Event Date: 10/24/2019 (2:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT)
Conflict is present in all aspects of life, both personal and professional. And while it can wreak havoc on an organization, it doesn’t have to. When handled properly, conflict can yield many benefits–from sparking creativity to better problem solving and improved relationships. It’s a matter of understanding how and when to utilize the most appropriate strategy for managing conflict.
Join us for the Managing Conflict in the Workplace webinar, where you’ll learn how to achieve the benefits of constructive conflict management. Led by David Alumbaugh, we’ll explore the three most typical types of conflict and the five strategies for managing it.
This webinar is based on the HRDQ product Conflict Strategies Inventory. This training workshop improves an individual’s ability to handle conflict scenarios in the workplace successfully. Based on more than 35 years of research, Conflict Strategies Inventory accurately identifies one’s typical reaction to conflict, examines the potential outcomes associated with each strategy, encourages the use of more effective tactics, and the accompanying workshop provides skill practice in resolving day-to-day issues.
Participants Will Learn:
- Five different strategies for managing conflict
- How and when to utilize an Integrating strategy
- The best uses for alternative strategies
- How to create a conflict management development plan
You Should Attend if you are:
- A training or HR professional who delivers training
- An independent training consultant
- A manager who delivers or purchases training as part of their role
Presented by: David Alumbaugh
Enjoying more than 20 years of sales and sales management experience, David Alumbaugh has managed institutional-level sales for domestic and international accounts. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Business at Baker University, where his expertise includes 20 years of teaching MBA courses to working professionals, including organizational and marketing management. David also serves as faculty mentor for the development of new teachers. And as an HRDQ Senior Trainer, David’s training style is focused on the “how-to” and not just the theory. This technique generates buy-in, accountability, and self-discovery to produce long-term results
Sara: Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, Managing Conflict in the Workplace, hosted by HRDQU and presented by David Alumbaugh. My name is Sara, and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last about an hour. If you have any questions, go ahead on your Go To webinar control panel, there’s a little questions area. You can click on that arrow to expand it, type in that white open box, and then hit submit, and those questions will come through to us. We have a lot of content today to get through, so we’ll answer those questions either as we’re going, or we’ll answer them after the session by email. But definitely don’t hesitate to send those questions in to us.
Today’s webinar content is from our self assessment and our workshop, Conflict Strategies Inventory. If you are interested in delivering this training within your organization, please contact HRDQ. Welcome our presenter today, David Alumbaugh. Enjoying more than 20 years of sales and sales management experience, David has managed institutional level sales for domestic and international accounts. He is also an adjunct professor of business at Baker University, where his expertise includes 20 years of teaching MBA courses to working professional, including organizational and marketing management. David also serves as faculty mentor for the development of new teachers. And, as an HRDQ senior trainer, David’s training style is focused on the how to, and not just the theory. His technique generates buy in, accountability, and self discovery to produce long term results. Welcome, David, and thank you for joining us today.
David Alumbaugh: Well, thank you, Sara. It’s a privilege to be with you all today. Hello, and welcome to all of you that have joined us on this webinar. We’ve got an interesting topic to talk about today, managing conflict. Quite frankly, as we’ll look at here in this course, it’s one that many of us might shy away from, or it’s not something we welcome in the workplace. And yet, managing conflict is a learned skill, and it’s a necessary tool to be successful in the business world. It’s just a natural or normal part of our workday. Over the next 50 minutes or so, I’m going to introduce five unique approaches or strategies for dealing with and managing conflict at work. Then, we will also examine when and how to make use of each of these strategies. One of those in particular, the integrating strategy, we’ll focus on as a best practice.
Following that, then we’ll explore the circumstances and the situations in which one of the other four strategies might be more appropriate to use, certainly as you can understand that conflict is a situational experience in the workplace. And so, we need to be armed with various techniques and tools with which we can address it. Then finally, we will look at a process that we can use to help others improve their conflict management skills. We’ve got a busy session for you here today, and we’ll jump right into the content.
