Materials on conflict resolution
16 STRATEGIES FOR RESOLVING
Basics of conflict Management
Written by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD | Applies to
nonprofits and for-profits unless noted
Library home page
(Information in this topic has been excerpted from the
Nuts-and-Bolts Guide to
Leadership and Supervision.)
Clarifying Confusion About Conflict
Conflict is when two or more values, perspectives and
opinions are contradictory in nature and haven't been
aligned or agreed about yet, including:
1. Within yourself when you're not living according to
2. When your values and perspectives are threatened;
3. Discomfort from fear of the unknown or from lack of
Conflict is inevitable and often good, for example,
good teams always go through a "form, storm, norm and
perform" period. Getting the most out of diversity
means often-contradictory values, perspectives and
Conflict is often needed. It:
1. Helps to raise and address problems.
2. Energizes work to be on the most appropriate
3. Helps people "be real", for example, it motivates
them to participate.
4. Helps people learn how to recognize and benefit
from their differences.
Conflict is not the same as discomfort. The conflict
isn't the problem - it is when conflict is poorly
managed that is the problem.
Conflict is a problem when it:
1. Hampers productivity.
2. Lowers morale.
3. Causes more and continued conflicts.
4. Causes inappropriate behaviors.
Types of Managerial Actions that Cause Workplace
1. Poor communications
a. Employees experience continuing surprises, they
aren't informed of new
decisions, programs, etc.
b. Employees don't understand reasons for decisions,
they aren't involved in
c. As a result, employees trust the "rumor mill" more
2. The alignment or the amount of resources is
insufficient. There is:
a. Disagreement about "who does what".
b. Stress from working with inadequate resources.
3. "Personal chemistry", including conflicting values
or actions among managers and employees, for example:
a. Strong personal natures don't match.
b. We often don't like in others what we don't like in
4. Leadership problems, including inconsistent,
missing, too-strong or uninformed leadership (at any
level in the organization), evidenced by:
a. Avoiding conflict, "passing the buck" with little
follow-through on decisions.
b. Employees see the same continued issues in the
c. Supervisors don't understand the jobs of their
Key Managerial Actions / Structures to Minimize
1. Regularly review job descriptions. Get your
employee's input to them. Write down and date job
a. Job roles don't conflict.
b. No tasks "fall in a crack".
2. Intentionally build relationships with all
a. Meet at least once a month alone with them in
b. Ask about accomplishments, challenges and issues.
3. Get regular, written status reports and include:
b. Currents issues and needs from management.
c. Plans for the upcoming period.
4. Conduct basic training about:
a. Interpersonal communications.
b. Conflict management.
5. Develop procedures for routine tasks and include
the employees' input.
a. Have employees write procedures when possible and
b. Get employees' review of the procedures.
c. Distribute the procedures.
d. Train employees about the procedures.
6. Regularly hold management meetings, for example,
every month, to communicate new initiatives and status
of current programs.
7. Consider an anonymous suggestion box in which
employees can provide suggestions.
Ways People Deal With Conflict
There is no one best way to deal with conflict. It
depends on the current situation. Here are the major
ways that people use to deal with conflict.
1. Avoid it. Pretend it is not there or ignore it.
a. Use it when it simply is not worth the effort to
argue. Usually this approach tends
to worsen the conflict over time.
2. Accommodate it. Give in to others, sometimes to the
extent that you compromise yourself.
a. Use this approach very sparingly and infrequently,
for example, in situations
when you know that you will have another more useful
approach in the very
near future. Usually this approach tends to worsen the
conflict over time, and
causes conflicts within yourself.
3. Competing. Work to get your way, rather than
clarifying and addressing the issue. Competitors love
a. Use when you have a very strong conviction about
4. Compromising. Mutual give-and-take.
a. Use when the goal is to get past the issue and move
5. Collaborating. Focus on working together.
a. Use when the goal is to meet as many current needs
as possible by using mutual
resources. This approach sometimes raises new mutual
b. Use when the goal is to cultivate ownership and
To Manage a Conflict Within Yourself - "Core Process"
It's often in the trying that we find solace, not in
getting the best solution. The following steps will
help you in this regard.
1. Name the conflict, or identify the issue, including
what you want that you aren't getting. Consider:
a. Writing your thoughts down to come to a conclusion.
b. Talk to someone, including asking them to help you
summarize the conflict in 5
sentences or less.
