Conflict Management: Turn Problems Into Creative Sparks

Friday 29 July 2016
Patrick Dunne, Chairman of CMI’s board of companions, shares his expertise on managing conflicts at work, and how sometimes the biggest dispute can be with yourself
employees arguing at work

Conflict management is a key part of every manager’s armoury, but it is all too easy to concentrate on the wrong aspect of this prickly subject.

In an article for Economia, Patrick Dunne CCMI, who is the chair of CMI’s Board of Companions, recently wrote that sometimes it is a manager’s internal conflict that can be the hardest to resolve.

“It may be natural to focus on managing conflict with others. However, when dealing with tough choices, sometimes the trickiest conflict to manage is the one within yourself,” he said. “For example, the age-old dilemma for those in the finance function: “Should I challenge this or keep quiet?”

“For obvious reasons conflict gets a bad press. But it is also true that, managed well, conflict can be a good thing. It can produce the creative spark for innovation or provide the opportunity to reset a relationship, making it more robust, healthy and productive in the process. When it comes to decision-making the absence of conflict might also lead to groupthink or complacency, undermining judgement.”

Dunne continued by saying that the best conflict managers he has worked with have been adaptable in their approach to managing a difficult conversation, in order to find the best path to resolution and progress.

“The most effective chairs and non-execs, in my experience, tend to be more chameleon-like, having the ability to ‘cuddle or kick’ at the right point,” he wrote. “They also use humour well or deftly ask a challenging question to shift the mood. Their antennae and good judgement seem to enable them to listen to what people think as well as what they say.

“Apart from becoming as self-aware as you can, respecting differences, understanding red flags and responding rather than reacting, what else might be worth thinking about? Language, perhaps? After all, many a conflict escalates through a misunderstanding or a jarring choice of words.

“As a way of generating sustainable income at Leap and providing valuable opportunities for our young trainers we train people in a wide range of organisations. A common light bulb moment for participants is the discovery that starting a sentence with ‘I’ or ‘we’ in a tense situation tends to be far more effective than ‘you’ or ‘they’.”

You can find out more about Leap Confronting Conflict on there website