Managing conflict in organizations
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Managing Conflict in Organizations. Thomas P. Holland, Ph.D., Professor Institute for Nonprofit Organizations. Handling Conflicts. Definition: when two or more values or perspectives are contradictory in nature

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Managing Conflict in Organizations

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Managing conflict in organizations

Managing Conflict in Organizations

Thomas P. Holland, Ph.D., Professor

Institute for Nonprofit Organizations

Handling conflicts

Handling Conflicts

  • Definition: when two or more values or perspectives are contradictory in nature

  • May be internal (within self) or external (between two or more people).

  • Conflicts are problems when they hamper productivity, lower morale, cause inappropriate behaviors if poorly handled.

  • Conflicts are useful when they

    • Raise important but unaddressed problems

    • Motivate people to attend to them

    • Help people learn how to recognize and benefit from differences

Things that provoke workplace conflicts

Things that provoke workplace conflicts

  • Poor communications, employees surprised by new decisions, don’t understand reasons for decisions, come to distrust supervisors

  • Alignment of resources doesn’t match work expectations, disagreement about who does what

  • Personal differences, conflicting values and actions, dislike of aspects of others (that we don’t like in ourselves)

  • Abuses of power, authoritarianism

  • Inconsistent or uninformed leadership, passing the buck, repeated poor handling of an issue, managers don’t understand the jobs of subordinates.

Ways people deal with conflicts

Ways People Deal with Conflicts

  • Avoid or ignore it. May worsen conflict over time.

  • Accommodate: give in to others. May be useful when you know you will have a better opportunity in the near future.

  • Compromise: mutual give-and-take when you want to get beyond the issue

  • Collaborate: seek ways of working together for mutual goals without trying to solve issue

  • Compete: Try to get your way, expressing strong convictions about your position, seeking to persuade others. May include efforts to discredit opposition.

  • Warfare: polarizing the conflict, using formal and informal power to undermine opposition and gain control of organizational resources.

Conflict management in increasing order of difficulty

Conflict Managementin increasing order of difficulty

  • Recognize that some differences are useful and always present

  • Prevent initiation of conflicts by developing clear policies

  • Set limits on ways conflict may be expressed

  • Help individuals understand triggering factors and alternative responses

  • Help individuals find different ways of coping with consequences of conflicts

  • Resolve basic issues underlying the conflict

Supervisory actions to minimize conflicts

Supervisory Actions to Minimize Conflicts

  • Keep current on job descriptions, making sure that roles don’t conflict and no tasks fall into cracks

  • Build positive relationships with staff, meet with them regularly, ask about accomplishments and challenges

  • Get regular status reports, including needs and planned next steps

  • Provide staff development opportunities on key aspects of work

  • Develop procedures for handling challenges, drawing upon employees’ input

  • Hold regular meetings to communicate status of projects, resources and challenges, new initiatives

Steps in managing conflicts

Steps in Managing Conflicts

  • Know what you don’t like in yourself, and recognize that we react negatively to those things in others.

  • Stop arguing, move to discussion between adults

  • Manage yourself in interactions. Speak calmly even if other doesn’t. Maintain eye contact.

  • Move discussion in private room.

  • Allow person time to vent without reacting or interrupting.

  • Check to make sure you have heard their concerns correctly. Ask clarifying questions as appropriate, making no judgments about responses.

  • Clarify where/whether organizational policies touch on issue.

Further steps

Further Steps

  • Identify points where you agree and disagree.

  • Address the issues, not the person. Rule out personal attacks.

  • Keep focus on the mission and on the future, not the past

  • Listen carefully, respectfully

  • Seek mutual solutions. Ask “what could we do to fix this problem?” If more complaints, go back to previous steps, then ask question again.

  • If possible, identify at least one action that can be done by one or both of you.

  • If not, ask for a cooling off period before meeting again. Could we “agree to disagree?”

  • Seek advice from manager.

  • Consider inviting in mediator if appropriate.

Applications exercise

Applications Exercise

  • Analyze a workplace conflict you (or another person) have experienced. Describe the issue, triggers, responses, approach(es) to handling it, consequences, successes and mistakes, lessons learned.

  • Set forth a plan for handling such a situation more effectively in the future. Who should do what, when, how, why?

  • What steps can you take to cultivate the skills to handle conflicts more productively?

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