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Conflict is actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) to individuals. Conflict as a concept can help explain many aspects of social life such as social disagreement, conflicts of interests, and fights between individuals, groups, or organizations. In political terms, "conflict" can refer to wars, revolutions or other struggles, which may involve the use of force as in the term armed conflict. Without proper social arrangement or resolution, conflicts in social settings can result in stress or tensions among stakeholders. When an interpersonal conflict does occur, its effect is often broader than two individuals involved, and can affect many associate individuals and relationships, in more or less adverse and sometimes even way. Conflict as taught for graduate and professional work in conflict resolution (which can be win-win, where both parties get what they want, win-lose where one party gets what they want, or lose-lose where both parties don't get what they want) commonly has the definition: "when two or more parties, with perceived incompatible goals, seek to undermine each other's goal-seeking capability". A clash of interests, values, actions or directions often sparks a conflict. Conflicts refer to the existence of that clash. Psychologically, a conflict exists when the reduction of one motivating stimulus involves an increase in another, so that a new adjustment is demanded. The word is applicable from the instant that the clash occurs. Even when we say that there is a potential conflict we are implying that there is Project Management 1 Conflict
already a conflict of direction even though a clash may not yet have occurred.
Phases of conflict:
Prelude to Conflict: Variables that make conflict possible between those involved Triggering Event: A particular event, such as criticism which creates the conflict Initiation Phase: Occurs when at least one person makes it known to the other that a conflict exists Differentiation Phase: Parties raise the conflict issues and pursue reasons for the varying positions Integration stage / Resolution: Parties acknowledge common grounds and explore possibilities to move towards a solution
Clarifying Confusion about Conflict:
Conflict is when two or more values, perspectives and opinions are contradictory in nature and haven't been aligned or agreed about yet, including: 1. Within yourself when you're not living according to your values 2. When your values and perspectives are threatened. 3. Discomfort from fear of the unknown or from lack of fulfillment. Conflict is inevitable and often good, for example, good teams always go through a "form, storm, norm and perform" period. Getting the most out of diversity means often-contradictory values, perspectives Project Management 2 Conflict
Conflict is often needed. It 1. Helps to raise and address problems. 2. Energizes work to be on the most appropriate issues. 3. Helps people "be real", for example, it motivates them to participate. 4. Helps people learn how to recognize and benefit from their differences. Conflict is not the same as discomfort. The conflict isn't the problem it is when conflict is poorly managed that is the problem. Conflict is a problem when it 1. Hampers productivity. 2. Lowers morale. 3. Causes more and continued conflicts. 4. Causes inappropriate behaviors.
Types of Conflict:
By evaluating a conflict according to the five categories below relationship, data, interest, structural and value we can begin to determine the causes of a conflict and design resolution strategies that will have a higher probability of success. Relationship Conflicts
Relationship conflicts occur because of the presence of strong negative emotions, misperceptions or stereotypes, poor communication or miscommunication, or repetitive negative behaviors. Relationship problems often fuel disputes and lead to an unnecessary escalating spiral of destructive conflict. Supporting the safe
and balanced expression of perspectives and emotions for acknowledgment (not agreement) is one effective approach to managing relational conflict. Data Conflicts Data conflicts occur when people lack information necessary to make wise decisions, are misinformed, disagree on which data is relevant, interpret information differently, or have competing assessment procedures. Some data conflicts may be unnecessary since they are caused by poor communication between the people in conflict. Other data conflicts may be genuine incompatibilities associated with data collection, interpretation or communication. Most data conflicts will have "data solutions." Interest Conflicts Interest conflicts are caused by competition over perceived incompatible needs. Conflicts of interest result when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her needs, the needs and interests of an opponent must be sacrificed. Interest-based conflict will commonly be expressed in positional terms. A variety of interests and intentions underlie and motivate positions in negotiation and must Project Management 4 Conflict
be addressed for maximized resolution. Interest-based conflicts may occur over substantive issues (such as money, physical resources, time, etc.); procedural issues (the way the dispute is to be resolved); and psychological issues (perceptions of trust, fairness, desire for participation, respect, etc.). For an interest-based dispute to be resolved, parties must be assisted to define and express their individual interests so that all of these interests may be jointly addressed. Interest-based conflict is best resolved through the maximizing integration of the parties' respective interests, positive intentions and desired experiential outcomes.
