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Dealing with conflict

In these turbulent economic times, organizational conflict abounds. However, contrary to popular belief, conflict is neither good nor bad.  Rather, conflict is merely a symptom that something is not working, and change needs to occur.  The effect of conflict is determined by how we manage it.  Mismanaged conflict may lead to poor decision-making, absenteeism, and turnover.

The P.E.A.C.E.© Model of Conflict Management is a tool that can help organizational leaders deal with conflict. 

 Conflict, like death and taxes, is inevitable, and the workplace is a breeding ground for unproductive conflict.  Consider that organizational culture consists of ............

One of the most powerful tools we have in our conflict resolution toolbox is empathetic listening.  Humans have a compelling need to be understood and respected,Emotional Intelligenceand being an empathetic listener is a clear sign that we understand and respect the speaker’s perceptions, ideas, and feelings.  Empathy allows us to view the world through the other person’s lens and to understand what that person feels and experiences. Empathetic listening requires us to listen to understand, rather than listen to respond.  When we suspend our own ideas and agendas and empathetically listen, we will hear the underlying meaning of the message, rather than the spoken words.  Not only will empathically listening enhance interpersonal communication and transform relationships, but it will also help us uncover and address root causes of problems that exacerbate conflicts. To improve your empathetic listening skills practice:

·         Giving your full time, attention, and effort to the other person

·         Using total body listening by facing the speaker and maintaining eye contact

·         Watching the speaker’s body language for hidden messages

·         Making comments that encourage the speaker to share feelings and perceptions (Example: Please tell me more about that.)

·         Acknowledging and naming feelings (Example: I can see you are really frustrated.)

When we listen empathetically, we engage our hearts, not our minds and ears.  When we are able to accomplish this, we will identify and address emotions that influence perceptions of the conflict, uncover the true meaning of the communication, and enjoy more productive outcomes. 

Within organizations, diversity is the mosaic of genders, ethnicities, ages, personalities, communication styles, and educational levels.  Diverse work groups not only .......


Given the challenging economic times many organizations are facing, organizational leaders are forced to review and change policies, procedures, and strategies.  Change, while not always welcome, is inevitable if organizations are to survive and thrive.

Paradoxically, change is both an antecedent and a consequence of conflict. It leads to exciting opportunities to transform relationships or revolutionize practices, and when the change is properly managed, the workplace is more collaborative and harmonious.  

Unfortunately, when changes, and the resultant conflicts, are mismanaged, the well-oiled organizational machine can sputter and stall on the side of the road.  Disputes, sabotage, inefficiency, and low morale are all warning signs that unproductive conflict is about to halt a firm’s progress. 

Organizational conflict is often a manifestation of displeasure resulting from incongruent goals, expectations, or interests, and change may exacerbate discontent leaving employees feeling unsettled and unproductive.  In times of change, hierarchical management styles are less effective.  Teamwork is the norm, and in downsized firms fewer people are asked to do more with fewer resources.  As a result, companies are looking for better ways to accomplish their vision and goals. One of these approaches is collaborative problem-solving. 

When implementing collaborative problem-solving strategies, consider these suggestions by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Project on Negotiation:

·         Separate the people from the problem

·         Focus on the interest, not the positions

·         Generate a variety of options before deciding what to do

·         Insist that the solution be based on objective criteria that is linked to the organization’s vision and mission

 Adopting a collaborative approach to conflict identification, containment, and resolution can provide a spark that ignites creativity, innovation, and improvements in dynamic organizations.



Traditionally, the prevailing thought is that emotions have no place at work.