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Managing Conflict in Organizations

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1 Managing Conflict in Organizations
Thomas P. Holland, Ph.D., Professor Institute for Nonprofit Organizations

2 Handling Conflicts Definition: when two or more values or perspectives are contradictory in nature May be internal (within self) or external (between two or more people). Conflicts are problems when they hamper productivity, lower morale, cause inappropriate behaviors if poorly handled. Conflicts are useful when they Raise important but unaddressed problems Motivate people to attend to them Help people learn how to recognize and benefit from differences

3 Things that provoke workplace conflicts
Poor communications, employees surprised by new decisions, don’t understand reasons for decisions, come to distrust supervisors Alignment of resources doesn’t match work expectations, disagreement about who does what Personal differences, conflicting values and actions, dislike of aspects of others (that we don’t like in ourselves) Abuses of power, authoritarianism Inconsistent or uninformed leadership, passing the buck, repeated poor handling of an issue, managers don’t understand the jobs of subordinates.

4 Ways People Deal with Conflicts
Avoid or ignore it. May worsen conflict over time. Accommodate: give in to others. May be useful when you know you will have a better opportunity in the near future. Compromise: mutual give-and-take when you want to get beyond the issue Collaborate: seek ways of working together for mutual goals without trying to solve issue Compete: Try to get your way, expressing strong convictions about your position, seeking to persuade others. May include efforts to discredit opposition. Warfare: polarizing the conflict, using formal and informal power to undermine opposition and gain control of organizational resources.

5 Conflict Management in increasing order of difficulty
Recognize that some differences are useful and always present Prevent initiation of conflicts by developing clear policies Set limits on ways conflict may be expressed Help individuals understand triggering factors and alternative responses Help individuals find different ways of coping with consequences of conflicts Resolve basic issues underlying the conflict

6 Supervisory Actions to Minimize Conflicts
Keep current on job descriptions, making sure that roles don’t conflict and no tasks fall into cracks Build positive relationships with staff, meet with them regularly, ask about accomplishments and challenges Get regular status reports, including needs and planned next steps Provide staff development opportunities on key aspects of work Develop procedures for handling challenges, drawing upon employees’ input Hold regular meetings to communicate status of projects, resources and challenges, new initiatives

7 Steps in Managing Conflicts
Know what you don’t like in yourself, and recognize that we react negatively to those things in others. Stop arguing, move to discussion between adults Manage yourself in interactions. Speak calmly even if other doesn’t. Maintain eye contact. Move discussion in private room. Allow person time to vent without reacting or interrupting. Check to make sure you have heard their concerns correctly. Ask clarifying questions as appropriate, making no judgments about responses. Clarify where/whether organizational policies touch on issue.

8 Further Steps Identify points where you agree and disagree.
Address the issues, not the person. Rule out personal attacks. Keep focus on the mission and on the future, not the past Listen carefully, respectfully Seek mutual solutions. Ask “what could we do to fix this problem?” If more complaints, go back to previous steps, then ask question again. If possible, identify at least one action that can be done by one or both of you. If not, ask for a cooling off period before meeting again. Could we “agree to disagree?” Seek advice from manager. Consider inviting in mediator if appropriate.

9 Applications Exercise
Analyze a workplace conflict you (or another person) have experienced. Describe the issue, triggers, responses, approach(es) to handling it, consequences, successes and mistakes, lessons learned. Set forth a plan for handling such a situation more effectively in the future. Who should do what, when, how, why? What steps can you take to cultivate the skills to handle conflicts more productively?

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