Conflict Resolution

It is very difficult for me to get in conflict with fellow employees at work. On the few occasions that we will get into a fight with so and so it will be as a result of utter disrespect for what I do or simply misunderstanding as to how either of us prioritizes their tasks. With the nature of my job, which is basically service based, I am expected to deal with my colleagues directly to offer then solutions to this issue and that or to provide support for one thing or the other.

The past two days have not been exactly my favorite; all due to a conflict that I still cannot figure the source, especially taking to consideration that I had gone to great extents to contain the conflict with personal initiative to absolve my colleague from much trouble with explanations. Some rules with management in work place just dictate that with certain individuals, avoiding trouble may just be the best solution.

So, this particular colleague of mine, she joined the organization roughly six months after I did. We have opposite personalities and completely opposite ways with which we approach our work and relations with people. I strongly believe in time management, people skills and immediate task delivery, with which I am not so keen with credit for. I take comfort with less bother with incomplete tasks than running around with credit for single achievements; this is where my colleague privies. The type that runs to the top to furnish their single almost-achievements. With serious blunders that my ‘sister’ executed in the most silly way at work, I chose not to raise lots of controversy, but decided to take upon myself to approach her senior whom am much closer to professionally and personally and seek a much more formidable solution. This did not auger well with her; she threw a tantrum and ran around to point my supposed fault.

Nothing can pain more than someone trying to put you on the spot for actually helping them!!! I tend to think this is very stupid. Evaluating situations before escalation is very critical. Having gone through the discussion and deliberations with a very stable “Koffi Annan” the matter was shelved, but I got inspiration to study some literature on Office conflict and relate it to how I have seen managers and personnel people attempt resolution where I have worked…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Employees with a bad attitude often create conflicts. The manager’s solution often times is to send the disruptive or unmotivated employee for communication training. But ineffective communication isn’t the problem. They are very effective at communicating a message – that is what’s causing the problem in the first place.

Similarly, they often resolve to team building. Why team building?  The response is the desire to improve communication and work together better. So teams are sent to 4 to 8 hour workshop, followed by weeks of waiting to see what changes will happen. Few questions further and the REAL reason for the team building request is exposed: one or two employees just don’t seem to fit. Reasons for this range from one not pulling weight or continually creating tension with co-workers. But rather than single out these employees for improvement, management wants to circumvent addressing the problem head-on, hoping this few hours of training will enlighten the disenchanted so they see the light. Masquerading conflict resolution as team building is ineffective, time-consuming, and costly.

Conflict can only be one of these; interpersonal, functional, or intrapersonal.

Interpersonal, or me-you, conflicts represent the stereotypical conflict – I don’t like something about you and you don’t like something about me. If the source of the conflict is just a problem in how one employee does his/her job against how another employee or manager expects the job to be done. Helping workers understand that each of us has a preferred way to approach problem solving, interacting with others, pacing ourselves, and following procedures and that these preferences are not good or bad, right or wrong is the best first step at minimizing conflict. Commonly you hear after such an intervention that “I didn’t realize how I was coming across.” When one person accepts the fact that another’s style is not an attempt to get under their skin but merely an expression of the way he communicates, many problems disappear.

A second type of conflict is functional, or job related. This occurs when the way management expects the job to be done conflicts with the way an employee prefers to do it. For instance, management may expect supervisors to offer ongoing positive feedback and to engage employees by coaching and personal meetings. The introverted manager however may prefer to communicate by email or memos and doesn’t see the point in thanking employees for a job well done – “that’s what paychecks are for.” Conflicts between an individual and the expectations of the job usually result in de-motivation and burnout. Unfortunately along the way, these individuals create a lot of collateral damage. Identifying the behavioral and personality requirements of the job and matching an individual’s style and personality to the criteria minimizes the risk of functional conflicts.

The third type of conflict is intrapersonal, or me-me, results when an individual has internally conflicting behavioral styles, values and personality traits. For instance, let’s say an employee prefers to complete what he/she starts before beginning something else (Steady behavioral style) but also has a short fuse and is energized by addressing problems quickly (Direct style). Just like two people with these styles forced to work together creates conflict, a single individual can have conflicting styles, values and traits. The best solution is helping the individual understand his/her own style and personality and coaching them in ways to modify their work and interpersonal style. The result when handled properly is a less stressed, more productive employee.

Employee assessment is the first step in resolving or preventing conflict. It helps expose the root cause of the tension and focuses a personnel management’s energy and resources into improving performance instead of dancing around the problem.

2 thoughts on “Conflict Resolution

  1. In every office of more than one person, conflicts are inevitable. Whenever workers thinks others are interfering with pursuit of a goal, they are bound to clash. Ideally, the disputants should try to negotiate a mutually agreeable compromise; typically, however, they take the battle underground, creating a situation in which personal victory winning the point takes precedence over advancing team’s larger interests.

    Workers don’t air conflicts for fear that publicizing their complaints will make them look unprofessional, incompetent, insecure or petty. Conflicts per se are not a problem, because they can signal a need for change, prevent interpersonal deadlocks and create a troubleshooting climate. The problem is how to manage them. If an office squabble is mishandled, it can reduce morale and motivation and provoke more conflict.

    For useful information on mediating conflict, visit my site at docpotter.com and see “conflict”.

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