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Workplace Conflict Resolution. Jim Wohl, DVM, MPA. University Ombuds Office Quad Center, Suite 005 Auburn University, AL 36849-5274 TEL: (334) 844-7170 FAX: (334) 844-7089 What Is Conflict?.

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workplace conflict resolution

Workplace Conflict Resolution

Jim Wohl, DVM, MPA

  • University Ombuds Office
  • Quad Center, Suite 005
  • Auburn University, AL 36849-5274
  • TEL: (334) 844-7170
  • FAX: (334) 844-7089
what is conflict
What Is Conflict?

Competition between perceived or actual compatible needs, goals, desires, ideas, or resources.

conflict styles
Conflict Styles








- Brinkert, Thomas – Killman Inventory

which styles when
Which styles when?
  • 1. Competing
    • Emergencies
    • Being right matters more than relationship
    • Trivial matters
which styles when5
Which styles when?
  • 2. Avoiding
    • Trivial matters
    • Insignificant relationship
    • Time is short
    • Powerless but want to block
which styles when6
Which styles when?
  • 3. Collaborating
    • Issues and relationship are both significant
    • Cooperation is important
    • Addressing all concerns is possible
    • Creative end is important
which styles when7
Which styles when?
  • 4. Accommodating
    • Don’t care
    • Powerless but no desire to block
    • Realized you’re wrong
which styles when8
Which styles when?
  • 5. Compromising
    • Cooperation important but time is short
    • Finding some solution is better than stalemate
    • Efforts to collaborate would be misunderstood as forcing
points to ponder
Points To Ponder…
  • Choosing a conflict style is situational: The type of conflict and external environment provide the context
  • But….most people gravitate (specialize?) toward a particular conflict style
goals objectives during conflict
Content Goals/Issues

Who wants what?

Contending over the same things (e.g. fixed resources)

Parties want different things?

Usually, easiest issues to identify

Often, the presenting issues

Goals & Objectives During Conflict

- Willmort & Hocker

goals objectives during conflict12
Goals & Objectives During Conflict
  • Relational Issues
    • Who are we to each other?
      • Concerning value, purpose, and expectation of the relationship
    • How interdependent are parties?
    • Is there a shared understanding of the relationship?

- Willmort & Hocker

goals objectives during conflict13
Goals & Objectives During Conflict
  • Identity Issues
    • Who am I in this interaction?
    • Affect of the conflict on the individual
        • Disrespected, attacked, shamed ?
        • Defensiveness, retaliation?
    • Has adequate time elapsed to recover from assault on identity or self-esteem?

- Willmort & Hocker

goals objectives during conflict14
Goals & Objectives During Conflict
  • Process Issues
    • Will a fair process be used in resolving the conflict?
    • Present in all conflicts but may be latent
    • Related to procedural justice in civil, legal, and workplace environments
    • Fairness, transparency, and participation may be key

- Willmort & Hocker

crip framework
CRIP Framework







Party A’s goals/issues

Party B’s goals/issues

Often, conflicts are presented about a specific topic or issue – a content issue. However, there are almost always underlying relational and identity goals and many times these categories of issues overlap.

- Willmort & Hocker

points to ponder16
Points To Ponder…
  • Not all types of goals emerge in all disputes
  • Interests overlap, and differ in primacy
  • Identity and relational issues are “drivers” (they underlie content and process issues)
  • Parties often specialize in one type of goal
  • Goals may emerge in a different form
  • Identity issues are often best approached privately
  • Relational issues are often best discussed jointly
  • Finding common issues (CRIP) among parties can be effective in reaching agreements
negotiation interests vs positions
Negotiation: Interests vs Positions
  • Negotiation: Discussions or problem solving between two or more parties where some form of interdependence exists. Thus, both parties believe they can accomplish their goals (or defend their goals or interests) to a higher degree than working independent of the other party or parties.

