Conflict management a proactive approach for leaders
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Conflict Management: A Proactive Approach for Leaders. Sue Theiss, MA University Ombuds Office Oregon State University. Agenda…. What’ an Ombuds? Understanding the ABC’s of Collaborative Conflict Resolution 10 Tips for Managers and Leaders Addressing Cases of Bullying

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Conflict Management: A Proactive Approach for Leaders

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Conflict Management: A Proactive Approach for Leaders

Sue Theiss, MA

University Ombuds Office

Oregon State University


  • What’ an Ombuds?

  • Understanding the ABC’s of Collaborative Conflict Resolution

  • 10 Tips for Managers and Leaders

  • Addressing Cases of Bullying

  • Case Study Discussion and Debriefing

  • Q & A

Conflict Resolution Strategies(Thomas & Kilmann)

  • Compete/Dominate

  • Accommodate

  • Avoid

  • Compromise

  • Collaborate

Getting pushy


Foster a culture of community, respect for diversity and open dialogue, and encourage cooperative resolution.

Keys to Effective Resolution

  • Mindset: Conflict = Opportunity

  • Identify Interests vs. Positions

  • 3 Times Rule (pull weeds from the root)

    “If we don’t change the direction we are going, we are likely to end up where we are heading” – Chinese saying

Get the Picture

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” – M. Proust

Active Listening

  • Avoid using poor listening habits

  • Listen for the whole message

  • Ask questions

  • Practice reflective listening & reframing


Goals(Wilmot & Hocker)

  • TopicContent issue

  • RelationalInterpersonal needs

  • IdentityHow do I look to others?

  • ProcessHow things happen


Know your ABC’s

  • Achieve Rapport

  • Boil Down the Issues

  • Clarify Goals and Interests

  • Develop a Game Plan

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips


Make conflict management a part of your strategic planning.

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips

# 9

Assess and Manage Your Conflict Climate

  • How do you measure service?

  • Conflict Climate – relational conditions, practices, and expectations

  • Systemic issues? Keep a list.

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips


Be a good bystander.

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips

# 7

Understand various forms of aggression and learn when and how to intervene.

  • Disruptive behavior

  • Safety first

  • Bullying

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips


Agree on assignment of credit up front.

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips

#5 Value Employees

How to Receive Feedback (L. Webb):

  • “Thank you”

  • Acknowledge what was said

  • Agree with what you can

  • Add to or change the topic

    …and remember… 4 pats to a poke

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips


Be wary of Attribution Errors (Sillars)


Is it possible?

Is the process fair?

What are all the reasonable options?

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips


E-Mail/texting: To Use? or Not To Use?

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips

#2 Provide an effective channel for upward feedback.

Sue’s “Top 10” Prevention Tips


Model the conflict management behaviors that you want to see in others.

The Process of Bullying

What Matters?

  • The impact of bullying on the individuals and the organization

  • How we communicate the problem

  • How we work with managers who can make a difference

  • Using the right framework and tools for success

Bullying as a ProcessWhat is it?

“Bullying occurs when someone [or group] is systematically subjected to aggressive behaviors” which lead, either intentionally or unintentionally, to a stigmatization and victimization of the target (Einarson, 1999)

Acts of Aggression


Verbal assaults, threats, retaliation, negatively altering job assignments, intimidating physical demeanor


Inappropriately influencing others’ actions, denial of behavior and/or redirecting blame

Types of Bullying

  • Predatory

  • Dispute-related

  • Chronic

  • Opportunist

  • Accidental

  • Substance-Abusing

It all looks the same to the target.

Stages of Bullying(Einarsen, 1999)

  • Aggressive Behavior

  • Bullying

  • Stigmatization

  • Severe Trauma

Conditions that Define Bullying in Academia

  • Repeated aggressive behaviors

  • Collateral impact

  • Abuse of power

  • Structure that inhibits resolution

  • Lengthy resolution process

What’s Different About Universities?

  • High Argumentativeness vs.

    Dysfunctional Verbal Aggression

  • Collegiality sometimes leads to avoidance

  • Organizational tolerance is communicated through policies and norms

  • Tenure & Graduate students…adversarial processes & power imbalances

Collaborative Strategies

  • Early intervention

  • Create a safe environment

  • Initial assessment of individuals & groups

  • Consider boundaries and circumstances

  • Provide education and coaching

  • Provide structure and follow-through

  • Move to more formal response when necessary

Working with Victims/Targets

  • What not to say

  • What to say

  • Create a safe space

  • Review options

  • Create a road map

Working with Managers

  • Create a safe space

  • Assess the climate

  • Explore resources and options

  • Create a road map

Working with…

  • Bystanders

    • Provide a safe place to talk

    • Consider affect on the team

    • Educate

    • Empower

    • Your suggestions?

  • Perceived Bullies

    • Listen

    • Assess dynamics and respond appropriately

    • Provide education and resources

    • Step back when appropriate

The 18th Camel…

University Ombuds Office

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