Conflict is something that we all have to deal with. As I said a moment ago, many of us really wish we didn’t. When we do encounter conflict, some of us might shy away from it. Others of us will grab it by the horns and deal with it head on. But quite frankly, conflict can make some of us feel uncomfortable. Our own personalities can dictate how we respond to it. Some people will seem much better at handling conflict than we do. People understandably can develop an aversion to conflict, or as we said, to shy away from it. Even organizations have come to look upon conflict in an unfavorable manner.
It says on this next slide that U.S. employees will spend almost three hours a week dealing with conflict. That was a study that was done by Entrepreneur magazine here a few years ago. Often, the traditional view of conflict that we find is that people see it as a productivity drain, right up there with other notable productivity killers like absenteeism, for instance. But unlike absenteeism, which of course can be easily measured, conflict and its effect on employee retention, employee engagement, the stress that we feel in the workplace, productivity and performance, is not so easily understood. But there are studies that have been carried out that help us quantify the cost of conflict at work. One 2008 study, for instance, that we note above, revealed that workers on average will devote almost three hours a week to dealing with conflict. That’s a pretty fair amount of our time.
Equivalent to 385 million working days. As we’ll see here in this course … in this webinar today, the time spent dealing conflict is not necessarily lost time. Certainly, there are some negative connotations, some negative outcomes, and we’ll address those. But there are also ways to make conflict work for us as we manage it effectively. But when we’re not managing conflict properly, then some percentage of this number, this 385 million working days, some percentage of that, excuse me, will result in lost productivity.
The majority of employees will experience conflict within their own team, or between other teams or departments in their own workplace. It’ll happen on a somewhat regular basis. As many as 81% of employees experience conflict at work according to one study. That’s most of us. We’re going to experience conflict on a regular basis. So prevalent, in fact, is conflict in the workplace that it almost seems the only way you can guarantee not to come into conflict is to try to avoid other people altogether, and we know that isn’t a very workable solution for most of us.
As employees engage in conflict, supervisors, then, are required to manage and mediate between those parties in conflict. A study back in 2005 revealed that managers will devote as much as two days a week, or up to 40% of their time, resolving conflicts of one sort or another. It doesn’t seem like a very profitable use of our time when we’re having to mediate and manage in between folks who are dealing with conflict. With all of this time being spent on conflict, what does this mean for our workplace? Well, certainly, as you can see on this page, there are some negative outcomes that we have to be aware of.
Let me pause a moment just to ask a question. Did any of you wake up this morning hoping that you’ll experience some conflict today? Probably not, and for good reason. There are some genuinely negative outcomes that do flow from conflict when it’s ill managed or not addressed at all. Consider some of these outcomes listed here. Now, you’ll notice that I’ve got trust at the very top of this list as, of course, this is foundational to healthy working relationships. I think we would all agree with this. Conflict, though, can easily unravel that trust that people have in each other or in the organization for which they work.
People also feel inclined to … Excuse me. People really feel less inclined is what I’m trying to say, to cooperate when they are in conflict with each other. When taken to extremes, conflict can lead to increased stress, and all of the associated negative effects that we all know comes along with that added stress. Conflict can also lead to delays, missed deadlines, poor decisions, misuse of resources, and if it becomes too intense, conflict can even cause people to seek alternative employment. As we work through this concept today, this discussion on conflict management, we want to find ways to deal with it more effectively. We want to find ways to manage the process not so it drives others away or drives ourselves away, but allows us to deal with it in a more productive manner.
As you review that list again, what’s missing from this list? In your experience, what are some other negative consequences of conflict that maybe you’ve personally experienced at work? Take a moment and jot those down because certainly as we go through this webinar today, I want you thinking of how these techniques can personally help you overcome the types of conflict that you’re dealing with. And we’ll move on to the next slide, then.
