Conflict Resolution - Office of Employee Assistance

Conflict Resolution
Defining conflict
Source of conflict
What is your conflict style?
Conflict resolution
Conflict escalators
Conflict reducers
Key elements
Key phrases
Defining Conflict
Defining Conflict
- An expressed struggle between at least
two interdependent parties who perceive
incompatible goals, scarce rewards, and
interference from the other party in
achieving their goals.
• Conflict is natural: every relationship that
has existed for a certain period of time has
experienced conflict.
• Most conflicts result from one party
believing they have something to lose.
• No matter how good a relationship, there
are times when an individual’s ideas,
needs or goals will not match
those of others around
him or her.
Conflict is a fact of life – and so are the
feelings that accompany it. For example,
hurt, anger, frustration, resentment and
disappointment are some emotional
Sources of Conflict
Communication Barriers
Conflicts of Interest
Need for Consensus
What is your conflict style?
The Avoider
The Avoider
Do you have the tendency to deny,
suppress, or “put aside” differences?
• Born out of the desire to preserve
harmony and prevent upsetting, negative
• If resentments grow, the individual will
either gradually withdraw or
explode resulting in the
opposite of harmony.
The Avoider
• Learn to speak up respectfully about those
things that bother you or about issues
which can potentially affect the team’s
ability to accomplish its goals.
• Begin with an “empathy statement” –
letting the other person know you
understand or want to understand how
he/she sees and feels about
the situation then proceed to
tackle the real issue.
The Accommodator
The Accommodator
Do you yield or subordinate your concerns
to those of the other person?
• This style can grow out of the desire to
avoid conflict, or it can be due to the
person’s belief that his or her rights,
feelings, or desires are not as important as
those of others.
The Accommodator
• It is admirable to care for others. However,
that concern must be accompanied by a
corresponding respect for one’s own
rights, opinions and boundaries.
• The key principle for the accommodator to
learn is balance. It is balance that will
assist the accommodator to
function without burning out.
The Competitor
The Competitor
Do you see each workplace conflict as an
opportunity to “win”? Do you go all out to
win, often at the expense of others?
• This competitiveness can take the form of
either overt aggression (rudeness, loud
voice, angry facial expressions) or more
“passive or covert aggression
(gossip, back-stabbing, etc.)
The Competitor
• Look at the long-term results of falling into
the trap of power struggles that never
quite end. The truth is, “winning” is shortlived.
• Even when you succeed at putting
someone else down, the person will
typically look for and find ways to even the
The Competitor
• Recognize that storing anger and looking for
ways to “pay back” keeps you tied to the
negative situation and robs you of energy and
• Learn to confront issues directly, resolve them,
and then refuse to hold grudges.
• The only way to truly “win” is for everyone
involved to leave the table feeling like winners,
with each person’s concerns having
been heard and his/her basic
needs having being met.
Compromise is typically perceived as a
positive step in conflict resolution.
However, this is not the best style as
opposing sides are left with the task of
“settling for half a loaf.”
• While the “splitting the difference” strategy
has good intentions, it is more effective to
become a collaborator.
• Collaboration requires more time, more
commitment, and more creativity – but is
doable with practice.
• When you collaborate, you work with the
other person to mutually solve the problem
in a way that recognizes and honors the
goals of each.
• Be honest and direct, while being
• Avoid emotionally charged words and namecalling.
• Stick to the topic at hand, citing recent
• Share responsibility for the solution.
• Describe the problem in objective terms.
• Actively listen for what the other person values,
and work to help that person achieve those
things as diligently as you try
to get your own needs met.
Adding collaboration to your repertoire of
team skills will significantly enhance your
effectiveness as a team leader or member.
Conflict Resolution
Conflict Resolution
Identify the cause/causes of the conflict
Obtain clarification
Develop ideas
Discuss possible solutions
Agree on specific action steps
Evaluate and refine the plan
Conflict Escalators
Conflict Escalators
Lack of understanding
Personality focus
Tunnel vision
Lack of Understanding
A vast number of conflicts are the result of
simple misunderstanding – people just
didn’t listen to each other.
