Sunday, July 19, 2015

Conflict Resolution for Managers: Make conflict management a strategic priority

Conflict Resolution for Managers: How managers can make conflict management a strategic priority

Mediate2go: Conflict Resolution for Managers: Make conflict management a strategic priority

Introduction - Conflict Management in the Workplace

Managers reported spending 18% to 26% of their time dealing with conflict in the workplace (Thomas and Schmidt, 1976). Enormous investment with resources and time are spent dealing with conflict in the workplace. Middle managers are often the frontline and first responders toward attempting to resolve employee conflict. The effects of conflict not only take time from the staff involved, but also contribute to increasing sick days/absence, decreasing morale, creating a negative culture, and impeding efficiency and productivity. Nonetheless, not all conflict in the workplace is negative (see our blog on how conflict is good for business and innovation. Conflict can be productive and promote growth at all levels. Accordingly, conflict can be constructive and resolve a number of issues by producing high quality decisions and result in learning and innovation

To make conflict management a strategic priority, organizational leadership must do some preparation to better inform themselves, and to use the knowledge gained to take action. In order to make conflict management a strategic priority, agencies can do the following.
Mediate2go: Conflict Resolution for Managers: Make conflict management a strategic priority

Steps to make conflict management a strategic priority

Define conflict in the workplace

In order for the workplace to understand conflict; all employees must be conflict literate. Again, not all conflict is bad, and employees must come to an understanding that conflict can be positive and productive. Our blogs about conflict escalation and taking self leadership in conflict explain how to make positive a good thing.

Take Action: 

In the next team meeting, put conflict management as an agenda item for discussion, allocate 5-10 minutes to have a general discussion. A goal for the discussion could be developing a list of negative and positive conflicts in the workplace, and further analyzing what are advantages and disadvantages of conflict in the work place. Depending on the energy of conversation, propose continuing the discussion of conflict management at the next team meeting. Recommend that your team read the blog on conflict management styles.

Investing in conflict management training

There are a number of trainings and personality tests that can be done in the workplace to help inform employees about their conflict management style and personality as it relates to conflict. Generally these assessments have a cost, and following the training, much of the knowledge gained is lost, because managers do not utilize the learning into supervision, appraisals and team meetings. Nevertheless, managers need to take an active role and utilize the learning to identify the employees style of conflict, and to develop a common framework for their team. Ask for the help of a conflict resolution expert, coach or mediator to help integrate conflict management into your organizational processes.

Take Action:  

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is an assessment tool that can be used to identify the different styles of conflict among staff. The TKI is a self-reported assessment that allows employees to discover whether they are overusing or under using one or more of five conflict- handling modes: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. By discussing the different conflict styles, employees will begin to frame and define their conflict styles, and relate it to the workplace. Starting with such a framework will help increase knowledge with employees about conflict styles. We’ve developed an easy to read blog with songs to demonstrate each conflict management style.

Note: If your organization has limited funding, contact a mediator or conflict coach in the area who might be able to provide training at a discounted rate.           

Acknowledge and measure on conflict skills:

Managers need to play an active role by identifying, building, and coaching conflict management styles and improved performance with staff. Measurement and indicators are incredibly important to determine growth and opportunity. Managers can utilize assessments, such as TKI to bring to light different conflict-handling modes, and to develop competencies and goals around utilizing the styles. Accountability is important for growth, so the manager should continue to follow through and measure performance. The TKI should be used as a ‘carrot’ as opposed to a ‘stick’. Employees need positive encouragement and coaching/supervision sessions to ensure they are on the right track.

Take Action: 

If the team has gone through a TKI assessment, review individual TKI reports with staff. Engage in a discussion about their thoughts concerning the report, and develop an action plan for growth. The employee must be confident and informed about the items and skills they need to work on. The manager can help develop indicators and goals to measure performance to determine growth. In the event that a TKI assessment is not available, the manager can openly discuss conflict styles in the workplace, and identify general positive or negative challenges that the staff person is facing. Read this blog as a resource.

Making conflict management a strategic priority

In a workplace setting where there is an absence of a positive culture of conflict, it would be difficult for a manager to involve top management to add conflict management as a strategic priority right away. If managers decide to ‘pilot’ a positive conflict culture on their team, there will be positive outcomes and measures that stand out compared to other departments. Making conflict management a goal for a team will result in high performance. Moreover, encouraging and fostering a positive conflict culture that addresses each level of conflict will help contribute to reducing sick days and absenteeism, increase morale, create a vibrant positive culture, and increase efficiency and productivity.  These outcomes will draw attention to the team, and managers will have better evidence for top managers to consider making a conflict management a strategic priority.

Take Action:  

It is important for high performing and positive conflict management teams to lead. Although top management may not initially be receptive to making conflict management a priority, managers have a great opportunity to demonstrate the positive outcomes from their teams that have a strong conflict management approach. Measurement will be an important influencer to making a good argument with top management. In order to ensure that the argument is strong, managers must define conflict on their team, invest in conflict training, acknowledge and measure conflict skills, and make their team stand with their positive outcomes of being a positive conflict team. Check out a list of professionals in your area that may provide conflict resolution training.

