Welcome to the quarterly Working
Newsletter. Our goal is to highlight how we
stronger work relationships, communicate
effectively, and manage conflict
constructively in the workplace.
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|What Best Describes the Frequency and Type of Conflict in Your Organization?
According to the CCL Conflict Poll (Center for
Creative Leadership, July
2007), 85% of
respondents reported that conflict occurs on either a
constant or a regular basis. How
organization? Would you be in that 85%? Conflict is
inevitable, so you probably do experience it. All conflict
outcomes aren't equal though. Conflict often
manifests itself quickly and seemingly unpredictably.
What happens next -- how we respond -- either leads
outcomes or results in bad outcomes. Next, ask
yourself, "What do you see when you see conflict
Signs you are getting good results from
- High creativity in problem solving
- Tensions kept to a minimum when there are
differences of opinion (especially when there are
sensitive interpersonal issues)
- Different views invited and incorporated to reach
Signs you are getting bad results from
- Rather than looking for solutions to problems,
people are looking for someone to blame
- People exhibit destructive behaviors such
as lashing out, digging in and refusing to budge,
withholding information, using inappropriate humor,
- People communicate negative feelings
indirectly rather than speaking with the person about
their concerns (e.g., negative looks, gestures, and
If conflict is "regular" and "constant" in
organizations, how can you respond to get more good
outcomes and fewer bad outcomes?
|How People Most Often Express Conflict
In group sessions, I ask participants "How
do people in your organization
deal with conflict?," The most frequent
avoiding it!" In the July CCL Conflict Poll,
national or multi-national corporations, nonprofits and
mid-size and large businesses said the same thing.
fact, only 19% responded that conflict is handled in a
direct and clear way in their organizations.
Handled indirectly, or left to
fester, conflict tends to find a way to
surface later. When it does, the same problems
exist and they are often accompanied by other intense
negative emotions such as resentment, frustration,
|Avoiding Conflict: What are the Consequences?
Avoidance as a behavioral response will ensure
the benefits of healthy conflict can't be realized. If
we are busy avoiding conflict, we aren't engaging in
the constructive behaviors that lead to creativity and
decision-making. Rather than avoid conflict, we need
to be working to understand others' perspectives,
working together to create solutions, communicating
openly and honestly, and reaching out to others.
Avoiding conflict is "throwing the baby out with the
bath water" -- when one avoids the painful
aspects of conflict, one sacrifices possibly positive
outcomes. Research indicates that responding to
conflict constructively results in higher creativity and
better decision-making -- two outcomes not to be
|Training and Coaching to Manage Conflict
It is not surprising that people feel they would
benefit from training or coaching to manage
stress alone is great for leaders and all participants
in destructive conflict. The negative impact on the
organization in terms of productivity, employee
engagement, and service is equally
impressive and devastating.
Working Dynamics works
with individuals and groups to learn how to manage
conflict competently. By first understanding
conflict and personal reactions, then replacing
destructive responses with constructive ones,
individuals and entire organizations can manage
conflict and lead more
effectively. To discuss training, coaching, or
consulting with your organization, contact Susan
Gunn, Working Dynamics.
|Opportunities to Build Conflict Competence Abound
Conflict isn't limited to the workplace. As you
learn new ways to approach conflict at work, you can
apply those same skills off the job. Authors Craig
Runde and Tim
Flanagan encourage conflict competence in any
setting: "Engaging in perspective-taking with your
spouse, children or friends can defuse tension and
set the stage for more meaningful relationships.
Reaching out to estranged family members can
renew lost connections. A delayed response or
reflective thinking with the grocery store clerk or waiter
may preserve everyone's sanity and enjoyment while
shopping or dining. By engaging in constructive
behaviors consistently, you improve your ability to
handle conflict anywhere and with anyone." Then,
engaging in constructive behaviors and becoming
conflict competent in a complex organizational setting
can follow with greater ease.
For more information, read Runde and Flanagan's
a Conflict Competent Leader.
About the Publisher
Susan Gunn is president of
Working Dynamics, a Richmond, VA, consulting
Working Dynamics builds collaboration and
in the workplace through development programs
conflict management. Learn more about us at
"You can act upon your emotions
or be acted upon by them."
"It's very hard to get your heart and head
together in life. In my case, they're not even
-- Woody Allen
"We boil at different degrees."
-- Benjamin Franklin