Communication Strategies: Conflict Resolution Practices

Introduction

Conflicts are a part of human life and in both professional and personal settings, conflicts are bound to arise. People are certain to have differing opinions at one point or the other. They are also bound to misunderstand each other as they interact and this can lead to conflicts. While most people regard conflicts as a negative thing that should be avoided at all times, conflicts can actually contribute to growth. Sagel-Grande (1999) contends that conflicts are an integral part of human life and there is no life without conflict. The author states that in spite of the negative connotation attached to the term “conflict”, it should be stressed that conflict has not only dysfunctional but also functional and positive effects in both private and public life. However, the positive effects of conflicts can only be realized if good conflict resolution practices are employed. Having a good understanding of what conflicts are and how to manage them is essential to achieving effective conflict resolution. This paper will argue that good conflict resolution practices that are based on effective communication are necessary for the constructive resolution of conflicts in the workplace. This constructive conflict resolution will ensure that individuals are able to work together in a harmonious environment, therefore increasing work productivity. The paper will begin by discussing the five key topics of conflicts, which are: why conflict occurs, conflict management, ethics and workplace conflict, climate in a conflict situation and forgiveness in order to provide a deeper understanding of conflicts. It will them proceed to detail best practices when engaging in practice resolution.

Topics

Why does conflict occur?

Conflict happens when people have varying interests and there appears to be no alternative that will satisfy the aspirations of both parties. They are likely to occur when a person thinks that everyone should be on the same page as he/she is concerning a particular issue. Conflict can also be caused when people have differences in their expectations of how things should be done in order for work to go on smoothly. Not to say one party is correct all the time but just because things were always done a certain way one year does not mean that this year it will be the same due to change.

Conflict is defined as disagreements within parties involving different sides of opinion. Sagel-Grande (1999) defines conflict as a “perceived divergence of interest or a belief that the parties’ current aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously” (p.46). This happens most of the time with relationships and in the work place. Conflict tends to be accompanied by significant levels of misunderstanding between the conflicting parties. Conflicts will be severe if the individuals involved have rigid aspirations that they regard as more legitimate than the aspirations of others.

Conflict Management

Since conflicts are bound to happen in private and public life, it is necessary to know how to deal with the conflicts. Singleton and Sonia (2011) state that conflict management is a response to conflicting relationships and situations. Conflict management skills take time and this is not something that is developing over night. These are the type of skills that takes a little getting to know the people that you are dealing with in order to control the environment that cause the conflict with the ending results being a solution.

As a leader, it is your job to hear both sides to a conflict and manage that conflict because every person’s input is very much so important. Communication is the key to managing conflict it is necessary to hear what the other party has to say once your point is taken. Without conflict management skills, individuals are likely to utilize non-action as a conflict management strategy. People who lack knowledge in conflict management or are uncomfortable with confronting the conflict favor this approach (Singleton & Sonia, 2011). Such individuals will pretend there is no conflict and this will only make the situation worse since it will only delay the conflict until it eventually causes far more negative consequences.

Ethics and workplace conflict

It is necessary to have ethics in the workplace to make sure people know what is required of them and how the company put their trust in the people that work for them. Without ethics no company would last long at all and trust is the start of what a company is building from.

Ethics dictate that the employees must treat each other with respect and uphold ethical conduct at all time. Conflict happens when employees do not do his or her part after taking an oath or signing and understanding that they will no matter what lie, cheat or take from the company. Unethical individuals will also demonstrate little respect for other people.

Policies are enforced while giving on the job training to make employees aware of what is expected of them. They are also brought to people’s awareness because some people are just untrustworthy. You as a person should try to do the right thing and set the example on a daily basis. If it does not feel right and you have to think about it more than once then it is not the right thing to do.

The climate in a conflict situation

A lot of stress and tension normally characterizes the climate in a conflict situation. Typically, the work environment is consists of pressures as the workers try to achieve the organizational objectives. With conflicts, these pressures are increased and employees might demonstrate reduced productivity because of it.

As a manager, the importance of the climate lies highly on you to make sure things are balanced and not get out of hand. It should be noted that the manager should not engage in efforts to avoid all kinds of conflicts. Shweta and Srirang (2012) document that in the workplace; moderate levels of interpersonal conflicts are in fact an indication of a healthy work environment.

A workplace is a place where people must respect one another. It is not required that you must agree on all of the time but you must know and understand that you are not going to agree with the way things are done and it is a way to go about addressing the things that you feel that has taken place that might affect the climate on the job that might bring about conflict in a situation.

Forgiveness

Forgiving is one of the universal human virtues that promote the well-being of individuals in all settings. Forgiveness shows people that you can make mistakes in whatever role you have on a job. Forgiveness also shows that you are a person that is not afraid to ask for it when making a mistake.

