Question: “My organization is considering developing an internal conflict management system.  What should we consider as we undertake this project?”

Many people think a grievance policy is a Conflict Management System (CMS).  It is not! 

By the time a conflict escalates to the point of filing a grievance, it has reached the stage where relationships have been damaged and costs begin to soar.  Therefore, organizations will benefit from designing a holistic, multi-step, interest-based CMS that enables the organization to develop effective procedures for managing conflict and educating employees.

Organizational goals and missions are the beacons that guide the developmental process.  An important aspect of a successful CMS is to design it with the people who will use it, not for them.  Developing a multi-step process that recognizes levels of conflict and allows conflict management options to be matched with specific needs is essential.  A CMS encourages open communication, offers a safe place for conflicted parties to voice their concerns, provides a forum for information dissemination, and promotes collaborative problem-solving strategies. 

The CMS should be simple and easy to use and give conflicted parties maximum control over the conflict management method and selection of neutrals, whenever possible.  Once the CMS is developed, employees should be educated about its existence and how it can be utilized.  Finally, assessing its success by seeking feedback and reviewing effective resolutions will allow for continuous improvement of the CMS. 

Although an interest-based approach is time-consuming, requiring collaborative problem-solving procedures, it also produces satisfying, long-lasting results.  Designing a CMS that is congruent with organizational goals is the cornerstone of an evolving and profitable organization.  Viewing conflict as a prolific and ongoing process, and designing a CMS that productively and proactively addresses it, provides a spark that ignites creativity, innovation, and improvements in a dynamic organization.