Evan - Mediate2go Public Health Blogger

For the past 10 years, Evan Muller-Cheng has worked in a variety of community based and social service settings that ranged from Police Services, Federal and Municipal governments, and non-profits. Evan has a graduate degree from The University of Ottawa in Criminology, and a Master’s of Health Administration at the University of Toronto. Currently, Evan is the Manager of Community Initiatives with Agincourt Community Services Association (ACSA). Specifically, Evan’s portfolio includes overseeing a community centre, food security programming, a Scarborough youth in conflict with the law program, and overseeing over 30 communities based, youth based social enterprise, and a micro grant distribution program. For fun, Evan bikes, cooks and makes everyone smile at ACSA.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Songs about Conflict Management Styles

Songs about Conflict Management Styles

Songs about Conflict Management Styles - Introduction

The conflict management styles are divided into 5 groups that represent different ways of addressing or failing to address conflict. To determine your conflict management style, you need to complete the TKI instrument. To fully understand the conflict management style, see our blog here.

Song about the Conflict Management Style - Avoidance

Maroon 5 - Daylight signifies the avoidance conflict management style. Even though someone might understand that conflict issues have not been resolved, they choose to ignore it, or deny the importance of resolving it. This song is all about avoiding conflict for one more night. Read more about avoidance.

Song about the Conflict Management Style - Accommodating

Tyler Farr - Suffer In Peace signifies the accomodating conflict management style. Although accommodation might temporarily create a sense of harmony, it is only a short term solution, and might lead to a sense of injustice or suffering, given that someone who accommodates is ignoring their needs. Read more about accomodating.

Song about the Conflict Management Style - Competing

Queen's - We Are The Champions signifies the competing conflict management style. Although competition can push us towards excellence, it can also lead to destructive conflict escalation when it comes to interpersonal issues. Read more about competing.

Song about the Conflict Management Style - Compromising

Rachel Platten - Fight Song signifies the compromising conflict management style. Although compromise help parties partially resolve their conflict, each person has given up something in order for the parties to reach that point. This means compromise doesn't lead to an ideal outcome. Read more about compromising.

Song about the Conflict Management Style - Collaboration

Cold Play - Let's Talk signifies the collaboration conflict management style. Collaboration is the ideal style in many circumstances, given that both parties can satisfy both of their needs simultaneously. Read more about collaborating.

Conflict Management Styles

Conflict Management Styles

Conflict Management Definition

Conflict management is the process of limiting the negative aspects of conflict while increasing the positive aspects of conflict (Wikipedia). Often, conflict is viewed as negative interactions that are destructive to relationships (read about Why do we stay in destructive relationships?). However, if conflict is managed effectively, it can have a positive impact on people, relationships and conflict can even be good for business.

Conflict Management Styles Blog - Introduction

I'm dealing with a conflict. What should I do?

This is the essential question of any person who is seeking to resolve a conflict in their life.
Most conflicts have numerous possible outcomes.  For most of us, however, it may seem like there is only one choice, or maybe a handful of choices.  Sometimes none of them are very appealing.  For the purposes of this post, I assume mainly that we are talking about interpersonal conflicts, perhaps with friends, co-workers (see also Workplace Conflict), or family members (see also Family Fights), and particularly ones that are non-violent or personally threatening in nature. Please always remember to contact the appropriate authorities if you are in any personal danger. See also, what to do if you are in a destructive relationship.

This blog post is based around the Thomas-Kilmann theory of conflict resolution.  You can read more about it here. Also, check out our blog on Songs about Conflict Management Styles and Songs about Conflict.

Conflict Management Styles - The TKI Model

The conflict management styles are divided into 5 groups that represent different ways of addressing or failing to address conflict. To determine your conflict management style, you need to complete the TKI instrument.

The context can help determine the right strategy to approach, manage and resolve the conflict. However, across situations, you may consider the style of conflict management, such as the styles outlined by the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument. These styles are “Competing (assertive, uncooperative), Avoiding (unassertive, uncooperative), Accommodating (unassertive, cooperative), Collaborating (assertive, cooperative), and Compromising (intermediate assertiveness and cooperativeness)” (Wikipedia).

Even if you do not complete the assessment, the styles provide a great deal of insights into the ways people manage conflict. If you do complete the instrument, it is designed to improve your self-awareness in conflict situations.

Over time, people may see their conflict management style change over time or even situation. You might be highly effective at managing conflict with your partner, but have difficulty managing conflict in the workplace. The different styles are not necessarily good or bad, unless you need to balance your styles more appropriately. If you consider yourself a ‘yes man’, then you might be sacrificing your needs over others.

