Development Cooperation Handbook/Designing and Executing Projects/Communication Management/Communication Planning/Develop a Conflict Management Strategy

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Managing conflict is more challenging than increasing participation or shifting influence.
Be careful not to ‘blame’ the individuals involved in the conflict. Rather see expressed conflict as a ‘GROUP’ dynamics issue, not an interpersonal issue.
If the group is avoiding conflict in general or avoiding conflict about core/key issues, you might comment about what the group is avoiding and suggest setting aside some time to deal with it.
 Most work groups in organizations have norms that allow mostly positive feelings to be expressed. They may also allow controlled disagreement; disagreement without anger. The problem with this is that negative emotions that are suppressed usually erupt later when the person who suppressed their anger gets back at the group by attacking another person’s idea, regardless of the idea's merit. Moreover the attack is usually disguised as a substantive or procedural issue. It is thus usually more effective to deal with the anger directly in the first place using a constructive confrontation strategy. Effective team leaders model and/or encourage such conflict management maturity.


We said that in each human relationship we can find elements of solidarity and elements of competition. In fact each indivisual is at the same time in a communion of interests with the other in the organization of the economical and cultural structure of the social system where s/he lives and work; and in competition with the others in the effort of getting for herself as many good things produced by this system. Along this dynamics various smaller social units are generated, that are also at the same time in solidarity and in competition amongst themsellves, and produce various forms of unions and alliances. Along this dynamic of simultaneus solidarity and competition are formed varius levels of social aggregation.
However at times the healthy competition breacks down into unhealty conflict. This happens when there is perceived Incompatibility.
Credibility and power, perception plays a primary role in conflict situations. If a team members perceives incompatibility, s/he will act on that, even when the rest of the team may not understand from where the perception (anxiety, fear) comes.
 
Guidlines for prevention and management of conflict

  • Anticipate Conflict
  • Seek Win-Win Solutions
  • Demonstrate Empathy

 
A cardinal rule of dealing with people is to anticipate that conflicts will arise because conflict is a natural part of interaction. That does not mean that a leader-manager (or anyone else) should deliberately incite conflict. Rather, if you consider that conflict is a possible outcome of working together—particularly when emotions and energy are running high—you will be in a better position to work through conflict when it does arise.


When you are in a conflict situation, there are two important principles to follow:

  • Seek Win-Win Solutions: In project/programme purpose, there is always a bottom line and as a leader-manager, it is your job to make those bottom line decisions. To the extent possible, it is always better to err on the side of trying to generate solutions that benefit everyone, rather than following an authoritarian model that necessarily rewards one person over everyone else. Seeking win-win solutions means that a team works to generate a compromise that meets the bottom line but also considers the needs of everyone involved.
  • Demonstrate Empathy: When people are angry or upset, they often want to be understood and feel that their concerns have been heard. By demonstrating that you understand a person’s concerns and needs—even when you do not agree with their position or identify with their experience—it is more likely that you will be perceived as respectful and the conflict resolved more quickly.

 
Communication and Conflict    Whenever people communicate and share information, there is the possibility of conflict between them. Conflict occurs when two or more parties believe that what each wants is incompatible with what the other wants. Conflict can have negative or positive results.
Substantive conflicts are disagreement over issues. Personal antagonism conflicts include the personal and emotional differences that can arise when people work together and interact with one another. They are often called personality clashes
This module will examine a number of steps you can follow when you are in a conflict situation or helping other manage conflict so that you more easily manage the process and find a solution for the issues involved.


Active listening is one of the best ways to manage conflict productively and effectively. 


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