Conflict is natural and inevitable. It’s just a part of our lives. It’s a part of our work day. Despite that prevalence, though, of conflict, many people have difficulty recognizing it, understanding it, and certainly managing it. Despite the obvious negative impacts that we’ve considered, might there also be some benefits to conflict? We’ll certainly look at that here. Instead of trying to avoid or eliminate conflict, we now try to understand how to handle it, and under what circumstances that it can be beneficial to us. Take just a brief moment here and list one particular benefit of conflict. Think that over for just a moment. I’m not going to pause for long, but think about a benefit to conflict as you’ve experienced it in the workplace.
All right, so then let’s talk about what some of those positive outcomes might be. Certainly we’ve acknowledged and we understand that there are some negative consequences to conflict, but there are some positive aspects to it as well. Let’s start looking at how we manage conflict. As a result, we can achieve more positive outcomes whenever we do encounter it. Conflict is defined here as the situation that occurs when parties with contrasting goals come in contact with one another. All right, I’m going to repeat that. It’s the situation that occurs when parties who have different goals, when they have contrasting goals, and we come in contact with one another. We said earlier that it’s a very inevitable part of our lives, that it occurs frequently. 81% of us in the workplace will deal with conflict, excuse me, and you can see why. It’s just whenever contrasting ideas come out in the workplace, then we’re going to deal with some form of conflict here.
As we discussed on a previous slide there, we typically will define conflict in more of a negative sense, and for many of us, conflict is synonymous with something that is negative or even detrimental. But as we see in this definition, there is opportunity in having people with different values, different goals and expectations working together. Frankly, if there are three of us on a team with very similar values, very similar goals or expectations, then two of us are not adding additional value. Conflict, then, presents us with opportunities to create value out of those differences. When we view it through this lens, it becomes a powerful source of creativity and innovation. I believe it was actually William Wrigley years ago said something very similar to that, that whenever two or more people in a business always agree, then one of them isn’t needed. Now, we can certainly understand the point that he was trying to make, that conflict is one of those things that will benefit us in the workplace when managed appropriately.
One source of conflict is what we call relationship conflict. One study puts the source of conflict due to strained relationships as high as 60 to 80%. Relationship conflict can also be among the most difficult to manage and overcome as it often involves values or beliefs, which can be immutable, or difficult to change. One person who insists on punctuality, for example, is likely to feel disgruntled when working with someone else who, say, regularly turns up late for meetings. Whereas other types of conflict may tend to be more situational, relationship conflict, excuse me, can affect almost all interactions. So while, again, other types of conflict might just appear in certain situations, as we’re dealing with relationship conflicts, we have to figure out how to manage that better because it’s going to be a part of our everyday lives. Unless those issues of conflict are addressed, those relationship differences will simmer, they’ll grow, and potentially draw in others, and then of course, just further escalate that conflict.
The other source of conflict has to do with workflow. This really comprises two slightly different types: task conflict, which is a conflict of priorities, really, and process conflict, which is a conflict, or maybe a difference of opinions on how things are done. Task conflict, the first one we mentioned there, it arises over competing priorities, competing goals, perhaps, or differing views on where and how resources should be used. When organizational goals cascade down to the level of the team or individual, it is not uncommon for tasks or priorities to come into conflict. Task conflict can be particularly prevalent in organizations where things change quickly, there’s fast moving parts and pieces.
Process conflict, though, is a different form of conflict, and it can be as much about ideas as anything else. For example, the marketing manager might favor a print campaign to launch a new product, whereas on the other hand, the sales manager might prefer a series of launch events. Conflicts around how things are done can be seemingly minor, or they can involve major points of difference. This is a form of conflict that we’ll deal with in any organization.
Let’s take a look at these three types of conflict here. The relationship conflict that we spoke of earlier, the task conflict, and then the process conflict. Do you find that there is one that you experience more often at your workplace? Again, some of these are situational. Think about the types of conflict that you come into contact with most frequently, and in which category does it fall. Certainly that will be helpful as we continue through this webinar, and as we look at various ways to deal with conflict that can help us, then, zero in on a method that works best for the situations that we’re addressing.
