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Managing Conflict


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  • 1. Lesson 17 Managing Conflict Firstly, it’s important to understand that conflict is not a negative thing. We sometimes speak of leveraging conflict because it is something one can view positively if managed well. We all have personal definitions of conflict. When we think of conflict it means something unique for each one of us. Robert (1979) illustrates how the following open-ended statements help you to discover and share your reactions to conflict and your ways of dealing with it. Learning activity Reflect on how you deal with conflict and briefly complete each sentence: 1. The time I felt best about dealing with conflict was when… 2. When someone disagrees with me about something important or challenges me in front of others, I usually… 3. The most important outcome of conflict is… 4. When I confront someone I care about, I… 5. I feel most vulnerable during conflict when… 6. When someone avoids conflict with me, I…. 7. My greatest strength in handling conflict is… 8. I am most apt to confront people in situations such as… 9. When I was growing up, conflict was… 10. My greatest weakness in handling conflict is… 11. When I think about confronting a potentially unpleasant person, I… 12. I sometimes avoid directly confronting someone when…I. What are some common causes of conflict? A. Conflict arises from problems in perception. Commonly Found Perceptual Errors Perceptual error Description Example Halo A rater forms an overall impression Rating a professor high on the teaching about an object and then uses that dimensions of ability to motivate impression to bias ratings about the students, knowledge, and object communication because we like him or her Leniency A personal characteristic that leads an Rating a professor high on all individual to consistently evaluate other dimensions of performance regardless people or objects in an extremely of his or her actual performance. The positive fashion rater who hates to say negative things about others Central tendency The tendency to avoid all extreme Rating a professor average on all judgments and rate people and objects dimensions of performance regardless as average or neutral of his or her actual performance. Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 90
  • 2. Recency effects The tendency to remember recent Although a professor has given good information. If the recent information is lectures for 12 to 15 weeks, he or she is negative, the person or object is evaluated negatively because lectures evaluated negatively over the last 3 weeks were done poorlyContrast effects The tendency to evaluate people or Rating a good professor as average objects by comparing them with because you compared his or her characteristics of recently observed performance with three of the best people or objects professors you have ever had in college. You are currently taking courses from the three excellent professors.B. Conflict often stems from an inability to resolve past offences.Research has shown that very few people actively resolve conflict: • 10% Active aggression • <5% Active resolution • 70% Passive aggression • 15% Passive avoidanceSmyth, Peter J. (2006). Understanding Yourself and Others, in The Leadership Guide for HealthCare Professionals. Thomas Stewart and Christopher Mazza (Eds.) Oakville, Ontario: J.Hylands and Associates Inc.B. Conflict occurs more in low trust environments.In most cases trust is slowly frittered away and ends up breaking down for a whole range ofreasons: 1. Failure to deliver on promises 2. Hidden expectations about what will be achieved 3. Talking negatively outside meetings 4. Cliques and sub-groups. 5. Lack of communication 6. Not raising problems – rather collecting injusticesWe each have a trust bank account where people make deposits and withdrawals.C. Conflict tends to occur in environments that have become hostile.Hamlin (1988) outlines why people get hostile when it comes to asking questions in a publicsetting, and how this can be handled in such a group setting: 1. Passion – we can and do get worked up over issues and some people have less self- control than others. Those who are guided by gut reactions more than logic, whose families were given to more volatile responses, are most prone to this. 2. Fear and threat – Thinking, “My life or work will change because of this message. Maybe I can’t handle it,” causes some real agitation and attendant loss of control. 3. Self-protection – Attacking the messenger is an ancient problem. In an effort to focus on “Whose idea is this anyway?” and “Why should I change?” belligerence and a need to blame someone follow fear and threat. 4. Defensiveness – People sometimes start out calmly enough to discuss something they disagree with, but then lose their cool when they feel outclassed by logic and hard facts, and become defensive, then aggressive. Hostility covers embarrassment.Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 91
