Over time, we all experience conflicts. Generally, these conflicts are based on miscommunication, misunderstanding, cultural differences, choice of language, poor leadership, ineffective management styles, unclear roles and responsibilities, differences in standards or fluctuating economic conditions. Others may be based on cultural or gender differences, marital difficulties, family problems, abrasive or submissive personalities, insensitivity to feelings, personal disappointments, unmet needs, and a thousand other causes and factors which may have no direct correlation to our work or the mission of our organisations or our goals or purposes in life.
These conflicts can have a big impact on our places of work. They can reduce productivity and morale, occupy a great deal of conscious and unconscious attention, create problems for HR and staff, and lead, if uncorrected, to litigation, bitterness, poor morale, wasted time and resources, rumours, employee turnover and reduced opportunities for change.
Additionally, many of the conflicts in our lives that are settled do not reach the attitudes and emotions that, left unresolved, only emerge later to create new problems later on.
Our relationships at work are generally based on three things - power, rights and interests. A line manager has the power to take actions and make decisions within their frame of reference, without consultation on a daily basis. We all have statutory and human rights that should be acknowledged and respected. It is however, only when we consider the interests of each other that we are likely to get true value and satisfaction from our working relationships.
Current conflict resolution methods, which are based on principles of active listening, empathy, effective communication, collaborative group process, dialogue, facilitation, bias and prejudice reduction, creative problem solving, and mediation, can provide rich opportunities for individuals and organisations to effectively reduce their levels and costs of conflict, create responsive conflict management procedures, train employees and line managers to be peer mediators, and revitalise relationships and morale through the positive redirection and resolution of internal and external conflicts.