Question: We are having a problem at our company. Conflict. And lots of it. Everywhere. In every department. What's an HR manager to do?
Lots of conflict? How can that be a good thing? Well, conflict means that people are thinking. It means that new ideas are being discussed and that people are being innovative rather than simply accepting the status quo. When harnessed effectively, the power of conflict can result in increased effort, team camaraderie, improved lines of communication and most importantly more effective decision making. Untamed, however, conflict can sink morale, increase stress, breakdown communication and cooperation and effectively destroy an organization's productivity and effectiveness.
Whoa. Sounds like the stakes are really high here. Luckily, K. W. Thomas provides the organization leader with five conflict resolution strategies in the Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology: competition, accommodation, sharing/compromise, collaboration, and avoidance.
If an issue is of vital importance and requires immediate action, you can utilize the competition strategy so long as you are prepared for the confrontational win-lose aspect of this method. If you know you are wrong, want to appease people in the organization or are willing to let people learn by falling on their face, you can choose the accommodating strategy – but do so realizing that you are completely giving in when you do so. If both parties are willing to lose a little to gain a little, compromise is the strategy of choice. If both sides of the conflict have compelling cases, put the sides together and collaborate. And if you want to let something cool down or otherwise dismiss it, avoidance works – so long as you realize that things that are avoided usually come back to haunt you later on.
These are five strategies for dealing with conflict. Without knowing the specifics of your organization or the problems it is facing, I can't make any specific recommendations. But choose wisely and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Good luck!
- Read Problem Solving and Corrective Action to learn how to manage performance issues with individual employees.