The act of bringing forth an issue that you were not correct on but at the time things had to be done a certain way shows employees the type of leader you are. When forgiveness is the most commonly used practice in the workplace, people will begin to focus on opportunities, rather than on vengeance.

Madsen et al. (2009) declare that forgiveness is an important factor that helps in the creation of a good atmosphere where relationships between employees can develop in a collaborative way. Forgiveness helps to mitigate the occurrences of damages due to conflict or in cases where they have occurred, repair them.

People have a way in showing how they feel about an issue and sometimes feelings get involved and this makes the climate of the area hard to work in. By asking for forgiveness and being the bigger person not matter if you are the manager or the employee and a way to define who you are as a person and not just a company worker. Literature indicates that the psychological well being of employees is improved when forgiveness is used (Madsen et al., 2009).

Example of a Conflict Situation

One of the conflicts that I anticipate could happen in my future employment will be as I work in a team environment. Most organizations utilize teams to help solve problems, develop solutions, and come up with the assist in the decision-making process. Sikes et al. (2010) state that a team has a significant advantage over an individual since it enjoys a diversity of resources, knowledge, and ideas.

In the team environment, individuals with complementary skills work together to bring about the benefits of improved quality and enhanced productivity for the organization. Sikes et al. (2010) note that in spite of the advantages of improved proficiency that organizations enjoy through the use of teams, there is also an increase in the probability of conflicts arising due to the differences among individuals making up the team.

Bendersky (2003) states that conflicts are increasingly visible in a work environment where workers are more interdependent on each other and responsible for more decision making. The longer the time the team spends together the higher the probability that interpersonal conflicts will occur.

I can anticipate conflicts occurring as I serve as the team leader. In this capacity, I might observe that all members are not committed to the team and that the team is ineffective since it lacks cohesion. For me, the ideal team would be made up of individuals of different skills and knowledge working together to achieve a common goal.

These individuals would engage in their tasks under the regulation of a team leader and in an environment that has well-established norms and a good structure. All the members of the team should show commitment to the project and distribute the tasks available in an equitable manner.

Conflicts will arise if I view the team as being too unstructured and lacking in any enforceable team norms. This will lead to low cohesion and the atmosphere of the team will not make the members feel motivated to commit to the project at hand. In such a situation, I will most likely try to create some form of authority and most team members might prefer to be given autonomy.

To me, involving all members in the decision-making process will be a good way of ensuring that every individual in the team develops a sense of ownership and therefore demonstrates greater commitment in the team. I will have disputes with members who will miss on meetings and not participate in the team decision-making processes.

When some individuals prefer autonomy and I prefer a centralized form of leadership, there will be conflicts in the team. These conflicts will affect the team climate leading to negative results for the overall outcome.

The conflicts that I have highlighted can lead to the deterioration of team spirit and have an overall negative impact on productivity. Being able to handle conflict and learn from the disagreements is necessary for workplace conflicts to produce positive results. With this in mind, it is necessary to come up with the best practices approach that can be utilized to increase the chances of effective conflict resolution.

Best Practices Approach to Conflict Resolution

  • The first step to conflict resolution is recognizing that a conflict exists and that this conflict is hindering the normal operation of things. If the parties involved refuse to acknowledge the existence of the conflict, they will not be willing to engage in any action to resolve the issues. By acknowledging that there is an issue, which needs to be addressed, the parties involved in the conflict will have taken the first step to resolve the conflict.
  • The individuals involved in the conflict should address the issues as soon as they can. Ignoring the conflict or pretending it does not exist will only lead to more problems developing.
  • The parties involved should come up with well-defined goals that they hope to achieve. Goals are the commercial or personal interests that an individual has and conflicts arise when the person feels that he/she is not able to attain his goals (Wade, 2007). By coming up with a well-defined list of goals, the conflicting parties are able to exchange proposals and demands and this makes it possible for a solution to be arrived at.
  • When resolving the conflict, emphasis should be placed on the common interests that the conflicting parties have. While polarized interests and animosity between individuals characterize most conflicts, there are normally common interests that the rival groups share. Sikes et al. (2010) assert that common interests play a critical role in resolving the conflict in a constructive manner.
  • A collaborative approach should be employed when resolving the work-related conflict. In the work environment, the best conflict resolution strategy is the one that considers the future relationship of the individuals involved in the conflict. The relationship among workmates is important and a bad relationship will lead to poor effectiveness especially in team efforts. By adopting a collaborative approach, the conflict resolution process will be undertaken in an atmosphere of honesty and trust. The rival parties will view each other as comrades on the same team instead of bitter adversaries. With this attitude, there will be no risk of alienation and the future relationship of the parties involved will be guaranteed.
  • Each party involved should be willing to show respect for the views and opinions held by the other party. Conflicts occur when each party views his/her view as the correct one and dismisses the views of the other party as inferior. In the conflict situation I highlighted, the conflict will occur because of my perception of what a team should look like and how it should function. The other team members might have different thoughts concerning how an effective team should work. Since I regard my view as the correct one and the other parties regard theirs as the correct one, conflicts might occur. To resolve these conflicts, we must both learn to respect each other’s views and acknowledge that both views have some merit.
  • If necessary, a neutral party can be used to facilitate the conflict resolution process. This person, who is known as a mediator, can assist in effective conflict resolution by facilitating effective communication between or among the conflicting parties and also intervene in conversation to allow for disputes to be handled in a rational manner. When the neutral third party is used, he will intervene in the dispute resolution process but leave decision-making authority to the conflicting parties (Bendersky, 2003).
  • At the end of the conflict resolution process, the individuals should come to a consensus. This consensus is made from an understanding of the conflicting parties. It might involve compromises being made and people forgiving each other.

