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  • Writer's pictureMichele Evanson

Conflict and Team Dynamics-Part 2 of 2

Conflict rarely resolves itself and normally escalates if not dealt with proactively and properly. It is not at all uncommon to see what might have been a non-event, manifest itself into a monumental problem if not resolved early on. In Part 1, causes and examples of conflict were addressed. Included in Part 2, are useful tips on how to effectively handle conflict in the workplace and resolving conflict through attunement.

Tips to more effectively handle conflicts in the workplace:

1. Define Acceptable Behavior: Create a framework for making decisions, encouraging sound business practices in collaboration, team building, leadership development, and talent management. Having clearly defined job descriptions so that people know what’s expected of them, and an articulated chain of command to allow for effective communication will also help avoid conflicts.

  • Do you have a definition for what constitutes acceptable behavior in your workplace to avoiding conflict? If so, is it clearly and publicly made known what will and won’t be tolerated?

2. Hit Conflict Head-on: The secret to conflict resolution is conflict prevention where possible. Seek out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervene in a decisive manner. You will likely prevent certain conflicts from ever arising.

  • When conflict arises do you minimize its severity by dealing with it quickly?

4. Compromise: This strategy typically calls for both sides of a conflict to give up rudiments of their position to establish an acceptable, if not agreeable, solution.

  • When differences of opinions arise, do you facilitate compromises between parties?

5. Avoiding: Seek to put off conflict indefinitely. In some circumstances, avoiding can serve as a profitable conflict management strategy, such as after the dismissal of a popular but unproductive employee. This is best used for situations that are not work related and should be solved through another means.

  • How do you decide what’s really important? If the issue is important enough to create a conflict, then it is surely important enough to resolve.

6. Collaborating: The Collaborating Method involves handling the conflict through team input. This means of handling conflict is particularly useful if all parties in the conflict want to find a resolution, but are unable to agree on what the resolution should be.

  • Do you use the different perspectives as an opportunity to improve relationships through collaboration?

7. View Conflict as Opportunity: Every conflict has the potential for a teaching/learning opportunity. Where there is disagreement there is an inherent potential for growth and development. If you’re a manager who doesn’t leverage conflict for team building and leadership development purposes you’re missing a great opportunity.

  • When addressing situations do you look for the upside in all differing opinions to stimulate innovation and learning?

Optional Steps to use When Appropriate:

1. Develop a written agreement: If the parties come to agreement, the agreement(s) is written and shared with each party.

2. Set a date for follow-up: Deadlines for action and for follow-up are part of the written agreement. Follow-up might be a meeting face-to-face, a telephone call or an event during which both parties can report about how the agreement is working.

Resolving Conflict Through Attunment

Attunement is described as “being or bringing into harmony; a feeling of being "at one" with another being.

To attune yourself to others: imagine the other person-what they are feeling, sensing, thinking, judging, and wanting. You won’t solve issues if you spend your time arguing about content. The proper process is to get attuned first, and then the content often takes care of itself.

  • When you are in situations of conflict are you mindful of your breathing, emotions and thoughts?

  • Do you have an awareness about judgments of yourself and others?

Attuning to Each Other in Conflict and Recognizing Polarity: One way to navigate conflict is to respond from an opposite pole to your team member. If your colleague is speaking loudly, respond in a quiet manner, or vice versa.

Tactics of Conflicts Skilled Organizations

  • A strong culture organized around clear purpose

  • Work with more information & debate on facts

  • Develop multiple solutions to raise the quality of debate

  • Inject humor into decision-making

  • Maintain a balance of contribution from all individuals

  • Use a fallback instead of true consensus

Focus on relationships before focusing on tasks and individuals become more skillful at handling the difficult conversations and conflicts that often emerge when people launch challenging projects together.

While conflict is a normal part of any social and organizational setting, the challenge of conflict lies in how one chooses to deal with it. Concealed, avoided or otherwise ignored, conflict will likely fester only to grow into resentment, create withdrawal or cause factional infighting within an organization.

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