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What Is Conflict Management?

Conflict management is the use of a variety of techniques to prevent conflict and resolve it when it
arises. In any situation where groups are working together, there is a possibility of conflict, and
taking some steps to address it before it happens can reduce stress and keep members of the
group happier. Workplaces, sports teams, families, and other groups of people can use conflict
management and may choose from a variety of approaches to preventing, identifying, and
handling conflict.

The first step in conflict management is trying to prevent conflict. This can include setting
standards for behavior in group settings and asking people to abide by some guidelines for the
way they interact with each other. Rules may include mandates for respecting space, working to
keep noise levels down, keeping shared areas clean, and so forth. These measures prevent low-
level conflict. They can also allow for rapidly spotting the early warning signs and heading them
off at the pass before a dispute becomes vicious.

One approach involves negotiation, where the parties to a conflict meet with each other and
attempt to work it out on their own. This requires accommodations and collaboration from all
parties to work together on a common goal, identifying the issue at the core of the conflict and
addressing it. The negotiators may agree on a contract with each other or could implement some
simple changes to resolve their conflict and work more harmoniously together.

Sometimes conflict management needs to move to mediation, where a neutral third party
facilitates communication and discussion. This may be necessary because of higher stakes or an
inability to work together in negotiating sessions. Mediators can include coworkers and friends as
well as supervisors and other people in positions of power. It is important to work with
a mediator who will not favor one party or the other, as this can fuel more conflict.

Arbitration is another approach to conflict management. This involves a third party who sits as a
judge, hearing both sides and issuing an opinion. The opinion can include rules for all parties to
follow, such as ordering a coworker who is bothering another to keep contacts purely professional
and to only approach the colleague in the presence of witnesses. Arbitration can be necessary
when a conflict appears intractable and the parties are incapable of negotiating or mediating to
resolve the situation. This option tends to be less favored, as the parties may emerge from
arbitration with feelings of resentment or frustration

Conflict Management Skills Critical to Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Published in Women As Managers and Business People Magazine
Author: Michelle D. Gladieux

What is conflict management?

Conflict management is a communication process that allows a solution when conflicts arise at work. This
communication process has to be initiated by someone. If you aspire to greater career success, YOU should
initiate the process. Conflict management involves metamorphosis: destructive emotional states evolve into
constructive emotional states through a problem-solving process that allows you to better yourself, your
employees, and the climate in your organization. Many participants in my conflict resolution seminars comment to
me that once they’ve successfully worked through an impasse or uncomfortable situation with a co-worker, the
work relationship grows stronger and subsequent conflicts are more easily managed.

Why should I build my conflict management skills?

A manager with conflict communication skills is at an optimal position to improve company operations and
workflow. The manager without conflict handling skills typically does more harm than good when she attempts to
mediate disagreements.

Seek to build problem-solving skills. Keep in mind that with each educated attempt at managing conflict, you’ll see
your skills improving - and so will your boss.

Workplace Conflict

Conflict is dysfunctional in the workplace.

It doesn’t have to be. The cost of conflict and the quality of the outcomes associated with it depend on your skill as
a communicator, problem-solver, and mediator.

Conflict represents communication breakdown.

Well, perhaps initially it does. Remember our definition - changing destructive emotional states into constructive
states? Constructive communication means clarifying issues. I’m always amazed at the number of conflicts that
dissolve as I work with clients and ask them to clarify their concerns and position as disputants. Often times, the
miscommunication of information is the only conflict that exists.

Avoid the conflict and it will eventually go away.

Too good to be true. Simply put, conflicts escalate if ignored. Avoidance is ineffective.

ALL conflicts can be resolved.

Not all conflicts can be resolved to all involved parties’ satisfaction. But MOST conflicts can be managed. If you
choose not to manage effectively when conflict arises by confronting the problem, absenteeism and voluntary
turnover can be the result.

Conflict always results in a winner and a loser.

Dealing with conflict effectively can be WIN-WIN, if you use the following problem-solving steps. Remember -
here’s where it falls on your shoulders as a leader.

A-E-I-O-U Model of Managing Conflict:

A - Assume the other person means well. Announce this as you begin facilitating the problem-solving process of

E - Express your specific concern. If you’re mediating, invite each disputant to take a few minutes to clarify their
specific worries and problems.

I - Identify the outcome each party wants to achieve. Here’s where compromise may occur naturally. Or, by this
point, you may find that all that was needed was a good dose of active listening to clarify misunderstandings.

O - Outcomes - If you can’t get one disputant to see things from the other’s perspective, use some selling skills.
What’s in it for them if they agree to compromise or accommodate? Don’t forget one of the most powerful
motivators is simply recognition. “Thanks, I appreciate your flexibility with this issue. I owe you one.” goes a long
way toward harmony.

U - Understand the solution mutually. You and the involved parties have several alternatives to choose from in any
problem situation. Choose one that seems reasonable to both parties and implement it. Follow up and repeat this
process until one alternative offers satisfactory progress toward resolution.

When dealing with conflict

DO separate the person from the problem in your own mind. Acknowledge that there are some positive intentions
related to the disputant’s interest or position.
DO prepare some proposals and constructive statements ahead of time, before the meeting occurs.

DO create an environment conducive to conflict resolution. Give the problem and the employees involved your
complete, undivided and uninterrupted attention.

DO clarify misunderstandings using active listening skills. “What I hear you saying . . .” “Am I correct when I say
that your biggest concern is . . .” Many conflicts are simply the result of faulty or rushed communication.

DO help the conflicting employees understand one another’s goals and intentions.