Most modern theories of conflict are based on Robert Blake and Jane Mouton’s research on conflict management back during the 1960s. This has been well researched over the years. Black and Mouton certainly were some pioneers in this. Together they identified five characteristic ways or styles that people used to respond to conflict. We’re going to refer to those styles or strategies here as ways to help us deal with conflict. Those five strategies, then, are forcing, the second one is withdrawing, the third one is smoothing, the fourth one is compromising, and finally problem solving. Those are based on an individual’s degree of concern or focus for production or tasks. As you can see on the slide there, whether it’s on the Y axis, or the degree of concern for people on the X axis.
HRDQ’s conflict strategies model is a modified version of Blake and Mouton’s conflict grid. We use the terms, as you’ll note here on this slide, competing … We use the term competing rather than forcing. We use the term avoiding rather than withdrawing. Just because we felt that these were a little bit softer terms, perhaps, to use for development purposes. We also renamed the problem solving to integrating, which we felt was a more descriptive term for those behaviors that are involved. And the smoothing and compromising labels remain unchanged here.
Regardless of which style people use to respond to conflict, they will typically go through two stages to every conflict encounter that they have. In stage one here, two parties will realize that their goals are incompatible. For instance, one party wants to spend less on a project while the other party wants more expensive, high quality deliverables. They then decide how to handle these differences, or the strategy decision, which leads to stage two where their goals are either met or unmet. In many ways, the strategy decision, whether made consciously or unconsciously for that matter, is really the crucial step. Conflict resolution skills obviously play a part, but adopting the wrong strategy to begin with has by far the greatest effect on the outcome.
Let’s take a look at each of these five conflict strategies. We’ll examine these in more detail so we can make the right choice as to the right strategy to deal with the conflict in our lives. Avoiding is the first one here that we’ll look at. This refers to when one party ignores their own goals by steering clear of the conflict, just trying to avoid it altogether. Avoiding is really the complete lack of engagement here in the conflict. For instance, person B here wants lower costs, but chooses not to vocalize this expectation. They don’t speak up about it. In doing so, they concede their position entirely, leaving that goal unmet, while person A has his or her goals fully met. That’s the avoiding strategy, if you will.
Now let’s look at smoothing. When one party uses the smoothing strategy, they give in completely to the other party’s goals. But unlike the avoiding strategy, smoothing involves engaging in the conflict, but then results in simply foregoing one’s original goals or expectations in favor of supporting the other person’s goals. In this example on the slide, party B makes it known to party A that they want high quality deliverables, but chooses to forego this expectation in favor of supporting party A’s goals of achieving lower costs. Competing, then, is the third technique. This produces the classic win/lose situation. You’ve got two parties competing against each other. Party A in this example will achieve their original goal while party B loses everything. The outcome is the same, really, as avoiding and smoothing, the last two that we talked about, but both parties stand their ground until one emerges as the winner, and of course, one emerges as the loser.
Then let’s look at what the compromising strategy offers us. It creates a solution that includes pieces of the parties’ original goals. For instance, the parties agree to cut costs on some deliverables, to us our earlier example, and yet they’ll spend more on high quality on others. Of course, that can be satisfying for both parties, and indeed may help protect the relationship or enable the parties to reach an outcome quickly, if this is desirable, of course. Ultimately, though, compromising may be more about making the parties feel good than it is about producing an outcome that benefits … So certainly we’re trying to … as part of this compromising technique, we are engaging in the negotiation process, and trying to be respectful of the other person’s thoughts, ideas, desires, but not quite as harsh as the competing strategy that we just looked at. In this one, we’re trying to engage both parties and come out with a win/win situation on both sides.
