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With Conflict Resolution Nothing is Straightforward and Simple

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conflict

The style of problem solving and conflict resolution is the most important factor in determining group effectiveness. Research has shown that the predominant mode of conflict resolution that characterizes leadership and management groups is the most significant variable in determining whether or not companies are profitable.

The manner in which managers resolve problems and overcome conflict within their organizations may appear of little consequence as long as the problem is solved and the conflict is eliminated. However, managers must understand the group dynamics that impact solutions and their consequences.

There are various modes of conflict resolution that come into play in the workplace. Some define the group by the norms accepted. Other styles of conflict resolution may be appropriate to the circumstances surrounding the problem. Nothing is straightforward and simple.

It is important for managers to understand the complexity of problem solving and conflict resolution. There are specific methods and techniques that managers should use and apply to be consistently effective. However, they should recognize there are other styles of conflict resolution that can be more effective, depending upon the circumstances and the makeup of the individuals involved. Managers must learn to recognize all modes and when they are best applied.

There are a variety of conflict resolution modes that managers will find to be common in the workplace. It should be noted that most groups often act in ways that contain one or more of these styles in their efforts to deal with conflict:

Smoothing and Avoiding

These groups tend to be comprised of accommodating individuals who, when a problem or conflict occurs, will tend to define it in a manner that minimizes the differences between individuals. Their objective is to maintain the status quo within the group. As a whole, this method of conflict resolution is destructive because it does not address the central issues or actually resolve the sources of conflict. Consequently, these issues tend to fester within the group and will emerge later as a larger issue.

The group norms that identify the smoothing and avoiding behavior include individuals who tend to withdraw when attacked in order to avoid conflict. Additionally, individual group members tend to keep their feelings and remarks in check so that they don’t surface. This effectively masks internal conflict and prevents the manager, as well as the group, from identifying the undercurrents that are present.

Confronting and Problem Solving

This form of conflict resolution represents the healthiest behavior. The members of this group tend to be collaborators. They will define the problem relative to the total organization’s needs versus their own. The outcomes of this group are interdependent if the total group benefits from the solution.

The group norms that identify the confronting and problem solving behavior include individuals who feel it is important to bring out and confront the differences of opinion and perspective within the group. They also feel that all solutions to conflict should be open and fair to all involved and to the organization as a whole. The group will tend to arrive at answers and solutions by reason rather than the application of personal power and authority.

Confronting and problem solving behaviors are generally the most effective mode for resolving group conflicts.

Bargaining and Forcing

This form of conflict resolution behavior favors and is beneficial to specific power groups and personal agendas. It takes a winning-at-all-costs slant that positions one group against another. The problems tend to be defined in terms of the stakes of each group. The participants and the atmosphere are confrontational and adversarial. The outcome favors one group at the expense of all others.

The group norms that typify bargaining and forcing behaviors include individuals who will seize the advantage whenever possible and compromise when the advantage is the other group’s. Individuals will tend to maximize the benefits for themselves over the other individual members.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

“Dissent, Even Conflict Is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Employees Handle Conflict

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The natural tendencies of many individuals and other group dynamics can hinder a leader’s ability to be effective in resolving conflict in the group setting. The leader must take the time to observe and then rectify specific behaviors that interfere with conflict resolution.

When problems and issues arise, many individuals have a natural tendency to avoid friction. When that is not possible, they seek to remain uninvolved in its resolution.

Employees may be forced to be part of a group charged with solving a problem, but these individuals are often not happy about it. The fight-or-flight response takes over, and even if they are physically present, they have mentally left the conflict.

When problems do occur leaders must ensure that all viewpoints and perspectives are heard and all alternatives explored. Techniques can be utilized to ensure that all members of the group are included in both the discussion and crafting of an acceptable solution.

Leaders can look for specific behavior patterns in order to determine how employees handle conflict. These patterns may be nonverbal and not readily apparent, but a careful examination will help leaders spotlight the behaviors impeding conflict resolution and enable them to address and rectify the situation.

Related: Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

Such an examination includes looking at:

Alternatives

The first behavioral patterns leaders need to explore are the alternatives that are considered when solving a problem in the group setting. Problems can present themselves and additional conflicts can be created if employees tend to consider only a few potential alternatives.

If leaders observe these patterns, they must engage the group in brainstorming techniques that explore all possible avenues toward resolution. This action fosters creative thinking within the group and provides innovative solutions to eliminate the causes of conflict.

Emphasis

Within some groups, the smoothing and avoiding approach to conflict resolution is predominant, resulting in areas of agreement being overemphasized while leaving areas of disagreement unexplored. This deficiency allows the situation to fester and explode into a bigger problem down the road.

When leaders observe this pattern, they must shift the group’s emphasis to balance areas of agreement with disagreement. All aspects must be fully examined and the alternatives considered before the problem can be adequately resolved.

Disagreement

Leaders need to observe how members respect individual disagreement, as group norms may keep any discordance from being voiced. In other situations, individuals who convey disagreement may be ridiculed, bullied or intimidated so that it is not taken seriously or considered by the group.

Leaders must ensure that all members of the group have an open and equal opportunity to voice any problems they might have and offer valid points and perspectives. Any attempt to quiet opposition will create additional conflict and deeper problems.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

Agreement

There are many criteria that a group can consider in establishing agreement among its members. Some will use a majority vote, while others will arrive at a consensus before moving forward. Some group norms interpret a lack of opposition as agreement.

Leaders should shift the group toward a consensus where all viewpoints are both voiced and considered. All members of the group must be included, especially those who may be reluctant to say anything. Only in this fashion will all viewpoints, options or alternatives be considered.

Openness

In several conflict resolution modes, leaders should be watchful for members “stumping” for a specific viewpoint or perspective rather than inquiring about the potential alternatives available to the group.

Additionally, leaders can observe how actively members listen to each other’s perspectives and whether or not the members respect the input of all individuals. These clues help the leader determine the group’s openness to alternative perspectives.

Leaders must ensure that all perspectives are voiced and respected. The advocacy of one point of view without a full exploration of the facts and all possible solutions should not be tolerated.

Participation

The participation of individual members, their reactions to the group setting, and their involvement with specific issues should be carefully observed. Leaders should pay attention to whether members are apathetic, frustrated, defensive, warm or enthusiastic.

Each of these emotional states will impact both conflict resolution and problem solving. Apathy, frustration and defensive postures can result in faulty or unresolved solutions that will lead to subsequent issues.

Leaders should meet with each employee displaying negative personal attributes in order to determine the causes of their attitudes. In some cases, these attributes can surface because conflict and disagreement are not tolerated. Individuals may feel that their opinions are not respected or wanted. Such difficulties must be addressed if the group is to be effective.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Interaction

The final area that leaders must monitor closely is the interaction of individual members within the group environment. Some of these factors have already been discussed, including individuals who are overly nice and polite and emote only positive feelings.

Group members might too readily agree with one another while suppressing their true thoughts. This indicates that the group is in a destructive conflict resolution mode where suppression dominates and the status quo is maintained.

Leaders who observe these clues must intervene in meetings and take the initiative in order to draw out the true feelings and perspectives of the group. They can effectively do this by using open-ended questions that operate until satisfactory responses are obtained.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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