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Managing Conflict

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There are many causes of conflict in the work place, below are eight I have briefly described. 1. Conflicting Resources- We all need access to certain resources – whether these are office supplies, help from colleagues, or even a meeting room – to do our jobs well. When more than one person or group needs access to a particular resource, conflict can occur. 2. Conflicting Style- Everyone works differently, according to his or her individual needs and personality. For instance, some people love the thrill of getting things done at the last minute, while others need the structure of strict deadlines to perform. However, when working styles clash, conflict can often occur. 3. Conflicting Perceptions-All of us see the world through our own lens, and differences in perceptions of events can cause conflict, particularly where one person knows something that the other person doesn’t know, but doesn’t realize this. 4. Conflicting Goals-Sometimes we have conflicting goals in our work.

For instance, one of our managers might tell us that speed is most important goal with customers. Another manager might say that in-depth, high-quality service is the top priority. It’s sometimes quite difficult to reconcile the two! 5. Conflicting Pressures-Conflicting pressures are similar to conflicting goals; the only difference is that conflicting pressures usually involve urgent tasks, while conflicting goals typically involve projects with longer timelines. 6. Conflicting Roles- Sometimes we have to perform a task that’s outside our normal role or responsibilities. If this causes us to step into someone else’s “territory,” then conflict and power struggles can occur. The same can happen in reverse – sometimes we may feel that a particular task should be completed by someone else. Conflicting roles are similar to conflicting perceptions. After all, one team member may view a task as his or her responsibility or territory. But when someone else comes in to take over that task, conflict occurs. 7. Different Personal Values- Your boss may ask you to perform a task that conflicts with your ethical standards.

Do you do as your boss asks, or do you refuse? If you refuse, you may lose your boss’s trust, or even your job? Your boss may also respect you for the fact you stood up and voiced your own believes. When our work conflicts with our personal values like this, conflict can quickly arise. 8. Unpredictable Policies- When rules and policies change at work and you don’t communicate that change clearly to your team, confusion and conflict can occur. In addition, if you fail to apply workplace policies consistently with members of your team, the disparity in treatment can also become a source of dissension. During my time at Fylde Coast YMCA I was indirectly involved in a conflict between two supervisors which I think could have been a result of unpredictable policies Supervisor 1 had accused supervisor 2 of being a bully because a third party had overheard and misunderstood supervisor 1 having a conversation with a member of public about supervisor 2’s qualification being expired for the job she was undertaking. The third party overhead a conversation that should not of happen but also only heard half the story.

This was then relayed back to supervisor 2. This caused and argument of ‘Chinese whisper between the third party and 2 supervisors escalating to the stage where supervisor 1 put a formal grievance in against Supervisor 2 for Bullying. This created a very tense environment to work in as other members of the team didn’t know what or who they could say to people in case it was taken the wrong way, or overheard by someone else and the same situation happened again. This situation was investigated by the manager and all members of staff involved were interviewed. This took time and the atmosphere at work got tenser as the days and weeks went on. Supervisor 1 then said other members of staff were also involved in the bullying as they started to feel left out as no-one knew who they could trust and who they could. This situation was then investigated by another centre manager as our manger had become included in the other people accused of bullying and taking sides. This investigation proved to be nothing more than a badly played game of Chinese Whisper that resulted in a lack of communication and trust, unfortunately resulting in supervisor 1 feeling isolated from the team as a result of their own insecurities.

Conflict goes through five stages, during this incident we experienced every stage The Stages of Conflict

Stay Alert

1. Discomfort- Supervisor 1 feels that her manager does not keep her informed of what is happening with the other Superiors. Supervisor 1 is only part time. 2. Incident- Supervisor 1 found out supervisor 2 had some qualifications that had expired, but was not aware that supervisor 2 was booked onto the courses. 3. Misunderstanding- Supervisor 1 felt supervisor 2 should not be working as many hours as supervisor 1 was at that time more qualified but not offered any extra hours. 4. Tension- This caused tension between all members of staff as no-one knew if anything they said would be classified as taking sides or even be taken out of context. 5. Crisis- Supervisor 2 and the manager we both accused of bullying as supervisor 1 thought she had not been listened to regarding her complaint as the manager had taken sides. When conflict reaches a crisis stage, a lot of time and effort is needed to get it resolved. Too often we avoid dealing with situations at the discomfort stage. We bury our feelings and don’t discuss what is on our mind, hoping that the situation will resolve itself. Conflict in the workplace has these effects on individuals and other team members. * Poor workplace morale

* Decreased motivation within the organisation
* Health issues, such as stress and depression, affecting attendance and performance * Poor performance and reduced output
* Increased staff turnover
* Problems in recruiting staff
* Damage to the reputation of the organisation
Minimise and Resolve Conflict
Conflict in the workplace is more often than not likely to happen an occasion. When you put different people together and ask them to work to a common goal there will often be disagreements. This is good because teams
of people that all have the same opinions are likely to be uncreative and uncompetitive. Conflict often brings progressiveness and makes people more creative with their thinking. People’s responses to conflict usually falls into five categories, these were identified by Thomas Kilmann in the 1970’s- see diagram below.

Competitive: People who use a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be made fast. When the decision is unpopular or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations. Collaborative: People using a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution, when there have been previous conflicts in the group or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off. Compromising: People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something and the compromiser is also expected to relinquish something.

Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming. Accommodating: This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes. Avoiding: People using this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible, when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to take. As a duty manger I felt this situation could have been resolved a lot faster and a lot less painfully if both supervisors had been taken into the office at the same time to put across their sides of the story.

Without the interference of the third party and their miscommunication of the truth this situation could have been resolved quickly and without other people getting dragged into just because no-one knew who they could trust not to bend the truth about what they had said. Unfortunately in all work places not everyone gets on, as a manger I often hear members of staff moaning about other members of staff who they don’t like or they believe has done something to upset them but I let it go in one ear and out the other as I know I have to stay impartial. Sometimes people just need to vent their emotions as it might not be an issue between colleagues behind it all, they could just be having a bad day, or had an argument with a partner or parent or received some bad news, which effect their own mood possibly resulting in a conflict. I feel my style of conflict resolution is Collaborative Style because I attempt to address the concerns of everyone and come to a solution that satisfies all parties. This is not always possible as a manager as some time you have to adapt to use the other styles of resolving conflict.

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