Finally, then, we’ll talk about the integrating strategy. This is really, I think, the preferred strategy that we want to aim for. The integrating strategy, as you’ll see here, it involves both parties working together to find a solution, and one that produces the best outcome for the organization. For instance, the parties find a way to save money and maintain the high quality deliverables. Integrating has significant benefits over the other conflict strategies we’ve addressed, and I think those are becoming more obvious here. Some of those benefits would be like, the parties will reach a mutually advantageous solution that not only meets but surpasses their original goals. Their solution has a longterm focus, and it benefits the organization as a whole, not just one party or the other, certainly not a win/lose situation here. By resolving the conflict in a more positive, and even collaborative manner, the parties maintain a strong relationship, and the set the tone for future issues to be handled, then, in a similar way.
Should integrating always be your go to method of conflict resolution? It might seem like integrating is the prescribed cure all for conflict situations. Is that really the case? Should integrating always be that go to method as it stays on the slide here? Well, let’s look at each of those strategies that we’ve discussed and talk about how and when each of these might be best employed. So avoiding, when to use the avoiding strategy. This strategy is usually most effective because the conflict remains, even if you aren’t dealing with it. I think I may have just used the word effective, and I was meaning to say that avoiding is going to be more ineffective because that conflict’s still going to be there. Regardless of how the situation turns out, the conflict will still be there. However, it’s likely that there will be some situations in which the conflict is trivial, or it just simply cannot be revolved, and so avoiding can help prevent some unnecessary problems. We may find certain situations where using an avoiding strategy is appropriate in some limited opportunities.
When do we use the smoothing strategy? The smoothing strategy here may create the impression that the smoother, the person using that strategy, is easily persuaded, and in the long run that their ideas may not be taken seriously. If they’re not standing up for what they believe in, or if it appears that way, then that could perhaps jeopardize their reputation. However, smoothing can sometimes really be the key strategy to use in order to move beyond the conflict at hand to discuss other issues, perhaps more important issues. In other word, a small loss today in favor of a bigger gain tomorrow.
When to use the competing strategy. You’ll remember this is often the win/lose strategy that we referred to previously. Competing is rarely a productive strategy for dealing with conflict because it just doesn’t create those healthy longterm relationships. However, it can be an appropriate strategy if there is no longterm relationship involved, or if one party’s goals demand immediate attention. Conflicts that arise during these one-off negotiations may benefit from adopting a competing strategy.
As we’re working through each one of these, I hope what you’re seeing is that indeed there are five strategies for dealing with conflict, and there may be very unique situations where each of these can be applied. As you think about the types of conflict that you’re dealing with, then hopefully understanding each of these strategies can help you determine the best way for overcoming those conflicts.
The compromising strategy, then, is one that people often adopt when there’s a need to move forward quickly. Rather than getting engaged in a … perhaps in a long, protracted negotiation event, the compromising strategy is one that we might default to if we have to move forward quickly. In this strategy, both parties are trying to satisfy as much of their original goal as possible. But then they also risk not searching for the best overall solution. Compromising can be effective, however, when both parties arrive at one of those stalemates.
Then our last strategy, again, was the integrating strategy. Although each of these five strategies are appropriate in different situations, research will indicate that in general, integrating is the most beneficial strategy because it’s focusing on problem solving and collaboration. It’s not just giving in, as we might do. We might give up on some important things in the compromising. It’s not the win/lose strategy that we discussed with competing. But rather we’re looking out for what the best solution is for all involved. It’s also an effective strategy for dealing with conflict because really it frames the conflict in terms of what is best for the organization, and it protects the parties’ relationship as well. It’s challenging, though, because it can take time for the best solution to emerge.
I’ve got a personal example here of this integrating strategy that I’ll share briefly. Back in the early part of my career, I used to attend a business conference each year, as did another colleague of mine from my same work team. But one year, we were told that budgets were tight and only one of us would be able to attend. Well, we both immediately went into compete mode, and we saw attendance at this conference as a status symbol, and felt that once we gave up going one year, we would unlikely be able to go again. Neither one of us really wanted to give in at first. As we discussed our respective goals and outcomes from the conference from past years over the next few days as we talked it over, we really came to the realization that neither of us gained that much from the event. We went because that’s what managers from our company always did. And truthfully, we enjoyed the travel, but that was a personal gain. Once at the conference, we rarely met anyone of note, and couldn’t recall any significant benefit going back over the last several years.
