Turning swords into plough-shares is not an easy task, but the ability to facilitate conflict resolution is a key skill for any manager or team leader. Some organisations seem to promote conflict as a means to driving their workforce, using a divide and rule mentality. Competitive behaviour can in some situations improve team performance, by initiating creativity and increasing the productivity of management teams. However, if this progresses into conflict is the negativity really good for the business?
Why do we get conflict between individuals? Normally it is because they have different even contradictory goals and objectives, or the way they go about achieving those goals is mutually incompatible. Individuals are not always going to agree on everything, but it is how individuals and management teams address such differences, which is crucial as prolonged conflict will cause teamwork to break down. In the work place we may need to identify:
(a) The key initiators of conflict e.g. ill-defined responsibilities with lots of grey areas, or actual or perceived inequality.
(b) How individuals respond to the initiators and whether their behaviour can be modified,
(c) If conflict occurs how this is communicated to the appropriate levels in the organisational structure; and
(d) Whether the area of conflict resolved by a quick, short-term fixes or whether long term solutions are identified and implemented by managers.
Whilst internal or external competition can in some circumstances improve organisational performance, becoming embroiled in conflict can drain resources and reduce performance levels. Effective conflict resolution results from providing opportunity for the respective parties to understand the needs and expectations of others. This requires parties to listen as well as talk (see the “talking the talk” article) and for those facilitating the discussion to ensure that in the conclusion of the meeting all their interests are adequately addressed and everyone is satisfied with the outcome and that triggers of personal conflict are completely closed out.