping in mind that conflicts do not normally fall into just one category. Further detail regarding these categories can be found at HBR Guide to Managing Conflict at Work.

Relationship Conflicts – A personal disagreement in which folks feel hurt or disrespected. “You always interrupt me. I was just trying to explain why we are having delays!”

Task Conflicts – Disagreement about what the group is trying to achieve. One might feel that the goal is to have a 0 bug product while their colleague thinks that they were tasked to deliver the product to the client on time, even with bugs.

Process Conflicts – “I think we should spend this meeting brain storming on ways we can move forward.” “We don’t have time to brainstorm. Let’s just have the VP tell us how they want us to proceed.”

Status Conflicts – These are disagreements about who’s in charge. An engineer believes they can respond directly to a client inquiry, while the project manager believes only they should be interfacing with the client.

Knowing the type of conflict can help keep us away from immediately going into a Relationship Conflict. Here’s an example, “Okay, let’s think about this. I think our conflict is around the task. Can we go back to the internal memo and see if that provides some answers. If it doesn’t, we should ask the Department Head to join us and clarify what we are supposed to be achieving.”

Keeping the end in mind is a critical skill in managing conflict. What do you want to walk away with and how do you want to feel? What do you want the other person to walk away with and how do you want them to feel? Keep these thoughts in the forefront of your mind and act a filter for what you say.

Remember, we have options. Sometime doing/saying nothing is the best choice. In other situations addressing the conflict directly is the best course of action. The quality of our choices to act or not requires control over our own emotions, understanding the other person’s tendencies in responding to conflict, knowing what the conflict is about – before it gets personal and last, but not least being clear about the end-game.

Honing our skills in managing conflict is a life-long process. We can all benefit from elevating our ability to effectively manage conflict – for the better. For all of us.
Action: Consider yourself and your team engaging in the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. It’s quick and it’s effective.


Category: Assessments, Conflict Management, Newsletters, Staff Development, Staff Development


About the Author ()

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

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