So, a compromise solution might have resulted in my colleague and I alternating attendance each year. That could have been one solution. But there could have been some lingering resentment among us. But the solution we came up with was best for the organization. Rather than limiting attendance to one manager, we recommended to our vice president that neither of us go. In fact, not only that we shouldn’t go that year, but we made the recommendation that we would not include that particular conference in the budget again. We not only saved that year’s travel expenses, but for future years, also. This is just one example of the integrating strategy.
When you focus on what’s best for your organization, you go a long way towards creating that climate of trust. As you look at those bullet points on the slide here for integrating, that climate of trust, we said earlier that’s really a foundation for relationships. The integrating strategy allows us to maintain each others’ interest while building trust in others that we’re working with and around that we’re looking out for the best interest of the organizations, and not for selfish gain. When you can see the conflict, even from other sides … in other words, put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, then you’re able to surface and really clarify thoughts and feelings.
Improved communication, that third point there. Through this integrating strategy, and as we’re trying to see the issues from another person’s vantage point, then it often opens up our communication channels. We communicate more effectively. Creativity and innovation will come into play because solutions expand, and we’re looking for what’s the best opportunity, or what’s the best option, maybe, or the best strategy for the organization. Ultimately, we remove, then, many of the impediments or road blocks to efficiency. So, increased efficiency and productivity are certainly a desirable result of the integrating strategy.
How do we become more adept at integrating? How do we begin? The key to making conflict work for us rather than against us is to recognize the value in other people’s view, and to reframe the conflict in terms of positive benefits to the organization. These are the foundations for the integrating style. Another manager that … Another well known person in history that we think of that employed this integrating style was Henry Ford. Henry Ford was notorious for telling his employees he did not want a yes man working for him. He would rather have people disagree and point out other ways, other techniques, other solutions to at least make sure that the company was benefiting from the value that each person could bring to the table.
To become more adept at integrating, let’s look at some techniques here. Some pointers are listed here. To begin by being open and honest about your goals, your expectations, what you’re trying to accomplish, and invite the other party to do the same. Again, we want this to be a win/win type of a situation, so we want the other party looking out for, from their view, what the best interest is for the organization as we’re doing the same thing. Look at the big picture. What would be the best outcome for the organization, regardless of what you want and what the other party wants? What is best for the organization? Articulate your goal and listen to the other party’s.
Stay calm and non defensive. Now, this is a tough one, I’ll have to admit. When we think our ideas or our viewpoint may be discounted, it’s hard not to get defensive or to want to stand up for our own ideas or our own thoughts. But to fully employ this integrating strategy, we have to be willing to step back, to stay calm, and to try to keep the emotion out of it. By doing so, it often will inspire the other party to do the same thing, to adopt a similar mindset, and set the stage for better problem solving and better collaboration.
Asking questions to make sure that you fully understand that other person’s goals and values. Put yourself in their shoes, as we said earlier. Try to view the conflict from their perspective. Reframe the conflict as an opportunity to improve something, be it a process, or if it’s a structure, or a relationship. And then similarly, view the other party as a partner in solving a problem rather than as an adversary. These points help us understand that we don’t want to be in that competing strategy when we’re looking for a way to do what’s best for the organization. Look at the challenges, at the problems, from the other party’s point of view. Try to put ourselves in their shoes.
Let’s look at five steps here. Step one is our first step here in changing our … really, the conflict handling skill set, how we address conflict in our day to day lives. A useful first step here would be to identify first your conflict management style, to acknowledge what your typical or go to style would be. Using some type of an assessment tool will help put a mirror, perhaps, on your conflict behaviors, and help you better understand how you typically respond in conflict situations. There’s a number of assessment tools on the market that can help you do just that, to identify your conflict management style. HRDQ has developed the Conflict Strategies Inventory that was mentioned back at the beginning of this webinar, and it was designed for just this purpose. But of course, there are other tools available as well.