  • 3. 5. Lack of information – sometimes people build entrenched positions based on bias or one point of view. They can cleave most passionately to this, especially as part of a group. Not having information about the other point of view or the people who have it causes hostility when they are confronted with it. You also draw hostility by simply representing the hated other side. 6. Sense of impotence – Feeling unable to halt or change something with its resultant sense of loss of control can have the effect of despair for some and real change for others. 7. Resentment of opposition figures – Images of someone with more power, influence, money, status and information can cause resentment and jealousy to the point of hostility and anger. 8. Isolation – We all need a sense of constituency or identification in a group. Being the only one who feels differently sometimes causes overreaction and anger.II. What does the bible say about conflict? A. The Bible has a clearly defined pattern for conflict resolution between believers. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17). B. The Bible promotes gentleness. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov. 15:1). C. The Bible illustrates wisdom in conflict situations. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice (1 Kings 3:25-28). D. The Bible instructs to keep our joy even in difficult situations. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). E. The Bible can be used for direction in conflict situations. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16). F. The Bible highlights that we cannot substitute love with anything else. Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 92
  • 4. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or aclanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and allknowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. IfI give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gainnothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It doesnot insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ... (1 Cor. 13:1-13).G. The Bible instructs us to operate in the opposite spirit when harmed.Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Ifpossible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves,but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says theLord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him somethingto drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil,but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)H. The Bible highlights that there is a place for rebuking.Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,(Luke 17:3).I. The Bible instructs us to operate in humility.At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom ofheaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say toyou, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoeverreceives one such child in my name receives me, ... (Matthew 18:2-4).J. The Bible places priority on conflict resolution and reconciliation.Leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then comeand offer your gift. (Matthew 5:24).K. The Bible shows us that we are blessed for making peace.“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)L. The Bible instructs us to be even-tempered good listeners.Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;(James 1:19)M. The Bible instructs to remember who is in authority even in times of conflict.Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except fromGod, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authoritiesresists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not aterror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Thendo what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is Gods servant for your good. But ifyou do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, anavenger who carries out Gods wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom.13:1-4)Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 93
  • 5. III. What are the conflict-handling styles commonly used by people? Depending on our basic personality types we tend to differ in how we handle conflict. As individuals begin to know each other, conflict is very common. As you explore the following conflict styles continue to reflect on your own behavior, and whether your particular style is useful or not. (Go through Appendix I to discover your conflict handling style). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles: A. Avoiding (uncooperative and unassertive): Person neglects his or her own concerns as well as those of the other person by not raising or addressing the conflict issue. B. Accommodating/Obliging (cooperative and unassertive): One seeks to satisfy the other person’s concerns at the expense of one’s own. C. Competing/Dominating (uncooperative and assertive): The opposite of avoiding; one uses whatever seems appropriate to win one’s own position. D. Collaborating/Integrating (cooperative and assertive): The opposite of avoiding; one works with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies both one’s own concerns and those of the other. E. Compromising (intermediate in cooperativeness and assertiveness): One seeks an expedient middle-ground position that provides partial satisfaction for both parties.IV. Which is the appropriate conflict handling style for various situations? A. Competing 1. When to compete/dominate. • When quick, decisive action is needed • On important issues for which unpopular