Opens discussions effectively Establishes a clear and compelling rationale for resolving the conflict.

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1 Managing Conflict Dealing effectively with others in an antagonistic situation; using appropriate interpersonal styles and methods to reduce tension or conflict between two or more people. Key Actions Opens discussions effectively Establishes a clear and compelling rationale for resolving the conflict. Clarifies the current situation Collects information from relevant sources to understand the conflict. Remains open to all sides Objectively views the conflict from all sides. Stays focused on resolution Stays focused on resolving the conflict and avoids personal issues and attacks. Develops others and own ideas Presents and seeks potential solutions or positive courses of action. Initiates action Takes positive action to resolve the conflict in a way that addresses the issue, dissipates the conflict, and maintains the relationship. Closes discussions with clear summaries Summarizes to ensure that all are aware of agreements and required actions. Quick Tips Gain agreement that a conflict exists. Establish the benefits of resolving the conflict. Clarify and focus on the issues, not people s personalities. Keep an open mind. Ask for help and encourage involvement of all parties. If emotions are strong, suggest taking a reflection break before discussing the situation. Make sure everyone involved agrees on the resolution and who will take which actions. Page 1

2 Developmental Activities Self-Directed Observe and take notes on how others in your organization effectively manage conflict. Analyze and write down your usual style when in conflict situations. What might you change to become more effective? Put yourself in the other person s situation and imagine how you would feel and react. If you are a part of the conflict, be sure you are being honest. Ask yourself if there are underlying issues (e.g., personal) contributing to the problem. Write out how you will state your point of view, being careful to avoid sounding preachy or defensive. Remind yourself that conflict situations can be opportunities to strengthen interpersonal relationships and to discover creative alternative approaches. Develop a personal plan to change your conflict resolution style. Read it at least once a week to reinforce your intentions. Make a practice of always looking for points of agreement first. Try to be less judgmental in your everyday dealings with people. Think about all the potential benefits that will result when a conflict is resolved. Identify tasks that can be completed with people s extra time and effort. Partnerships Seek feedback from your peers and staff on your effectiveness in handling interpersonal conflict. Ask what you might do to improve your skills. When expressing differences of opinion, practice speaking in terms of we, us, and ours to emphasize that you are looking for a common ground. Invite someone with whom you are having conflict to meet with you to identify the cause and seek solutions. Observe and listen to all the sides of conflict. Ask a neutral third party to help you and the other person talk through the problem. Take time to hear every person s point of view. If possible, meet with each person individually before bringing everyone together for a discussion. Ask people involved in the conflict for their ideas on how to resolve the issues. Look for areas of overlap and potential for compromise. Page 2

3 Follow up with all parties to make sure they understand the agreement that was reached and the actions that need to be taken. Targeted Assignments Offer your help to two people who are in conflict. Help them to focus on issues and work toward consensus. Offer to role-play a conflict resolution to allow another person to practice effective approaches. Enroll in a mediation class at your local college. Workshops Look for a workshop that addresses the following: Developing mediation skills. Viewing conflicts and differences objectively. Eliciting and supporting other people s ideas. Maintaining a relationship after the conflict. Enhancing communication skills. Readings Books Borisoff, D., & Victor, D. (1998). Conflict management: A communication skills approach (2 nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. The authors discuss their five-step model for handling interpersonal conflicts in the workplace. To give readers an idea of how these steps work, the authors apply this model throughout the book to a variety of real-life situations. Also, they discuss the different forms of communication (verbal, nonverbal, and written) as well as the different styles of communication (gender and cultural). Cloke, K., & Goldsmith, J. (2000). Resolving conflicts at work: A complete guide for everyone on the job. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Written specifically for the workplace, this book takes the reader through eight paths that lead to successful conflict resolution. The authors use their extensive experience with employees in various work settings to supply real-life scenarios and examples of how to manage and resolve conflict. Page 3

4 Van Slyke, E.J. (1999). Listening to conflict: Finding constructive solutions to workplace disputes. New York: AMACOM. According to the author, the key to conflict resolution is empathetic, active listening. In this book he leads the reader toward becoming an objective mediator for workplace disputes. Van Slyke uses numerous exercises and examples to help the reader become a successful conflict manager. Yankelovich, D. (2001). The magic of dialogue: Transforming conflict into cooperation. New York: Simon & Schuster. The Magic of Dialogue is a book about using specific communication techniques to achieve mutually satisfying agreements. Yankelovich outlines 15 tactics for resolving disagreements. Articles Bierck, R. (2001, November). Managing anger. Harvard Management Communication Letter, 4(11), 4 5. By using the communication techniques in this article, readers can turn angry, stressful confrontations into productive opportunities to improve relationships. According to the author, addressing underlying problems, rather than reacting to emotions, enables managers to defuse the anger and avoid future clashes. Coping with conflict. (2000, November). Harvard Management Communication Letter, 3(11), 1 4. Group leaders and facilitators are often called upon to resolve conflict before it disrupts team dynamics. This article explains five intervention methods that can be used to defuse difficult situations and put the team back on track. An inset describes individual and group landmines and how to deal with each one. Eisenhardt, K.M., Kahwajy, J.L., & Bourgeois, L. J. (1997, July/August). How management teams can have a good fight. Harvard Business Review, 75(4), This excellent Harvard Business Review article describes tactics managers can use to encourage productive disagreement that doesn t lead to animosity between individuals. It discusses in great detail the following tactics: focus on the facts, multiply the alternatives, create common goals, use humor, balance the power structure, and seek consensus with qualification. Goldsmith, M. (1999, October). Conflict resolution. Executive Excellence, 16(10), This brief article is full of ideas and strategies to help employees learn to face, accept, and resolve conflicts within the work environment. Page 4

5 Kling, J. (2000, July). Tension in teams. Harvard Management Communication Letter, 3(7), 1 3. According to the author, conflict can be harnessed to foster creative solutions to problems. Kling describes ground rules designed to ensure that conflict does not become personal and emphasizes the importance of having a good leader to steer the behavior of team members. McMaster, M. (2001, April). Fight club. Sales & Marketing Management, 153(4), Although aimed specifically at sales managers, this article dispenses general information on how to spot conflict, resolve it, and prevent it. In a work environment steeped in competition, conflict arises often; the author explains how to recognize the signs and respond quickly and effectively to prevent losses in productivity. Von Hoffman, C. (1999, June). Crabs, cranks, and curmudgeons: How to manage difficult people. Harvard Management Update, 4(6), 4 5. What to do about the talented, highly skilled folks who seem to aggravate everyone? The author talks about using emotional intelligence to deal with difficult employees. This article illustrates the use of emotionally intelligent solutions in managing conflicts that often are the result of working with difficult people. Williams, M.J. (1997, July). Don t avoid conflicts manage them. Harvard Management Update, 2(7), 1 3. The author describes conflict avoidance behavior often seen in the workplace and explains how conflict avoidance instead of conflict management keeps managers and organizations from reaching their goals. The article also presents many tips about managing conflict from experts in the field. Page 5

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