Role of Communication in Resolution Process

Communication deserves special attention in the conflict resolution process since communication factors serve as the primary source of disagreements among individuals (Sikes, 2010). Being able to effectively communicate one’s motives might help resolve a conflict or at least prevent it from escalating.

Sikes et al. (2010) state that conflicts sometimes occur because individuals perceive situations in different ways from each other. This sometimes leads to the making of wrong judgments of the motives that the other person has. With good communication, each person can explain themselves and therefore resolve conflicts.

During conflict resolution, each party should provide feedback on what the other party is saying. This would ensure that each individual understands the message that is being communicated by the other. Such a move will ensure that the misinterpretations that can lead to false opinions of a person’s intention are avoided.

People should be willing to consider that we have different communication styles. If one is not able to correctly interpret the communication style used by the other person, this can lead to misunderstanding and even conflicts.

For example, a person who naturally represents his views and feelings forcefully and with a raised voice might be viewed as arrogant and authoritative. By acknowledging that different communications styles exist, a person will not be quick to judge the verbal presentation of the other person. This will lead to a better understanding and enhance constructive conflict resolution.

Conclusion

No matter where you work or the people you call a friend you will have to face conflict. The way you manage that conflict is going to support what your outcome is going to be. The ethics of how you deal with that conflict come from within that person in with work or with friends.

It is all about respect and this is what controls the climate of the issue. What will make you as a friend or an employee able to move forward will be the forgiveness of saying, dealing or being able to work with one another to as a team.

This paper set out to demonstrate that good conflict resolution practices lead to constructive conflict resolution. It paper began by stating that conflicts are an integral part of human relationships. Being able to resolve these conflicts in a constructive manner is vital for effective relationships.

The paper has noted that conflict management and resolution can prepare individuals for resolving conflict and ensure that conflicts are tackled in the most beneficial manner. Complete avoidance of conflict contributes to stagnation and rigidity in the work environment. The paper reviewed some of the conflicts I anticipate could happen in my future employment as I take part in a team effort.

I have noted that these conflicts would be caused by my personal concepts regarding teams and the differences in views and personality that exist within a team setting. The paper has underscored that while team efforts lead to increased efficiency in the organization, the diversity inevitably leads to conflicts.

A review of the best practices to be adopted in resolving conflicts has been provided. The paper has emphasized the importance of adopting a collaborative approach to conflict resolution. With such an approach, the common interests shared by the conflicting parties are highlighted and the solution arrived at does not jeopardize the future relationships of the individuals.

When effective conflict resolution approaches are employed, the conflict is effectively overcome and individual growth can occur. If the best practices provided in this paper are followed, conflicts can lead to positive results and stimulate development and even innovation in personal and professional settings.

References

Bendersky, C. (2003). Organizational Dispute Resolution Systems: A Complementarities Model. Academy of Management Review, 28(4), 643–656.

Madsen, S., Gygi, J., Hammond, S., & Plowman, S. (2009). Forgiveness as a Workplace Intervention: The Literature and a Proposed Framework. Journal of Applied and Behavioral Management, 10(2), 246-262.

Sagel-Grande, I. (1999). Models of conflict resolution. Canberra: Maklu.

Sikes, B., Gulbro, R., & Linda, S. (2010). Conflict in Work Teams: Problems and Solutions. AOCCC, 15 (1), 15-19.

Singleton, R., & Sonia, T. (2011). Workplace Conflict: A Strategic Leadership Imperative. International Journal of Business and Public Administration, 8 (1), 149-163.

Shamir, Y. (2003). Alternative Dispute Resolution Approaches and their Application. NY: PCCP Publications.

Shweta, S., & Srirang, J. (2012). Antecedents of Interpersonal Conflicts at Work-place. Journal of Management & Public Policy, 1(2), 75-80.

Wade, J. (2007). Persuasion in Negotiation and Mediation. Dispute Resolution Centre Newsletter, 25(1), 5-34.