Zone of Possible Agreement

(positive bargaining zone)

Seller’s RP

Buyer’s RP

  • BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (aka “walk away”, what will you do if no agreement is made).
Position: A claim of what a party must have statement of what a party claims
  • Interests: The reasons that underlie positions. The “why” behind the position.
  • Creating Value, Expanding the Pie: including elements of a negotiation which help one or both sides gain more.
    • must be uncovered during the negotiation
    • valued differently by each party.
    • parties can increase their gains at minimal or no cost to the other party.
increasing power or bargaining strength
Increasing power or bargaining strength
  • Improve your BATNA (often best done before entering negotiations)
  • Define your Reservation Point (RP) (and don’t forget it!)
  • Define your Target but remember your BATNA
  • Identify your interests
  • Identify your counterpart’s interests
  • Know your counterpart’s BATNA
  • Appeal to objective third party expertise
from beyond reason by fisher and shapiro
From Beyond Reasonby Fisher and Shapiro
  • When emotions run high during a workplace conflict or negotiation consider these five core concerns that may underlie those emotions:
  • Appreciation: Are our thoughts feelings and actions devalued, or are they acknowledged as having merit?
  • Autonomy: Is our freedom to make decisions impinged upon or is it respected?
  • Affiliation: Are we treated as an adversary and kept at a difference, or are we treated as a colleague?
  • Status: Is our standing treated as inferior to others, or is it given full recognition where deserved?
  • Role: Are the many roles we play meaningless, or are they personally fulfilling?
ombudsman om buds man
Ombudsman (OM-buds-man )
  • Sweden 1809
  • Classic Ombuds model:
    • Statutory/investigative role
  • Organizational Ombuds: North America
    • Facilitative role, dispute resolution practitioner
    • Academia & Corporate US
    • 34% increase in US higher education since 2004
organizational ombuds
Organizational Ombuds
  • IOA: Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
  • Guiding Principles
    • Informality
    • Neutrality
    • Confidentiality
    • Independence
opening an ombuds office
Opening an Ombuds Office
  • Proposed by employee governance groups
  • Imposed / suggested as a result of prior controversy
  • Instituted by executive
  • Promoting Activities
    • Reaching the four corners
    • Organizational versus Classical Model
    • Communicating senior leadership endorsement
an ombudsperson does not
An Ombudsperson Does NOT:
  • Make decisions, findings of fact, or determine the “guilt” or “innocence” of those accused of wrongdoing
  • Establish, change, or set aside policies or administrative decisions
  • Offer legal advice
  • Offer psychological counseling
  • Participate in grievances or other formal processes
  • Serve as an agent of notice for Auburn University
  • Serve as an advocate for any individual
an ombudsperson does
An Ombudsperson Does:
  • Actively listens to your questions and concerns
  • Offers information: policies, procedures, and programs
  • Discuss your concerns and clarify issues
  • Help identify and evaluate a range of options
  • Gather information and offer referral
an ombudsperson does28
An Ombudsperson Does:
  • Advise steps to resolve a problem informally
  • Facilitate communication indirectly
  • When given permission, serve as an impartial third party
  • Collaborative agreements through negotiation or mediation
  • Track perceived issues and trends
  • Make recommendations for review of policies or procedures to appropriate bodies
contact information
Contact Information:
  • International Ombudsman Association (IOA)
  • Jim Wohl, DVM, MPA
  • University Ombudsperson
  • Suite 005 Quad Center
  • Auburn University, AL 36849-5274
  • 334 – 844-7170
  • *
a parting task
A parting task…
  • Think of an important conflict you’ve had at work (or the last good fight you tried to mediate).
  • What conflict style did you (or another) utilize?
    • competing, avoiding, collaborating, accommodating, compromising?
  • Which of the 5 core concerns were underlying your (or another’s) emotions?
    • appreciation, autonomy, affiliation, status, role?
interested try one of these
Interested? Try one of these…
  • Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving Inby Roger Fisher, William Ury, Bruce Patton. Penguin (Non-Classics); 2nd/Rep edition (December 1, 1991) (ISBN-10: 0140157352)
  • Getting Past Noby William Ury. Bantam; Revised edition (January 1, 1993) (ISBN-10: 0553371312 )
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. Amber-Allen Publishing; 1 edition (January 15, 2001) (ISBN-10: 1878424505)
  • Breaking Robert's Rules: The New Way to Run Your Meeting, Build Consensus, and Get Resultsby Lawrence E. Susskind, Jeffrey L. Cruikshank. Oxford University Press, USA (July 19, 2006) (ISBN-10: 0195308360)
  • Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as you Negotiate by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro. Viking Adult (October 6, 2005) (ISBN-10: 0670034509 )
  • Leading Leaders: How to Manage Smart, Talented, Rich, and Powerful People by Jeswald W. Salacuse. AMACOM (November 3, 2005) (ISBN-10: 0814408559)_