What we generally call “listening” is only
impatiently waiting until it’s our turn to talk.
It’s a common trait, but one that increases
the potential for misunderstanding
and conflict.
Many of us have difficulty saying exactly
what we want. Perhaps we think that it’s
rude to ask for something outright, or we
are unclear about our own goals.
Sometimes we fall into passivity because
we think that others should be able to tell
us what we want. When we hope people
will guess what
we want, we’re not likely to
get it.
Instead of hinting, we order people
around, often in a demanding, threatening
way. We may do this out of mistaken
notions about leadership, or we may be
hiding our insecurity.
Whatever the cause, when we act
aggressively, people usually feel angry
and resentful.
It turns them off and drives
them away.
Personality Focus
Conflict is often attributed to the
characteristics or behavior of people rather
than to disagreement about an issue.
Unfortunately, when we focus on the faults
of others, they usually become defensive
and the conflict increases.
When people adopt a negative attitude
toward the problem or to the other person
or to themselves, this negative attitude
becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The
conflict is seldom solved effectively.
Tunnel Vision
Sometimes great conflict is generated
around an issue that’s just not important.
Maintaining a relentless ‘nit-picking’ focus
on the issue that irritates you – especially
if it’s not very important – is a certain
guarantee that the conflict will remain and
may even escalate.
Conflict Reducers
Conflict Reducers
Respectful Tolerance
Issue Focus
Positive Expectations
Wide Perspective
Attentive Listening
When you listen, you find out what other
people want, and you’re better able to
respond effectively.
Listening is not easy. It requires special
attention. Your chances of understanding
people and avoiding conflicts increase
when you really listen.
Attentive Listening
• So STOP what you’re doing, and pay
attention to other people.
• LOOK at them, and notice their body
language and other non-verbal cues.
• LISTEN to what that are saying.
• REFLECT back what you have heard the
person say.
• GET CONFIRMATION of accuracy.
Once you know what you want, you need
to be able to state it clearly, without being
either passive or aggressive. Being
assertive simply means saying what you
mean, firmly but politely, and meaning
what you say. When you speak up for
yourself, people are far more likely
to understand what you want
and to respond as you hope.
Respectful Tolerance
When you have unrealistic expectations of
other people and expect them to be
perfect, you set yourself up for conflict.
Why not give other people the benefit of
the doubt? Respect them, as you want
them to respect you. Tolerate their
imperfections and their
inconsistencies. Then you’ll
have less reason to be upset
with them.
Issue Focus
Most conflicts can be redefined as an
issue that affects both people. Focusing
on the issue opens the door to resolution
because neither party needs to feel
defensive, and both can search together
for a solution to the problem. It’s always
best to state the problem as an issue
and not attack or blame the
other person.
Positive Expectations
Expect that the problem can be resolved.
Affirm that the other person needs and
deserves love and approval. And tell
yourself that you’re valuable and capable.
These positive expectations will move you
in a conflict-solving direction.
Wide Perspective
Focus on the history of your relationship
and on your future long-term goals. Ask
yourself whether the issue you’re fighting
over will even matter six months or a year
from now. If not, set aside your
stubbornness, and bow out gracefully.
Clarify what is really important to
you. Keep your conflicts in
Key Elements of
Conflict Resolution
How you talk
How you listen
How you respond
Managing the process
Win-Win solutions
Key Phrases
• Help me understand…
• Can you understand?
• So what you’re saying is…?
Sometimes our problems are just too hard
to solve on your own. If you are concerned
about a particularly difficult partnership,
marriage, relationship or family issue, ther
Office of Employee Assistance (OEA) can
help you.
OEA services are convenient,
confidential and offered at no
cost to the employee.
Contact Us
Office of Employee Assistance
UHSC 136
Phone 309-348-2469
Fax 305-348-3903
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