Conflict Management

Disagreements, differences of opinion and conflicting perspectives on key issues inevitably arise in any context where people are working together.

Whilst not all conflict is negative - creative solutions and new ideas can often emerge from the cut and thrust of debate – conflict can frequently become destructive. For example, negative emotions may be stirred up, poisoning the atmosphere, undermining morale, creating stress and destroying workplace relationships. Ultimately, this is likely to have an adverse effect on performance. If ignored, conflict can escalate or spread to affect others. Furthermore, if conflicts are not resolved, the situation may deteriorate, leading to litigation and damaging the organisation’s reputation. Conflict can be costly in terms of time and money. It is therefore vital to manage conflict constructively.

Conflict may be between managers and their staff, between team members, departments, or managers. Conflict may be expressed openly, but it may also be hidden, in the form of irritation, resentment, loss of morale and lack of commitment. Hidden conflict is easy to miss and therefore can be particularly damaging. If nothing is done to address the underlying issues, conflict may escalate - from gossip, backbiting and criticism to shouting matches, threats and possible violence. Such consequences can often be prevented by taking early action to address the issues. This checklist focuses on steps for handling interpersonal conflict within the workforce, as opposed to conflict with customers, which requires a different form of resolution.

Conflict Definition

Conflict exists when disagreements lead to arguments and struggles between people with competing ideas and/or personal interests. There are many sources of conflict in the workplace - differences of opinion, dissatisfaction with working conditions or remuneration, excessive workloads, lack of recognition or promotion, perceptions of discriminatory or unfair treatment, feelings of insecurity, fear of redundancy, clashes of personality, misunderstandings or breakdowns in communication and differing expectations of what constitutes appropriate behaviour - to name but a few.

Conflict Management Techniques and Best Practices

Techniques below aim to help managers to understand the complexities of conflict management.

1. Be aware of conflict
2. Take a considered and rational approach to conflict
3. Investigate the situation
4. Decide how to tackle the conflict
5. Let everyone have their say
6. Identify options and agree on a way forward
7. Implement what has been agreed
8. Evaluate how things are going
9. Consider preventative strategies for the future

For detailed explanation of each step and to find out more about managing conflict, view the guide below.

Download the guide  pdf-icon Conflict Management


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