Structural Conflicts Structural conflicts are caused by forces external to the people in dispute. Limited physical resources or authority, geographic constraints (distance or proximity), time (too little or too much), organizational changes, and so forth can make structural conflict seem like a crisis. It can be helpful to assist parties in conflict to appreciate the external forces and constraints bearing upon them. Structural conflicts will often have structural solutions. Parties' appreciation that a conflict has an external source can have the effect of them coming to jointly address the imposed difficulties. Value Conflicts Value conflicts are caused by perceived or actual incompatible belief systems. Values are beliefs that people use to give meaning to their lives. Values explain what is "good" or "bad," "right" or "wrong," "just" or "unjust." Differing values need not cause conflict. People can live together in harmony with different value systems. Value disputes arise Project Management 5 Conflict
only when people attempt to force one set of values on others or lay claim to exclusive value systems that do not allow for divergent beliefs. It is of no use to try to change value and belief systems during relatively short and strategic mediation interventions. It can, however, be helpful to support each participant's expression of their values and beliefs for acknowledgment by the other party.
Types of Managerial Actions that Cause Workplace Conflicts:
1. Poor communications a. Employees experience continuing surprises, they aren't informed of new decisions, programs, etc. b. Employees don't understand reasons for decisions, they aren't involved in decision making. c. As a result, employees trust the "rumor mill" more than management. 2. The alignment or the amount of resources is insufficient. There is
a. Disagreement about "who does what". b. Stress from working with inadequate resources. 3. "Personal chemistry", including conflicting values or actions among managers and employees, for example a. Strong personal natures don't match. b. We often don't like in others what we don't like in ourselves. 4. Leadership problems, including inconsistent, missing, too strong or uninformed leadership (at any level in the organization), evidenced by a. Avoiding conflict, "passing the buck" with little follow-through on decisions. b. Employees see the same continued issues in the workplace. c. Supervisors don't understand the jobs of their subordinates.
Key Managerial Actions / Structures to Minimize Conflicts:
1. Regularly review job descriptions. Get your employee's input to them. Write down and date job descriptions. Ensure a. Job roles don't conflict. b. No tasks "fall in a crack".
2. Intentionally build relationships with all subordinates. a. Meet at least once a month alone with them in office. b. Ask about accomplishments, challenges and issues. 3. Get regular, written status reports and includes a. Accomplishments. b. Currents issues and needs from management. c. Plans for the upcoming period. 4. Conduct basic training about a. Interpersonal communications. b. Conflict management. c. Delegation. 5. Develop procedures for routine tasks and include the employees' input. a. Have employees write procedures when possible and appropriate. b. Get employees' review of the procedures.
c. Distribute the procedures. d. Train employees about the procedures. 6. Regularly hold management meetings, for example, every month, to communicate new initiatives and status of current programs. Project Management 8 Conflict
7. Consider an anonymous suggestion box in which employees can provide suggestions.
When personal conflict leads to frustration and loss of efficiency, counseling may prove to be a helpful antidote. Although few organizations can afford the luxury of having professional counselors on the staff, given some training, managers may be able to perform this function. Nondirective counseling, or "listening with understanding", is little more than being a good listener something every manager should be. Sometimes the simple process of being able to vent one's feelings that is, to express them to a concerned and understanding listener, is enough to relieve frustration and make it possible for the frustrated individual to advance to a problem solving frame of mind, better able to cope with a personal difficulty that is affecting his work adversely. The nondirective approach is one effective way for managers to deal with frustrated subordinates and co-workers. There is other more direct and more diagnostic ways that might be used in appropriate circumstances. The great strength of the nondirective approach (nondirective counseling is based on the client centered therapy of Carl Rogers),
however, lies in its simplicity, its effectiveness, and the fact that it deliberately avoids the manager-counselor's diagnosing and interpreting emotional problems, which would call for special psychological training. No one has ever been harmed by being listened Project Management 9 Conflict
to sympathetically and understandingly. On the contrary, this approach has helped many people to cope with problems that were interfering with their effectiveness on the job.
Ways People Deal With Conflict:
There is no one best way to deal with conflict. It depends on the current situation. Here are the major ways that people use to deal with conflict. 1. Avoid it. Pretend it is not there or ignore it. a. Use it when it simply is not worth the effort to argue. Usually this approach tends to worsen the conflict over time. 2. Accommodate it. Give in to others, sometimes to the extent that you compromise yourself. a. Use this approach very sparingly and infrequently, for example, in situations when you know that you will have another more useful approach in the very near future. Usually this approach tends to worsen the conflict over time, and causes conflicts within you. 3. Competing. Work to get your way, rather than clarifying and addressing the issue. Competitors love accommodators. a. Use when you have a very strong conviction about your position.
4. Compromising. Mutual give and take. a. Use when the goal is to get past the issue and move on. 5. Collaborating. Focus on working together. a. Use when the goal is to meet as many current needs as possible by using mutual resources. This approach sometimes raises new mutual needs. b. Use when the goal is to cultivate ownership and commitment.
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