Managing Conflict How to Manage Interpersonal Conflict at Work. Overview. Leading Effectively Webinar Series

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1 Leading Effectively Webinar Series Managing Conflict ow to Manage Interpersonal Conflict at Work Talula Cartwright Center for Creative Leadership Davida Sharpe Center for Creative Leadership Overview The definition of conflict Why managing conflict is important 5 styles of conflict management 7 constructive approaches to management The nature of a win-win strategy People with effective conflict management behaviors were also those with leadership behaviors deemed effective by supervisors, peers and direct reports. 1

2 Conflict: Any situation in which people have incompatible goals, interests, principles or feelings Why is managing conflict important? Path of Conflict Precipitating Event and/or ot Buttons Initiate Conflict Constructive Responses Behaviors that keep conflict to a minimum Destructive Responses Behaviors that escalate or prolong conflict Task-focused Conflict Focus on task and problem solving Positive affect Tension decreases Group functioning improves Person-focused Conflict Focus on personalities Negative emotions (anger, frustration) Tension increases Group functioning decreases Conflict De-escalates Conflict Escalates 2

3 Personal Assessment Conflict Management Begins Inside the Leader Sharpen Your Saw What Messages Did You Receive About Conflict? Don t let people walk all over you. Stand up for your rights. Fight to the bitter end. Avoid fighting. It s not nice to be angry. idden Impact on Conflicts Your ot Buttons Unresolved past conflicts Strong needs Early commandments Fears Personality traits 3

4 What Are ot Buttons? Intense emotional reactions to specific people, events, or situations that are caused by personal vulnerabilities Consequences of past hurts more than present reality Examples of ot Buttons Unreliable Unappreciative Micro-managing Abrasive ostile Overly analytical Aloof Self-centered Untrustworthy Managing Yourself Give up analyzing who is right and wrong Recognize the relativity and roots of your viewpoint Be willing to re-examine (and change?) your beliefs about the conflict 4

5 Managing Yourself Once you ve got yourself under control... then what? Constructive and Destructive Conflict Behaviors Path of Conflict Precipitating Event and/or ot Buttons Initiate Conflict Constructive Responses Behaviors that keep conflict to a minimum Destructive Responses Behaviors that escalate or prolong conflict Task-focused Conflict Focus on task and problem solving Positive affect Tension decreases Group functioning improves Person-focused Conflict Focus on personalities Negative emotions (anger, frustration) Tension increases Group functioning decreases Conflict De-escalates Conflict Escalates 5

6 Constructive Responses Behaviors that research demonstrates to be highly effective in keeping the harmful effects of conflict to a minimum Constructive responses emphasize: task-completion and focus on problem-solving creative problem solving and focus on exchange of ideas expression of positive emotions and optimism not provoking the other person Constructive Responses Perspective Taking Imagines what the other person is thinking and feeling Tries to understand how things look from that person s perspective Creating Solutions Attempts to generate creative solutions Brainstorms with the other person to create new ideas Expressing Emotions Talks honestly and directly to the other person Directly communicates their feelings at the time Constructive Responses Reaching Out Tries to repair the emotional damage caused by the conflict Makes the first move to get the communication started again Reflective Thinking Analyzes the situation to determine the best course of action Reflects on the best way to proceed Delay Responding Delays responding until the situation has settled down Lets things calm down before proceeding 6

7 Constructive Responses Adapting Tries to stay flexible and optimistic Tries to make the best of the situation Typical Outcomes of Constructive Responses Win-win solutions Open and honest communication of feelings Both parties needs are met Non-judgmental actions Not sticking adamantly to one position Actively resolving conflict (not allowing conflict to continue) Thoughtful responses (not impulsive) Team performance improves Destructive Responses Behaviors that research has demonstrated to escalate or prolong conflict Destructive responses emphasize: negative expression of emotions trying to win no matter what lack of respect for the other person avoiding conflict rather than facing it 7

8 Examples of Destructive Responses Winning Argues vigorously for their own position Tries to win at all costs Displaying Anger Raises their own voice Uses harsh, angry words Demeaning Others Rolls their eyes when the other person speaks Is sarcastic towards that person Examples of Destructive Responses Retaliating Tries to get even Passively obstructs the other person Acts distant and aloof toward that person Keeps as much distance as possible from that person Yielding Lets the other person have their way in order to avoid further conflict Gives in to the other person just to make life easier all the way around Examples of Destructive Responses iding Emotions ides their true feelings Feels upset but doesn t show it Self-Criticizing Is critical of self for not handling the conflict better Replays the incident over and over in their mind 8

9 Typical Outcomes of Destructive Responses Feelings of anger and frustration Judgmental actions Getting even and keeping score Other party does not have needs met Closed channels of communication Refusing to deal with issues Decreased self-confidence Tasks not completed Team performance decreases Active and Passive Responses to Conflict Research further demonstrates the usefulness of classifying conflict-related responses into two additional categories Active Active behaviors involve overt responses, taking action, or making an effort. Outcome can be either constructive or destructive. Passive Passive behaviors involve withholding a response, not taking action, or not making an effort. Outcome can be either constructive or destructive. Conflict Response Categories Constructive Destructive Active Perspective Taking Creating Solutions Expressing Emotions Reaching Out Winning at All Costs Displaying Anger Demeaning Others Retaliating Passive Reflective Thinking Delay Responding Adapting Yielding iding Emotions Self-criticizing 9

10 Examining Your Personal Conflict Style Possible Solutions Concern for Others Focus on Team Relationships L Accommodating Compromising Collaborating Dominating Concern for Self-assertiveness Focus on Issues Thomas, K. W., & Kilmann, R.. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. Possible Solutions Concern for Others Focus on Team Relationships L Accommodating Submission Make concessions to cultivate the relationship Collaborating Relationship is more important than the issue Compromising Concern for Self-assertiveness Focus on Issues Dominating Thomas, K. W., & Kilmann, R.. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. 10

11 Concern for Others Focus on Team Relationships Possible Solutions L Collaborating Partnering Team problem-solving approach Develop mutual options based on Accommodating mutual gain Focus on mutual interests not position Compromising Dominating Concern for Self-assertiveness Focus on Issues Thomas, K. W., & Kilmann, R.. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. Concern for Others Focus on Team Relationships Possible Solutions L Accommodating Abdicate Avoid disagreement and pressure Accept their position Compromising Collaborating Dominating Concern for Self-assertiveness Focus on Issues Thomas, K. W., & Kilmann, R.. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. Concern for Others Focus on Team Relationships Possible Solutions Accommodating Compromising Collaborating Dominating Push for your solution Maintain hard position on issues L Concern for Self-assertiveness Focus on Issues Thomas, K. W., & Kilmann, R.. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. 11

12 Possible Solutions Concern for Others Focus on Team Relationships L Accommodating Compromising Collaborating Dominating Concern for Self-assertiveness Focus on Issues Thomas, K. W., & Kilmann, R.. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. Final Summary Prescription for Resolving Conflict andle your emotions Unhook your hot buttons Listen; ask questions Search for common ground Leading Effectively Webinar Series Go to for details about live and on-demand webinars! Contact Tracy Dobbins at with any questions about the series. 12

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