2. Get perspective by discussing the issue with your
friend or by putting it down in writing. Consider:
a. How important is this issue?
b. Does the issue seem worse because you're tired,
angry at something else, etc.?
c. What's your role in this issue?
3. Pick at least one thing you can do about the
a. Identify at least three courses of action.
b. For each course, write at least three pros and
c. Select an action - if there is no clear course of
action, pick the alternative that
will not hurt, or be least hurtful, to yourself and
d. Briefly discuss that course of action with a
4. Then do something.
a. Wait at least a day before you do anything about
the conflict. This gives you
a cooling off period.
b. Then take an action.
c. Have in your own mind, a date when you will act
again if you see no clear
To Manage a Conflict With Another - "Core Process"
1. Know what you don't like about yourself, early on
in your career. We often don't like in others what we
don't want to see in ourselves.
a. Write down 5 traits that really bug you when see
them in others.
b. Be aware that these traits are your "hot buttons".
2. Manage yourself. If you and/or the other person are
getting heated up, then manage yourself to stay calm
a. Speaking to the person as if the other person is
not heated up - this can be very
b. Avoid use of the word "you" - this avoids blaming.
c. Nod your head to assure them you heard them.
d. Maintain eye contact with them.
3. Move the discussion to a private area, if possible.
4. Give the other person time to vent.
a. Don't interrupt them or judge what they are saying.
5. Verify that you're accurately hearing each other.
When they are done speaking:}
a. Ask the other person to let you rephrase
(uninterrupted) what you are hearing from
them to ensure you are hearing them.
b. To understand them more, ask open-ended questions.
Avoid "why" questions -
those questions often make people feel defensive.
6. Repeat the above step, this time for them to verify
that they are hearing you. When you present your
a. Use "I", not "you".
b. Talk in terms of the present as much as possible.
c. Mention your feelings.
7. Acknowledge where you disagree and where you agree.
8. Work the issue, not the person. When they are
convinced that you understand them:
a. Ask "What can we do fix the problem?" They will
likely begin to complain again.
Then ask the same question. Focus on actions they can
9. If possible, identify at least one action that can
be done by one or both of you.
a. Ask the other person if they will support the
b. If they will not, then ask for a "cooling off
10. Thank the person for working with you.
11. If the situation remains a conflict, then:
a. Conclude if the other person's behavior conflicts
with policies and procedures in
the workplace and if so, present the issue to your
b. Consider whether to agree to disagree.
c. Consider seeking a third party to mediate.
Related Library Links
(Face-to-Face) (listening, presenting, questioning,
Management (in groups)
Skills (counseling, delegating, coaching, mentoring,
motivating, power, etc.)
16 STRATEGIES FOR RESOLVING CONFLICT
1. Do everything possible to create a supportive
environment for resolving the conflict. Hold a
special meeting so people will know they will have a
chance to be heard. Allocate plenty of time to avoid
having to rush. Stipulate that no one can be
interrupted while speaking.
2. Choose an appropriate time to deal with the
conflict, preferably after people have had a chance to
calm down and look at facts more objectively.
3. Focus on issues rather than personalities. Be as
specific as possible in describing the problem to be
4. Differentiate between reality and perception.
People have a tendency to see what they want to see.
5. Periodically remind one another of what you have
in common and of the interests you share. Focus on
these potential bridges more than on your differences.
6. Break the conflict into smaller "bite-size"
pieces, which can be dealt with one by one.
7. Don't seek a premature resolution - better to move
more slowly and cautiously toward a solution that will
stand the test of time.
8. Invite a neutral party to listen, counsel, and
play a peacekeeping role.
9. Pray with and for one another as a reminder that
in the final analysis, we're all on God's side.
10. Use personal statements (I. my. our.) rather than
blaming or attacking (you. your.).
11. Describe feelings rather than acting them out or
attempting to disguise them.
12. Rather than stating your inferences or
assumptions about others' motives as if they were
true, state our concern as a guess and ask for
confirmation or denial.
13. As much as possible, stay with descriptions of
behavior rather than guesses at what the behavior
14. Acknowledge your share in creating the conflict
15. Before stating your position, respond to others
in ways that show understanding (silence or arguments
do not let others know you see any merit in their
16. Make no threats.
Compiled by Pietro Reyes III 69