business strategies · Change management · Growth & Profitability · manufacturing · Successful Strategies

How To Manage Organizational Conflicts

Effective Management Of Organizational Conflicts And Deliver Results

Conflict is a natural occurrence, particularly in the workplace when multiple employees work together. The varying backgrounds and opinions of employees often lead to different conclusions or ideas on how to handle work projects. While some people choose to avoid conflict, others employ conflict management skills to resolve the situation. Training employees and yourself on conflict management provides beneficial skills for the workplace. Effective conflict management can provide freedom from the cultural and interpersonal challenges that arrest a organizations efficiency. The aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes, including effectiveness or performance in organizational setting. Properly managed conflict can improve group outcomes. Today’s organizations need to meet the ever increasing challenges to build a competitive advantage and brand loyalty such as innovation, customer experience, operational excellence, etc.. Effective management of organizational conflict is a highly desired skill. Conflict_management_ketan_deshpande_mn Organizational conflicts are very common in companies of all types and sizes, especially as organizations have become global where team members are interacting with each other remotely. Successful managers and leaders are able to manage conflict effectively and efficiently while improving productivity and relationships in process. Conflict management training or coaching should be part of a comprehensive strategy for all individuals. Strategic leaders know that execution of strategy is driven by people and organizational conflicts are inevitable. What separates great companies from others is that their leaders are able to manage and resolve organization conflicts efficiently and effectively to minimize impact on strategic initiatives. Conflicts can be internal to the organization or may involve individuals from outside the organization such as suppliers or customer’s. In this article we will focus on conflicts that are internal to the organization, however, the same technique can be used to resolve any conflict. Effective organization conflict management is very important tool leaders can use for successful Change Management. This post captures my (Ketan Deshpande, Minnesota, MN) views as a global strategic leader and author of this blog.

What Are Conflicts?

Organizational conflicts can happen due to a wide variety of reasons. There are various definitions, however here is a simple definition-organizational conflict is disagreement between individuals on actual or perceived goals, methods or processes or approach, and behavioral elements. Experts agree that conflicts are highly complex and can be helpful to organizations expand their capabilities if managed properly. As stated earlier, effectively managed conflicts are very beneficial to the organization in the form of trouble shooting, communication, process improvement and improved relationships however organizations that do not have proper conflict management processes or training are challenged with poor productivity, lack of results, low morale, loss of top talent, low engagement, etc.

What Causes Conflicts

Individuals or leaders should ensure that conflicts resolution should begin with a root cause analysis, similar to systematic problem solving used by the companies to solve business problems. Organizational conflicts can arise due to disagreement or misalignment over one or a combination of the following reasons:

  1. Goal/objective definition
  2. Performance expectations
  3. Roles and responsibilities
  4. Approach or methods or processes
  5. Priorities and resources
  6. Collaboration and/or cooperation
  7. Communication style, content and perception, and many more

conflict_management_ketan_deshpande_mn Strategic leaders should always look at organizational conflict as an opportunity to improve team dynamics, processes and ability to deliver results through stronger relationships.

Managing Conflicts

One of the most important parts of effective conflict management is to ensure that the entire organization knows that “conflicts are not bad; they can be resolved and once resolved they will make the organization better overall”. Proactive communication and training of employees is the key to preventing and resolving organizational conflicts. Effective strategic leaders need to be able to detect conflicts as early as possible and work with teams to mitigate them to minimize its impact on productivity, morale and desired results. Leaders should strive towards developing a predictive culture where conflicts can be highlighted and managed by a well-defined process. Conflicts could stem from:

  1. Disagreement about a specific goal or deliverable or task
  2. Communication or engagement style of the team members
  3. Disagreement about the approach, method or processes to be used to achieve the goal or objective or task
  4. Disagreement about who has the authority to provide approval or direction on exceptions or issues, etc..

Detailed investigation of organizational conflicts reveals that most conflicts start either with team members not being aligned on either the goal, processes or authority however are perceived by the individuals primarily as “relationship or personalities” conflict. Great care must be taken to identify the specific root cause before embarking on next steps of conflict management.

The People side of conflict

Once a specific root cause for the conflict has been identified then individuals, manager or leaders must identify the engagement styles of the team members involved in the organization conflict.