Our second step, then, is once we’ve identified or we’re at least examining what our own style is, then we want to examine where our style is working, and where it doesn’t. We may have some habitual types of scenarios that cause you to default to one style more strongly. It may be more of your go to style because of what is the typical conflict that you’re dealing with. There certainly will be situations where that style works well, and there’s going to be situations where perhaps it’s less effective. Step number two helps us to begin to identify those strengths and weaknesses of the style that we most often use.
Step three, then, says to identify common conflict encounters, and then think about which conflict strategy is appropriate to use. Once we have a little better understanding of our own style, our own strategy of dealing with conflict, then to examine what is typical for us. What are some of the typical conflict events that take place in our day to day work life? Then, we can identify which conflict strategy might be most likely to result in an optimal outcome. We’re starting to understand our style. Now we’re beginning to look at some of the more common types of conflict that we deal with at our workplace, and then we can … in that calm and rational manner, we can begin to look at these five strategies and determine which one might work best. This process then leads us to the next developmental step.
Step four here is to determine what you will do differently. What can you do? This might be similarly to what we refer to as a gap analysis, identifying what changes to your own conflict management approach … That’s a major step in becoming more adept at managing conflict. As we’re willing to be honest with ourselves, be willing to examine our own processes, and our go to strategy, if you will, now we can begin to look at where the shortcomings are and what we might do differently.
As you might expect, our step five here, then, is practice. We’ve all heard the term practice, practice, practice, because practice makes perfect, doesn’t it? Practicing these behaviors will help us create new patterns or new habits of response. As you begin to look at the typical examples of conflict that you deal with, looking at, then, what strategy might be most appropriate for that, we can begin to identify that in upcoming events, upcoming opportunities where we can put these things into play. Also, consider a feedback loop. That might really be helpful in your early stages of behavior change. By a feedback loop, meaning seeking input from other parties, as well as observation from peers and colleagues, people that work around you, people that work with you. This approach will be extremely useful in both supporting your efforts to change, and quantifying the progress that you’re making.
Let’s take a look at a potentially real life situation and see how you might handle it. This is a conflict situation that comes directly out of our course that was mentioned earlier on conflict management. I’m going to read through this. Follow along there on the slide.
You and Henry have worked in the same department for a little over six months. Henry is the type of person who will do whatever work is assigned to him, but he rarely takes the initiative to seek out tasks on his own. Henry’s lack of initiative has bothered you, but you have let it go because you felt your supervisor knew who was doing what work, and you felt you were being properly compensated. Recently, however, your company has decided to institute a bonus system to reward high performing groups. Everyone in your group will receive an equal bonus. You think this decision is unfair. As far as you are concerned, Henry will be rewarded for your hard work. You’ve heard Henry say that he thinks this system is great. He’ll get more money, and he doesn’t have to work any harder. Because there is no assigned supervisor for each departmental group, the only person you can go to is the manager of your entire department, and you know that she believes strongly in this new reward system.
Let’s consider this situation along with some potential strategies and see how we might best deal with it. We’re going to look at five potential answers here. On this next slide, then, some options are, A would be to sit down with Henry and inform him of your views about his role in the group with regard to the new bonus system. You will ask if you or members of the department can do anything to help in his transition in the equal sharing of responsibility required by the new bonus system. Then together you will try to work out tasks and responsibilities with which he would be comfortable, and that would increase his contribution to the group. That’s the first option here.
B, option B, is pull Henry aside and have a one on one discussion in which you will tell him that you’re not happy with the new bonus system because you feel he hasn’t put in the same effort in his job as you have. Then you’ll inform him that you are willing to set the past aside as long as he agrees to become a greater contributor to the group. Option C is speak to Henry and tell him that since this new system has been adopted, he had better start being more of a team player and take some initiative, or you’ll do everything in your power to get him replaced. Option D is accept the new system publicly, do the best job that you know how to do, and hope that you will eventually get noticed for doing a superior job. And our final option is E, request that you be transferred to another department where you know there is a better shared work effort.
