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Managing Difficult Conflicts
Richard A. Posthuma, J.D., Ph.D., GPHR, SPHR 2010
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
• Parties often become angry in disputes
because:
• They are frustrated with no...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
• Lower regard for opponent’s interest.
• Less accuracy in judging opponent’s i...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
Positive Effects of Anger
• Indicates to the other person that the issue is
ver...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
Conflict Spirals
• Conflict spirals:
> When parties engage in repeated contenti...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
Norm of Reciprocity
People tend to reciprocate similarly:
• Contentious behavio...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
Avoiding and Ending Conflict Spirals
• Don’t reciprocate
> Can break the spiral...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension
Reduction (GRIT)
• One party ...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
• Sometimes it’s best to mix a contentious
statement with a conciliatory statem...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
Labeling the Process
Sometimes, “labeling” the process is helpful.
• It changes...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
By restricting the degree to which a settlement
may set a precedent, the stakes...
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
Summary
• Sometimes conflicts are particularly difficult to
resolve.
• A common...
Thank You!
For more on Indian HR industry, click here
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HR challenge: How to manage workplace conflicts - SHRM India

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Parties often become angry in disputes because:
They are frustrated with not being able to get what they want.
They see that the other party has different interests than they do.

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  • This presentation provides several important ideas that can be applied in particularly difficult conflict situations.
  • Nevertheless, there are also some positive effects of anger.
  • Nevertheless, there are also some positive effects of anger.
  • Nevertheless, there are also some positive effects of anger.
  • When there is a particularly difficult conflict situation, a conflict spiral can develop.
    There is the potential that if a conflict spiral spins out of control, the employees will try to retaliate by engaging in counterproductive behaviors at work. This could include theft, disruption or even violence.
    Sources:
    Rubin, Pruitt, & Kim (1994). Social Conflict, Escalation, Stalemate and Settlement. 2nd Ed. McGraw Hill.
    Sackett, P. & DeVore, C. J. (2001). Counterproductive Behaviors at Work. In Neil Anderson, Deniz Ones, Handan Sinangil, & Chockalingham Viswesvaran (Eds.), Handbook of Industrial and Oganizational Psychology Vol.1. London: Sage.
  • The norm of reciprocity works like an informal social rule. It is an expectation that if someone does something good for me, I should do something good for them, and vice versa.
    Source:
    Rubin, Pruitt, & Kim (1994).
  • One good way to avoid a conflict spiral is to simply not reciprocate.
    Another good way is to try GRIT. GRIT stands for Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension reduction (Osgood, 1962). These might be effective in reducing tension, but there is always a concern that if you make conciliatory overtures to your opponent, you might send signals that you are weak or willing to make unilateral concessions without anything in return.
    Mixed communications are both contentious and conciliatory. They have proven to be successful in avoiding the problem of sending a signal of weakness. In these, a party states that they are willing, able, and/or prepared to be competitive in the conflict, but are also willing to make a small concession to get things moving toward a settlement if the other party is willing to reciprocate.
    Another way to reduce the spiral is to refocus away from positions and start talking about the process of resolving the conflict.
    Source:
    Lewicki, Barry, Saunders, & Minton (2003).
  • This is a method to reduce particularly difficult conflicts by taking small steps. The sequence begins with small steps that are reciprocated by each party and then move to bigger steps (Osgood,1962).
    For example, in collective bargaining negotiations, the company may begin the process to reduce tensions by making a small concession such as increasing the employee uniform allowance from $100 to $150. Then, there is an expectation that the union should reciprocate by making a concession of their own, e.g., dropping a demand for new chairs in the cafeteria. The parties gradually begin to talk about more serious issues, making reciprocal concessions on those issues as well. Eventually, they will reach an overall agreement.
  • Nevertheless, there are also some positive effects of anger.
  • Rather than talking about the actual issues, such as a demand for a 10 percent wage increase from the employer or a proposal to cut health insurance benefits, the parties could talk about the process of negotiation in general terms. The process can be labeled as ineffective, stalled, or something else, and then the parties can talk about how they can agree to make the process more effective. When they reach an agreement on how to improve the process, they can use the process to move toward agreements on the issues.
    Source:
    Fisher & Ury (1991). Getting to Yes. Penguin Books.
  • The norm of reciprocity works like an informal social rule. It is an expectation that if someone does something good for me, I should do something good for them, and vice versa.
    Source:
    Rubin, Pruitt, & Kim (1994).
  • This presentation provides several important ideas that can be applied in particularly difficult conflict situations.
  • Transcript of "HR challenge: How to manage workplace conflicts - SHRM India"