courses of action need implementing • On issues vital to company welfare when one knows one is right • When protection is needed against people who take advantage of non-competitive behaviour 2. Potential negative consequences of competing: • Eventually being surrounded by “yes” people • Fear of admitting ignorance or uncertainty • Distorted perceptions • Reduced communication • Damage to relationship • No commitment from the other person • Having to keep “selling’ or policing the solution during implementation B. Collaborating 1. When to collaborate/Integrate. • When both sets of concerns are too important to be compromised • When the objective is to test one’s own assumptions or better understand the views of others • When there is a need to merge insights from people with different perspectives on a problem Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 94
  • 6. • When incorporating others’ concerns into a consensus decision can increase commitment. • When working through hard feelings that have been interfering with an interpersonal relationship2. Potential negative consequences of collaborating: • Too much time spent on an insignificant issue • Ineffective decisions made from input from people unfamiliar with the situation • Unfounded assumptions about trustC. Compromising1. When to compromise • When goals are moderately important but not worth the effort of potential disruption of more assertive modes • When two opponents with equal power are strongly committed to mutually exclusive goals • When temporary settlements are needed on complex issues • When expedient solutions are necessary under time pressure • If a back-up model is needed when collaboration or competition fail2. Potential negative consequences of compromising: • No one fully satisfied • Short-lived solution • A cynical climate through perception of a sell out • Losing sight of the larger issues, principles, long-term objectives, values, and the company welfare by focusing on practicalitiesD. Avoiding1. When to avoid • When an issue is trivial • When there is no chance of getting what you want • When the potential damage of confrontation outweighs the benefits of resolution • When one needs to cool down, reduce tensions, and regain perspective and composure • When the need is to gather more information • When others can resolve the conflict more effectively • When the issue seems symptomatic of another fundamental issue2.Potential negative consequences of avoiding: • Decisions made by default • Unresolved issues • Energy sapped by sitting on issues • Self-doubt created through lack of esteem • Creative input and improvement prevented • Lack of credibility E. Accommodating 1. When to accommodate • When one realizes one is wrong • When the issue is much more important to the other personBusiness God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 95
  • 7. • When “credits” need to be accumulated for issues that are more important • When continued competition would only damage the cause • When preserving harmony and avoiding disruption are especially important • When subordinates need to develop and to be allowed to learn mistakes 2. Potential negative consequences of accommodating: • Decreased influence, respect, or recognition by too much deference • Laxity in discipline • Frustration as own needs are not met • Self-esteem undermined • Relinquished best solutionV. What are some common miscommunication styles in conflict? Discuss which of the following communication styles you use A. The Avoider The avoider refuses to fight. When a conflict arises, he’ll leave, fall asleep, pretend to be busy at work, or keep from facing the problem in some other way. This behaviour makes it very difficult for another to express his feelings of anger, hurt, etc. because the avoider won’t fight back. B. The Guilt Maker Instead of saying straight out that he doesn’t want or approve of something, the guilt maker tries to change his partner’s behaviour by making him feel responsible for causing pain. The guilt maker’s favourite line is: “It’s OK, don’t worry about me…” accompanied by a big sigh. C. The Subject Changer Really a type of avoider, the subject changer escapes facing up to aggression by shifting the conversation whenever it approaches an area of conflict. Because of his tactics, the subject changer and his partner never have the chance to explore their problem and do something about it. D. The Mind Reader Instead of allowing another to honestly express feelings, the mind reader goes into character analysis, explaining what the other person really means or what’s wrong with the other person. By behaving this way the mind reader refuses to handle his own feelings and leaves no room for the other person to express himself. E. The Withholder Instead of expressing his anger honestly and directly, the withholder typically punishes his/her spouse by keeping back something – courtesy, affection, good cooking, humour, sex. As you can imagine, this is likely to build up even greater resentments in the relationship. F. The Trapper The trapper plays an especially dirty trick by setting up a desired behaviour for his partner, and then when it’s met, attacking the very thing he requested. An example of this technique is for the trapper to say: “Let’s be totally honest with each other,” and then when the partner shares his feelings he finds himself attacked for having feelings that the trapper doesn’t want to accept. Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 96
