Managing Conflict in the Workplace


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 successfully handle conflict scenarios in the workplace. 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

Who Should Attend

  • Training or HR professionals who deliver training
  • Independent training consultants
  • A manager who delivers or purchases training as part of their role

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.
Sara: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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
David Alumbaugh: 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.
David Alumbaugh: 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
David Alumbaugh: 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.
Sara: 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
Sara: Thanks everyone for participating in today’s webinar. Happy training.



David Alumbaugh has managed institutional-level sales for domestic and international accounts. He has more than 20 years of sales and sales management experience, and 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.



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