If you don’t change your conflict management style, then your style might lead you feel resentful, or it might even negatively impact your self esteem. Each style has advantages and disadvantages based on the circumstances and the levels of conflict. Some advantages might appear to be negative, but they might be necessary. For example, the competing style might appear to be negative, but might be necessary in cases when you cannot accommodate others in any way, like in matters of personal safety.

Conflict Management Style - Avoidance

A first step in any conflict can just be to confront the binary of action versus inaction.  Avoidance is one method of conflict management.  There may be times when avoidance is the most appropriate solution.  This may apply in “pick your battles”- type situations, such as where another person is posturing or being antagonistic for reasons or results that ultimately will not affect you. If we assume, however, that the other parties have a meaningful relationship with you, avoiding a problem between you is not typically a great idea.  Sometimes it leads to the problem festering, or blaming each other, especially if no one takes responsibility (see also Self-Leadership in Conflict Resolution). The results can be harmful and damaging (see also Conflict Escalation).

Considering that avoidance typically requires the least physical or mental effort, it is easy to allow avoidance to set in unconsciously.  If there is a particular issue that needs to be addressed, ask yourself how long it has gone unaddressed.  Is there anything in particular you are waiting on? Is it possible to take control of the situation, or do you require additional input? Do you need the help of a conflict coach to try to better understand the situation? Is it a matter of not wanting to move forward (see also How to Move On), or a matter of truly not being able to? If the latter, could it ever get to the point of being addressable or resolvable?

Finally, even if the proper solution to a conflict is avoidance, it may be helpful to reconcile with yourself why this is the case.  Perhaps you need to tell yourself once-and-for-all that it isn’t worth worrying about, and thus the problem can be left in the past. In other words, you need to set some interpersonal and personal boundaries to resolve conflict. Perhaps this may mean signaling this to others: “I’m sorry, but really don’t feel this is my responsibility.”; “I am not willing to move ahead with this.”  Acknowledging to yourself that this is an appropriate solution may also help you move past the conflict.

Conflict Management Style - Accommodating

When you accommodate someone else, you give in and allow the other party to have their way. By definition, it involves some sort of forfeiture of your position (see also Negotiation Defined). This is not necessarily a bad thing, and, like avoiding, accommodation can be of practical use. Think carefully about whether this matter is a battle worth fighting.  One upside may be that you can maintain a relationship with someone who cares far more about the conflict than you do, or who may perceive the matter to be more important than you do.

Downsides can include feelings of resentment or dislike towards the other party.  Also, if accommodation is your go-to tactic, you run the risk of being taken advantage of over a longer period or for a series of conflicts with the same person.  If the stakes in the conflict are very high from your perspective, accommodating and admitting defeat is likely not a good idea.

Conflict Management Style - Competing

A competitive stance is the opposite of accommodation, where you refuse to give in. This is a good style to use when the issue is very important to you and when the outcome is significant.  A good example might be enforcing your legal rights if someone has harmed you or rather obviously broken an agreement (See Contract Negotiation Tips).

Being overly competitive has its risks as well. It could earn you or your organization a reputation for being uncooperative or petty.  Insisting on a competitive stance can also lead to Pyrrhic victories, where the cost of “winning” is so great that no real benefit is obtained for anyone.

Conflict Management Style - Compromising

A compromise necessarily entails the parties’ failing to fulfill what they each truly want, and instead forego some aspects of their intended result to appease the other.  This can be viewed as a partial loss from the perspective of both sides.  It can be appropriate when more time or information is needed to reach a final resolution, when there is no reasonable prospect of collaboration, or when the two parties cannot agree and yet must work together.

The problem with compromising is that it can become a crutch, an easy-way to (perhaps begrudgingly) move forward without considering better options. Parties that find themselves continuously compromising should beware of developing this habit. It can also lead to the parties repeatedly misleading others (or even themselves) about their true expectations or needs, because they count on being let down.

Conflict Management Style - Collaboration

Collaboration is in many cases a desirable outcome.  It results in “win-win” scenarios and can help all parties move forward content. It can also potentially lead to creative solutions that neither side had considered before.  Sometimes, the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.

Dangers with collaboration include the fact that the parties typically must trust each other enough to reach out and share the burden of the conflict (see How to Build Trust).  This may not even be possible if, for example, there is a duty of confidentiality owed to someone involved.  There also may not be enough time or resources available for this method to be practical.

Conflict Management Style - Conclusion

These are the five general styles of the Thomas-Killmann model.  Note that any of these styles can shift into the other modes depending on circumstances. 

Dan Lawlor - Mediate2go Editor and Blogger

Dan Lawlor is a Mediate to Go Blogger focused on estates and commercial dispute resolution. Dan is a graduate of McGill University's Faculty of Law with interests in conflict resolution, business law and writing. He played an important role as a director with Mediation at McGill, building connections with the community to improve outreach. Currently he is an Associate Lawyer with Campbell Mihailovich Uggenti LLP in Hamilton, Ontario. Dan loves team sports, reading, and traveling.

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