Conflict management is a key skill for any manager to possess. It is unrealistic to expect to never have to deal with conflict as a manager and hence preparing for when it does occur is key. Below we have outlined a step-by-step guide to resolving conflict, some different resolution styles, some key tips to remember and some models developed for conflict management. Remember, all conflicts are different and hence a different approach may be appropriate each time.
Resolving Styles - Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)
Competing – The goal of this technique is to achieve your goals, regardless of the other party. This aggressive approach can lead to further conflict; however, it is appropriate when a decision needs to be made.
Accommodating – This technique accepts you may have to concede your position in order for the other party to get what they wanted. Often what the other party wanted will work against your goals, however, the best outcome for the organisation must come first. This is also an excellent technique for maintaining relationships.
Avoiding – Avoiding the issue is a short-term solution when the issue is not deemed to be important or you don’t believe you have a chance of winning. This may seem like a poor technique, but, when appropriate, it is a good way of not wasting resources.
Collaborating – This is where communication is used to ensure both parties are satisfied and is generally believed to be the most productive way to solve a conflict. This may be time-consuming and requires a lot of trust but can give the best results.
Compromising – In this scenario neither party achieves what they were aiming for. This may be due to a lack of resources, unrealistic targets or two opposing views, where a middle ground cannot be found.
Participants choose responses from 30 pairs of statements to determine which of the resolving styles best describes them. Each style may be more appropriate in certain situations, therefore once a participant knows which style they commonly use, they can determine when they can use the other styles more often.
Mediation is a technique where a neutral third party joins a discussion to help find a solution and agreement between the two parties. The most important role of the mediator is to remain impartial throughout the dialogue, leading it towards a conclusion but never joining a side. They can also set a free and open environment for the discussion, set ground rules, bring new information to both parties and identify the key issues present.
Dispute Resolution Programme
Often, having a formal process for resolving disputes can be the most effective method. This process must be followed when a dispute arises and, although it may seem rigid, its simplicity can lead to a fast and effective resolution. The programme should ensure all necessary parties are involved in the discussion, that current practices and possible alternatives have all been considered and feedback mechanisms are in place to assess the success of resolution.
The Interest-Based Relational Approach
The IBR approach, developed by Fisher and Ury in ‘Getting to Yes’ (1981), helps to avoid the negative consequences of conflict, such as raised voices, aggressive body language and arguments. This helps to build mutual respect and understanding, hence resolving conflict in a cooperative way. The approach is based on the idea that your role as a manager is not simply to resolve conflict but to ensure that team members feel respected and understood, and that you appreciate their differences. Your aim, as a manager, is to help each side understand the other side’s position. The author’s outline the following six steps to follow:
1. Good relationships are a priority
2. Separate people from problems
3. Listen carefully to different interests
4. Listen first, talk second
5. Set out the ‘facts’
6. Explore options together
Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. (1991). Getting to Yes. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1991. Print.