  • Conflict seeker:
    • Conflict seekers value clearly defined goals and objectives, roles and responsibilities, and are very direct in taking exceptions or expressing their views and opinions. They will speak openly for themselves and sometime for others which can lead to other team members feeling threatened by them, and are perceived as impatient.
  • Conflict Avoiders:
    • Conflict avoiders value relationships and will placate the challenging discussion, and won’t directly express their views and opinions. They may not speak for themselves and express their ideas directly. Their engagement approach if not assisted properly can lead to poor participation, increased stress and feeling of unfairness. They are perceived by conflict seekers as “not as driven” or “not as engaged”.

Leaders must take great caution in ensuring neither engagement styles are perceived as more appropriate than the other. As long as the team members are focused on the ultimate goal set for the organization then leaders should manage the communication between the team members to arrive at a mutually agreed upon solution.

Effective Conflict Resolution

Once the cause and engagement styles have been identified leaders must identify a specific goal or end state for the conflict. Ideally the goal results in improvement to the current business model or processes or communication yielding improved productivity and results. Conflict_matrix_ketan_deshpande_minnesota_mn Consideration of conflict resolution option should follow conflict resolution goal development. Here are some of the commonly used options:

  1. Direct/open communicationFacilitate a conflict resolution dialog between the individuals, set the rules and guidelines. Ensure that the goal or end state is clearly stated and articulated to the individuals along with the importance of reaching a resolution. Leaders should moderate the dialog appropriately depending on the teams make up seekers and avoiders
  2. Indirect communicationSome conflicts could be resolved through indirect communication about the disagreement; this is very common with individuals that are located at the same location and/or when the conflict cause is simple and straight forward
  3. Defer the resolutionLeaders must also assess an individual’s readiness to participate in a conflict resolution discussion directly or indirectly. Some conflicts may require self-reflection and assessment time for one or more individuals before engaging in a resolution discussion.

Organizations and leaders that can manage conflicts effectively and efficiently are awarded with many benefits:

  1. Improved relationships and team work
  2. Improved collaboration and coordination
  3. Improved productivity
  4. Improved organizational agility
  5. Improved morale, engagement and empowerment
  6. Reduced stress and anxiety, etc.

Strategic leader should develop a deploy comprehensive conflict management training across the organization to build stronger, empowered, engaged and productive teams that deliver results.

Ketan_Sharad_Deshpande_Maple_Grove_MinnesotaThe author, KetanDeshpande, lives in Minnesota and writes about a variety of topics in his blog such as global economy, market and industry trends, successful strategies for businesses, and others. Leveraging his global strategic leadership experience from the manufacturing industry to offer insights in to how businesses can meet the sustainable growth and profitability goals.

Ketan Deshpande is also passionate about sustainability and renewable energy; he curates and shares latest updates in his blog posts. Recently the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency(SMMPA) of Litchfield, Minnesota, endorsed Ketan Deshpande for an energy conservation project.

This blog also features memorable events, travel experiences and his favorite places to visit in the great state of Minnesota.

13 thoughts on “How To Manage Organizational Conflicts

  1. Good stuff. This is a must have skill for all professionals and not just leaders. At my workplace we have team members from 4 different countries which sometimes leads to conflicts that are difficult to manage. Could you please do a follow up post on case studies as far as how specific conflicts can be better managed or avoid them all together. Not sure whether avoiding them is feasible but thought should at least ask. Meeting ever tightening customer expectations requires all of us to ore productive in everything we do.

  2. Awesome article. As a Global Program Manager for a Manufacturing company I face this challenge on a daily basis. Loss of productivity and morale are important but you should have also listed conflicts impact on the end customer. I think this is the biggest issue that separates great companies from others. Also you have only covered internal conflicts, I think conflicts that involve external team members makes them that much more difficult to deal with.

  3. Attempted to a leave a comment earlier but looks like the comment did not get saved. Good article, very important skill to have which is helpful in personal and professional setting

  4. As a professional who has experienced the pit falls of poor organizational conflict management I agree with you on almost all topics. I do not think conflict resolution is as easy as you have laid out. We have attempted to go through a wide variety of training as well as discussions and still were not able to come up with a road map for everyone to follow

  5. I have been retired now for over 20+ years but I can relate to the issues you have highlighted here for sure.

    Conflict related issues are a big problem not only in personal life but professionally as well.

    Good work on tackling a delicate topic

  6. Very nicely written. We all face conflicts sometimes on a daily basis. Is there a training course you have taken that you could recommend.

    1. Annie,

      My sincere apologies for a delayed response. There are wide variety of Change Management courses that are offered. Conflict management is covered in those training courses.
      Thanks for your comments.

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