Conflict Resolution Strategies in the Workforce

Conflict in the work environment is inevitable. When two or more people have to work together and combine ideas, the door to conflict is always open. The goal is to learn to use conflict as a tool that can benefit the whole, instead of destroying it and the idea of ​​concern. A team must have a common goal of success (Temme & Katzel, 1995). Various strategies have proven to be beneficial tools in resolving these destructive conflicts.

Conflict is defined as a disagreement or disharmony that occurs in groups when differences in ideas, methods, and members are expressed (Wisinski, 1993). These differences, however, do not have to result in a negative result. Used properly, the group can become closer and more aware of each other’s differences. With mutual respect, the group can combine ideas and be more successful in the end.

Management is ultimately responsible for recognizing conflict, instilling conflict resolution strategies, and ensuring that these strategies are successfully executed. For the administration of a school, for example, to achieve this goal, it must be aware of the types of conflict: constructive and deconstructive. Constructive conflict is beneficial for teams. This style stays on topic while maintaining respect for other teammates. Teammates will exhibit flexibility, support, and cooperation with one another. The commitment to the success of the team is evident. Deconstructive conflict, on the other hand, exhibits selfish behaviors of personal attacks, insults, and defensiveness. There is no flexibility within the team and competition between teammates is high. Avoiding conflict is obvious (UOP, 2004)

Many outside influences can cause or increase conflict. Limited resources (UOP, 2004) can cause stress among co-workers. If a teacher is concerned about the lack of resources for her students, for example, she may show a high level of stress. This, in turn, can influence any light touch shared with other teachers. Differences in goals and objectives (UOP, 2004) also cause tension among staff. For example, one teacher’s focus may be on sports and recreational teams, while another is more focused on academics and current texts. This difference in goals for students can cause additional tension and conflict among staff.
Lack of communication (UOP, 2004) can cause conflicts between staff. Two teachers with the same goal may not clearly explain their points to each other. If the messages are not clear, confrontation and conflict will most likely result. Teachers who share different attitudes, values ​​and perceptions (UOP, 2004) open the door to conflict. Just like teachers with different goals, differing attitudes, goals, and perceptions cause immense stress for all faculty and staff. Lastly, personality clashes (UOP, 2004) are probably the most common problem within a group and possibly the easiest to overcome. If treated with an adult and mature mindset, personality differences should not influence the work environment or group goals. Lack of training, lack of accountability, and management favoritism (First Line, 2007) can also lead to conflict. Teachers and the rest of the school faculty must concentrate on the most important aspect of their work (the children). As adults, they are responsible for their own actions and behaviors.

The ability to recognize the type of conflict allows management to direct the conflict accordingly with the goal of achieving a positive outcome, rather than spiraling into destruction. After recognizing the type of conflict, management can choose between three different resolution methods: the “4 R’s” method, the AEIOU method, and the Negotiation method.

First, the “4 R’s” method (UOP, 2004) means: Reason: the leader is responsible for finding out if the feelings related to the conflict are expressed differently within the team. Any personal situation present among staff should also be noted. Finally, the leader must clarify if the team is aware of her position; Reaction: The leader is responsible for rating how the group reacts to each other. One must determine if the conflict is constructive or destructive. Once determined, the leader must decide if the conflict can be transformed into a constructive conflict, if it is originally destructive; Results: Leaders must now explain the consequences of this conflict. The entire team, including the leader, must determine if the conflict is serious enough to affect the goal or outcome; Resolution: Finally, the whole team should discuss all the possible methods that will help achieve a successful resolution and which one is the best. The “4 R’s” method takes teams through a resolution process, step by step. This style helps in evaluating the situation and helps redirect the conflict towards a positive outcome.

Second, the AEIOU model (Wisinski, 1993) means: A- Assuming that others “have good intentions; E- Expressing one’s own feelings; I- Identifying what you would like to happen; OR- The results you expect are made clear to the group” (UOP, 2004); U- The understanding by the group is at a mature level. This model clearly communicates one’s concerns to the group. Suggestions for alternative methods are expressed to the group without confrontation. By maintaining a calm demeanor, management is telling the group that they want the group to be successful.

Third, the Negotiation method (UOP, 2004) focuses on an attitude of compromise. Separating each person from the problem allows each teammate to focus on the interest of the group rather than their personal positions. This technique creates the opportunity to reach a variety of possible solutions. The leader is responsible for expressing the importance of an objective perspective when choosing a solution. Through the negotiation technique, everyone knows the problem and the goal, and everyone is willing to put aside their personal feelings to reach that common goal (Krivis, 2006).

Another type of strategy known as the NORMS method helps the manager or leader remain objective while dealing with conflict in the work environment. NORMS means (Huber, 2007): N-Personal or unbiased interpretation; O-Observable, the situation is seen and touched or experienced by staff; R-Reliable, two or more people agree on what happened; M-Measurable, conflict parameters can be distinguished and measured; The S-Specifics are not subjective, but objective and non-confrontational. By following the RULES, one can look at the situation with an objective perspective. Therefore, he or she can help the team with the conflict with the right approach to bring the team together and resolve the conflict, as well as benefit from the experience.
Each method promotes a friendly environment that welcomes different ideas. Ultimately, differences can benefit the entire group as well as the project or situation at hand. Temme and Katzel state, “For a team-building effort to work…management must be sincere in their determination to see the team-building process through.” (Calling a team a team, 1995).

As a manager, or leader, one is responsible for leading the team toward cohesion and compatibility. This goal can be achieved during a conflict by representing each team member equally, acknowledging the problem, listening to each concern with the same level of importance and respect. To reach agreement and a collaborative goal, each teammate or employee must respect the others for their different opinions and goals, but must also be open-minded. Conflicts can be beneficial to a team as they bring new ideas and viewpoints to the table. Clear communication and an open mind can turn conflict into a benefit rather than a burden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *