Personality clashes, unmet expectations and resistive coworkers are among the primary causes of behavioral-based conflict in the workplace. Without an effective resolution process, no work unit can continue to function effectively.
When evaluating the need for a conflict management program, be aware that unresolved conflict is directly related to job satisfaction – as job satisfaction drops, so does productivity.
Unless people are trained to explore the root cause of their differences, people will view conflict as a game to be either won or lost. The impacted parties will simply keep track of how many points they can make by winning arguments with those who oppose them. This is known as the “zero sum” game—meaning that the side with the most points wins when the other side gives up or stops arguing.
The side that won will not bring the issue up again for fear that the opposition has gathered the support of more powerful people. The losing side will not bring it up again for fear of another defeat.
The “winner” gets a plus and the loser gets a minus, the sum of which is zero. If this game- playing continues, the organization gains nothing and becomes more dysfunctional because the participants cannot resolve their differences.
The ultimate goal of resolving differences is to search for permanent solutions. A quick fix will not last unless it can be developed into long-lasting settlement.
Oftentimes, their first response was an evasive or defensive reaction. More discussion may be needed before a durable resolution is achieved. A productive resolution is often based on a blend of each person’s expectations. By taking the time to facilitate a permanent solution you establish trust and commitment to get beyond the quick fix.
When leaders train followers to adjudicate their own conflicts the responsibility shifts to their shoulders and frees up the leader to pursue more fruitful tasks.
Resolving conflict involves selecting an appropriate process, building a strategy that defines the issue that is driving people apart, blending individual expectations, setting the stage for negotiation and searching for permanent solutions.
People who work together must learn how to express their concerns openly, ask difficult questions readily and willingly face the core issues that are keeping them from achieving success.
Research shows that the most competent, functional workers will be the first to flee a hostile, conflict-filled workplace. Consider what it would mean should your best employees leave to seek peace and harmony elsewhere.