    1. 1. Managing Difficult Conflicts Richard A. Posthuma, J.D., Ph.D., GPHR, SPHR 2010
    2. 2. For more on Indian HR industry, click here • Parties often become angry in disputes because: • They are frustrated with not being able to get what they want. • They see that the other party has different interests than they do. 2 © SHRM 2010 Anger in Disputes
    3. 3. For more on Indian HR industry, click here • Lower regard for opponent’s interest. • Less accuracy in judging opponent’s interests. • Use of more contentious tactics. • More likely to reject settlement offers. • Less thought about the consequences of one’s • own negative actions. • Less restraint in the face of threats. • Lower levels of joint gains. • Can lead to conflict spirals. • Higher incidence of impasse. 3 © SHRM 2010 Negative Effects of Anger
    4. 4. For more on Indian HR industry, click here Positive Effects of Anger • Indicates to the other person that the issue is very important. • Indicates to the other person that you are less likely to make concessions. • May induce the other party to yield when they are in a weaker position. 4 © SHRM 2010
    5. 5. For more on Indian HR industry, click here Conflict Spirals • Conflict spirals: > When parties engage in repeated contentious communications with each other. • Problems: > Tend to induce reciprocating contentious communications from the other party. > Have momentum that is difficult to stop. • Outcomes: > Impasse. > Settlements tend to be more one-sided, with the more powerful party winning. 5 © SHRM 2010
    6. 6. For more on Indian HR industry, click here Norm of Reciprocity People tend to reciprocate similarly: • Contentious behavior with contentious behavior (e.g., threats). • Integrative behaviors with integrative behaviors (e.g., “How can we both get something out of this?”). 6 © SHRM 2010
    7. 7. For more on Indian HR industry, click here Avoiding and Ending Conflict Spirals • Don’t reciprocate > Can break the spiral. > May, however, erroneously signal a weakness or willingness to concede. • GRIT (Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension reduction) > Make and request small steps to reduce tensions. > Requires reciprocity. • Mixed communications > Avoids sending weakness signals. • Restrict precedents 7 © SHRM 2010
    8. 8. For more on Indian HR industry, click here Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction (GRIT) • One party initiates de-escalation by: > Announcing a concession. > Explaining that the concession is part of a strategy to reduce escalation. > Unilaterally executing the concession. • Creates an opportunity for and expectation that the opponent will reciprocate with a concession. > Problem: They may just take the concession and not reciprocate. 8 © SHRM 2010
    9. 9. For more on Indian HR industry, click here • Sometimes it’s best to mix a contentious statement with a conciliatory statement. • Examples: • Contentious: Party 1 states, “If you persist in these demands, we’d prefer to see you in court, where we expect the judge to find in our favor.” • Mixed: Party 2 responds, “We are prepared to let a judge decide, but we think that we will both be better off if we reach an agreement based on our interests. Tell me again what your software needs are.” 9 © SHRM 2010 Mixed Communications
    10. 10. For more on Indian HR industry, click here Labeling the Process Sometimes, “labeling” the process is helpful. • It changes the focus to the negotiation process instead of on the parties’ positions. • Examples of labeling the process that you’ve been following as ineffective: > “We seem to be going back and forth and getting nowhere.” > “We’re not going to settle things this way. Let’s focus on how we can go about settling the problem.” 10 © SHRM 2010
    11. 11. For more on Indian HR industry, click here By restricting the degree to which a settlement may set a precedent, the stakes are lower and the parties may be more willing to reach an agreement. 11 © SHRM 2010 Restrict Precedents
    12. 12. For more on Indian HR industry, click here Summary • Sometimes conflicts are particularly difficult to resolve. • A common reason is that anger interferes with rational thinking and behaviors. • Often, conflict spirals develop in which the conflict gets worse. • There are several methods for managing difficult conflicts, managing emotions, and reducing the tensions that result from conflict spirals. 12 © SHRM 2010
    13. 13. Thank You! For more on Indian HR industry, click here
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