As you look over these options, which do you see as being the most likely option for you? What would be your go to option here as you think about this potential case? All right, I’m going to move ahead and show you on this next slide how each of those responses fit into the five strategies that we’ve talked about today. Don’t be discouraged, of course, if what you chose was not the integrating strategy. Remember that these are strategies. They’re not innate or styles that we’re just necessarily born with. This is a learned process. Through practice, we can become more integrating. As you look through each of those answers, and look through the label, just consider which one seemed to be the most obvious style to you, or the most obvious strategy that would have made sense to you.
We’ve talked a lot about conflict here in a relatively short amount of time. I think to wrap this up is to remember that conflict occurs when parties just have non compatible goals, to remember that conflict is not always bad, and it’s unavoidable. It’s something we’re going to deal with. Remember that slide from earlier, 81% of us will deal with conflict on a somewhat regular basis, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. With strategies like what we’ve displayed here, these are ways or techniques to help us make the most out of the interactions that we have with our workforce.
When you begin to support the idea that learning to manage conflict as opposed to resolving or eliminating it, that learning to manage conflict really can be leveraged, then you start to see the value and the gains for the individual, certainly for your team, and even more so for your organization. I hope these techniques and strategies that we’ve talked about today have been helpful as you consider the types of conflict that you’re dealing with at work. I hope these strategies provide you with some more thoughtful, considered responses that can help improve the productivity of the entire team, create more of those win/win types of results. I want to thank each of you for joining us today, and for your interest in learning to manage conflict in the workplace. Sara, I’ll turn it back to you.
Sara: Wonderful. Thank you so much, David. So much great information today. For those of you … I know there’s some new people on the line. For those of you who are new to HRDQ, I just want to take a moment here to introduce us. If you do have any questions for David, go ahead and use your questions area on your go to webinar control panel. Type those in. We’ll respond to those by email after the session. Go ahead and send those to us. For those who are new to HRDQ, we publish research based experiential learning products that you can deliver in your organization. Check out our online or print self assessments that include classroom workshops like the foundation of our session today, which was the Conflict Strategies Inventory. We also have up out of your seat games, our reproducible workshops that you can customize, as well. Give a call over to our customer service team, or check out our website, and if you need help delivering a training program, or you want one of our expert trainers like David to either deliver it for you, or provide train the services, we do offer that as well.
Again, David, thank you so much for your expertise. It’s always wonderful to hear from you.
David Alumbaugh: Sara, it was certainly my privilege to join you today, and thank you for asking.
Sara: Thanks everyone for participating in today’s webinar. Happy training.
How much do you find people dealing with conflict the way they learned to deal with it at home, namely the way their parents dealt with conflict?
Yes, we often ask in sessions, were your parents toxic or tooling? Some of the things that made us learn poor strategies for dealing with conflict were the following:
- Frequently having to be compliant/passive (“Smoothing”). This includes giving into your folks no matter what, having to be the peacemaker in conflicts, acting as if everything was fine between us, or making sacrifices just to please your parents.
- Frequently having to be mean/aggressive (“Competing”). This includes arguing with your folks, screaming, yelling or cursing at your parents, blowing your stack at your parents, purposely doing things they didn’t like to show your independence.
- Frequently manipulating the relationship (“Avoiding” and/or “Compromising”). This includes not talking to your parents, trying to make them happy in other ways, or just smiling although you were hurting inside.
But no matter what direction we were nurtured when we were young, it is absolutely possible to develop skills to be “Integrative” when we approach conflict later in life. I client once said that following guidelines in the Conflict Strategies Inventory helped her do things she had never done before.
So if you had toxic parents, do not give up on improvements. Just develop your skills.