  • 8. G. The Gunny Sacker This person doesn’t respond immediately when he’s angry. Instead, he puts his resentment into his gunnysack, which after a while begins to bulge with large and small gripes. Then when the sack is about to burst, the gunny-sacker pours out all his pent-up aggressions on the overwhelmed and unsuspecting victim. H. The Trivial Tyranniser: Instead of honestly sharing his resentments, the trivial tyranniser does things he knows will get his partners goat: leaving dirty dishes in the sink, clipping his fingernails in bed, belching out loud, turning up the television too loud, and so on. I. The Joker Because he’s afraid to face conflicts squarely, the joker kids around when his partner wants to be serious, thus blocking the expression of important feelings. J. The Beltliner Everyone has a psychological “beltline”, and below it are subjects too sensitive to be approached without damaging the relationship. Beltlines may have to do with physical characteristics, intelligence, past behaviour or deeply ingrained personality traits a person is trying to overcome. In an attempt to “get even” or hurt his partner the beltliner will use his intimate knowledge to hit below the belt, where he knows it will hurt. K. The Kitchen Sink Fighter This person is so named because in an argument he brings up things that are totally off the subject (“everything, but the kitchen sink”): the way his spouse behaved last New Year’s Eve, the unmade bed – anything. Taken from Weinstein, et al: Communication SkillsVI. What are some guidelines for dealing with confrontations? A. Have a clear and systematic methodology for dealing with confrontations. 1. Seek first to understand before being understood (Ask for the other view point to be explained) 2. Explain the situation the way you see it 3. Describe how it is affecting performance 4. Agree on the problem 5. Explore and discuss possible solutions 6. Agree on what each person will do to solve the problem 7. Set a date for follow-up if necessary B. Learn to manage your hostility. Hamlin (1988) outlines that in a public setting one of the major goals in confronting hostility and resolving it is to show your audience that you can stay in control of your feelings and your facts, and to continue to convince them, even if you are verbally assaulted. Techniques for handling hostility when answering questions are outlined below: 1. Take a breath 2. Identify the hostility 3. Understand the anger 4. Get out of the personal realm 5. Find something common 6. Ask for further clarification 7. Settle for disagreement Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 97
  • 9. Appendix I Learning Activity What is Your Primary Conflict-Handling Style Adapted in part from M A Rahim, “A measure of Styles of handling Interpersonal Conflict” Academy of Management Journal, June 1983, pp 368-76. *Please circle the number that is closest to your response: 1 = rarely 5 = always 1. I argue my case with my co-workers to show the merits of my position. 1 2 3 4 5 2. I negotiate with my co-workers so that a compromise can be reached. 1 2 3 4 5 3. I try to satisfy the expectations of my co-workers. 1 2 3 4 5 4. I try to investigate an issue with my co-workers to find a solution acceptable to us. 1 2 3 4 5 5. I am firm in pursuing my side of the issue. 1 2 3 4 5 6. I try to avoid being “put on the spot” and try to keep my conflict with my workers to myself. 1 2 3 4 5 7. I hold on to my solution to a problem. 1 2 3 4 5 8. I use “give and take” so that a compromise can be made. 1 2 3 4 5 9. I exchange accurate information with my co-workers to solve a problem together. 1 2 3 4 5 10. I avoid open discussion of my differences with my co-workers. 1 2 3 4 5 11. I accommodate the wishes of my co-workers. 1 2 3 4 5 12. I try to bring all concerns out in the open so that the issues can be resolved in the best possible way. 1 2 3 4 5 13. I propose a middle ground for breaking deadlocks. 1 2 3 4 5 14. I go along with the suggestions of my co-workers. 1 2 3 4 5 15. I try to keep my disagreements with my co-workers to myself. 1 2 3 4 5Scoring KeyInsert the score you got for each number and then add up the scores in each category. Integrating Obliging Dominating Avoiding CompromisingItem Score Item Score Item Score Item Score Item Score4 3 1 6 29 11 5 10 812 14 7 15 13Total Total Total Total TotalYour Primary Conflict Handling Style is: ______________(The category with the highest total)Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 98
  • 10. Your Back Up Conflict-Handling Style is: _______________(The category with the second highest total)References “Conflict Management: Dyadic Sharing” by Marc Robert in The 1979 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators, edited by John E. Jones and J. William Pfeiffer. San Diego, CA: University Associates, 1979. Steven L. Phillips and Robin L. Elledge (1989) “The Team-building Source Book.” San Diego, California: University AssociatesBusiness God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda (Student Notes with Answers) 99