Conflict Management FAQ

Conflict is a common occurrence within the average workplace. Even with the best of intentions, any group of people will include many different individuals with differing opinions. In order to develop your career, it is vital that you are able to demonstrate the skills required to manage conflict, particularly if you are looking for a management or leadership role. If you are keen to learn more about conflict management, here are some commonly asked questions.

What causes conflict in the workplace?

There are many different reasons for conflict in the workplace. Sometimes, management decisions lead to conflict, as tensions may build between team members. In other cases, conflict can arise between two or more people due to their relationships outside work. Individuals are also influenced by their religion, social values and experiences, all of which can bring them into conflict with others. Fear, uncertainty, envy and suspicion all regularly breed conflict, as well.

Why resolve conflict?

If left unresolved, conflict can have a serious negative impact in the workplace. Productivity quickly decreases, and conflict can also lead to low team morale. Any environment where people are not working together constructively is very unpleasant and stressful. The biggest challenge with conflict is that it often leads to a downward spiral. When conflict causes low morale, it inevitably leads to more conflict, and so the cycle continues.

Are there different ways to manage conflict?

Different situations require different approaches.

  • Avoid: Sometimes, ignoring conflict is an appropriate course of action if it is not worth the effort to resolve. Only minor conflict would normally be left this way, as if left ignored, most conflict gets worse.
  • Accommodate: This is where you give in and let somebody have their own way. Occasionally, this may be a shrewd move, but again, this method generally just causes more problems.
  • Compete: If you have a very strong conviction, then you may simply work to get your own way, ignoring others' points of view. Sometimes, conflict can be resolved when a leader puts his or her foot down.
  • Compromise: By encouraging each party to make compromises, a single solution can often be reached. Compromise sometimes leads to individual resentment but, if handled appropriately, can be very effective.
  • Collaborate: Collaboration ensures that many people share resources and ideas to achieve the same goal. Nobody is overlooked, and the needs of the group outweigh those of the individuals. True collaboration not only addresses conflict, it can prevent a recurrence.

What skills are required to manage conflict?

Effective communication skills are essential. You must be able to listen and talk with a wide range of different people, all of whom may respond very differently. You need to be able to adapt your style according to the situation, so flexibility and patience are also essential skills. A positive attitude always helps, as you will be able to identify resolutions and opportunities. You also need strong decision-making skills, as you may often be required to make difficult decisions based on a lot of different information and opinions.

When should you ask for help?

Conflict management is seldom easy, and while you will need to manage the situation, there may be times when you need to ask for additional help. If you have a close relationship with one of the people involved, then a mediator or other appropriate third-party could be very useful. Where legal or regulatory matters become an issue, then you should seek more formal, legal advice in order to make a decision. In most companies, your human resources department will also be able to offer useful guidance and support.

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