How to Identify and Confidently Handle Conflict: Introduction

04.09.2020 |

Episode #3 of the course Confident conflict management by Martin Probst


Welcome back.

Yesterday, you learned about how we all operate, why our brain filters information, and how it deletes, distorts and generalizes the majority of information to avoid overwhelm. Today, we will create an awareness of how to identify and confidently handle conflict going forward.

In Lesson 1, we talked about the fact that conflict is defined as a difference in values, wants, needs, or expectations. The workplace is a diverse environment involving people with all of the above differences, and as a result, conflicts may naturally occur. The issue is not whether conflicts exist but rather how we deal with them or what happens when they are not appropriately addressed. If we leave a conflict to fester rather than resolve it in a collaborative way, we provide an opportunity for the conflict to grow and escalate. Therefore, we must confront conflict in a timely and appropriate manner.

Unresolved conflicts or avoiding difficult conversations can severely affect our health, energy levels, morale, sleep, etc. and in business slow down day-to-day operations with a detrimental negative financial impact. The most common impact of conflict is that people find it stressful and experience a drop in motivation or commitment. Workplace conflict statistics show that:

• Employees in US companies spend approximately 2.8 hours each week involved in the conflict. This amounts to around $359 billion in hours paid that are filled with – and focused on – conflict instead of on positive productivity. The figure is the equivalent of 385 million days on the job going toward the goal of arguing, as opposed to being put toward collaboration. A full day of productivity each month. This is 2.5 weeks of productivity each year (CPP Inc., 2008).

• 38% of employees in the U.K. experience interpersonal conflict at work in an average year (CIPD, 2015).

• Companies with a healthy corporate culture report, on average, a turnover rate of just 13.9% compared to 48.4% at companies with a poor culture (Columbia University, 2012).

The most common reasons for conflict are of interpersonal nature, structural conflicts, goal misalignment, mutual department dependence, role dissatisfaction, dependence on scarce resources, and communication problems. Too often we are in denial when it comes to conflict. We pretend that everything is okay, even if it’s not, and hope the conflict will miraculously disappear by doing nothing. Well, we all know that this is not the case. It is your duty as a manager, colleague, or friend to recognize the signs early, acknowledge that there is a conflict, and get the conversation started. The problem is not to have the conversation; the problem is not to have the conversation.

Many people resist conducting these conversations because they feel that they don’t have the necessary strategies and fear that they may make the situation worse. This results in behavioral issues and poor performance remaining unresolved. Challenging conversations are part of our day-to-day life: whether it is a challenging situation with a friend, a phone conversation with an unhappy client, or negotiating a deal with a service provider. But how to best handle these sticky situations, confidently navigate through these exchanges, and making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible?

During the next seven lessons, you will acquire a range of strategies that you can apply to swiftly identify and handle conflict with greater confidence, motivation, and effectiveness. And remember:

“Nothing will work unless you do.” —Maya Angelou

My top tip for the day: Be proactive in identifying and tackling challenges. Conflict doesn’t just go away with time; it will continue to simmer until the pot eventually boils over. Observe your environment today: are there any ongoing unresolved situations or unhappy people that you can face with the help of the strategies you will acquire in this course over the next week?

Tomorrow, we will gain clarity on what is in our control—and what’s not. This will create an empowering mindset to effectively deal with conflict going forward.

“Dare to make a difference!”



Recommended reading

7 ways to successfully manage conflict and how to remember them


Recommended book

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher


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