Conflict – a necessary evil

By Robert Côtes

I think it’s fair to say that most of us would prefer to live our lives without conflict, but to be human is to experience conflict. Whether at home or at work, we are faced with disagreements, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings; that’s just part of life!

Conflict occurs when the objectives, needs, wants, beliefs, opinions, feelings, and values of one person contradict those of another. Simply put, we are in conflict once we realize that what we HAVE is different from what we WANT or NEED. Here’s a good example to illustrate the point;

I’m a frontline team leader working in a manufacturing organization. My Lead hand and I agree as to the increased number of quality parts needed to be produced on the shift however, we disagree as to the best way to get there. My Lead hand believes their approach is better than mine, and I happen to disagree. The conflict is not about the “objective” or the quota - number of pieces to come off the line, but about the methodology, or how we get to meet that objective. What I HAVE is disagreement, and what I WANT is agreement…I’m in conflict!!

From my experience, most managers and employees deal with conflict inappropriately. Why? It’s because conflict always involves emotions. Folks in conflict commonly experience fear, anger, outrage, and frustration, to name but a few. When these emotions surface, they tend to become the driving force of our communication. As such, we risk becoming defensive, even aggressive, while some of us simply avoid dealing with the issue altogether. We withdraw from the uncomfortableness of the situation in the hopes that it will miraculously resolve itself.

In addition to the emotional content, most of us view conflict as a negative; an argument, a confrontation, or a fight. That perception further fuels the use of our emotions because there’s a need for us to defend and argue our position or avoid the conflict purely out of fear. When we allow feelings and perceptions to dominate our efforts to resolve conflict, the results are usually disastrous. We are simply not managing the conflict to positive resolution as the behavior takes over and we end up losing sight of the “true objective”.

Benefits of conflict

Conflict is not only inevitable; it’s also beneficial. As conflict makes us realize that what we HAVE is different from what we WANT or NEED, only conflict can be used as a tool to:

Improve communication

Conflict presents an opportunity to express openly our thoughts, opinions, and feelings. It gives us a forum to come together and function as a team. It allows us to share our perspective and develop a better understanding of others and ourselves. It stimulates interest and curiosity and fosters creativity.

Solve problems more creatively

Conflict helps prevent stagnation and complacency by forcing us to come up with new and innovative solutions to difficult situations. For example, all performance and process improvements occur because of a conflict. The conflict causes us to challenge the status quo and find better ways to produce and service our customers, including our internal ones. In a nutshell, conflict is a catalyst for change and organizational renewal.

Tips to resolving conflict

The key to using conflict in its most productive form is first knowing how to manage it to positive resolution. In other words, the way we choose to behave and communicate within a conflict has everything to do with how well the conflict is resolved. I maintain that the quality of our approach, is in direct proportion to the quality of the outcome. When managers and supervisors become aggressive, defensive, or decide to withdraw or remove themselves from the situation in order to avoid any sense of responsibility and ownership, they make matters worse. We run the risk of damaging our relationships with the very people who help us achieve our goals and objectives.

Shift in perception

From now on, let us not think of conflict as a confrontation or a fight. Let’s look at it as an opportunity to grow and initiate change. With that realization, we can begin to focus our attention on the real crux of the matter rather than simply reacting to the situation. The key is to disallow our emotions from influencing or corrupting the way in which we communicate.

The suggestion here is not to suppress our feelings but rather recognize that responding emotionally to a conflict greatly decreases the likelihood of successfully resolving it. Remember…awareness is the key to change; we cannot change anything until we first become aware of the need for change.

Not getting what we want or need causes stress and anxiety, creating a barrier we could certainly do without. The true barrier however, is wishing we could live without conflicts by avoiding discussing them openly. Our attitude is the obstacle, not the conflict.

Tips on managing conflict

  • Shift your perception; look at conflict as an opportunity to initiate change
  • Stay calm; emotional outbursts and denial make a situation worse
  • Listen attentively; gain knowledge and understanding.

About Us

Since 1994, The Management Development Group has partnered with organizations committed to the development of their Managers and Supervisors into Quality Leaders. The way to achieve this is to upskill/reskill leadership teams to bring about the successful deployment and execution of Best Practices in the day-to-day management and supervision of their most valuable asset; their employees.

Our Approach

There are no shortcuts or quick fixes when it comes to training & development in People Management Skills. To achieve Best Practices, an organization truly needs to commit to a long-term development strategy, and that is precisely what The Management Development Group offers – long-term partnerships to achieve positive and lasting change, ensuring a significant return on your training investment.

Our Commitment

The company is owned and operated by Robert Côtes, who brings over 30 years of training and program design experience. His facilitation style and group leadership skills are widely acclaimed by corporate clients and graduates alike. Robert’s passion is consistently felt through his delivery combined with his undying commitment to ensure our client’s success.

High Impact Development

Our clients reach their development objectives for 3 reasons. First, our learning system is relevant, dealing with today’s management issues, and contains both educational (theory) and training (application) sessions and combined, form a powerful experiential, “learn by doing” system. The second reason for our client’s success is the facilitator’s ability to engage participants and create a supportive, fun yet candid learning environment. The third and last reason is our client’s commitment to a long term development effort, for change is not an overnight process. It takes time.

Step 1 (Core Program)

Prerequisite for Steps 2 & 3
supervisor business communication training and business communication skills for managers

Business Communication an Interpersonal Skills Management Learning System

Business Communication an Interpersonal Skills Management Learning System teaches powerful communication strategies that are used to approach, manage, and ultimately resolve day-to-day conflicts and “people issues”. The program is made up of three modules, each is a building block targeting specific communication and management skills. Training is conducted in cohorts of no more than 10 participants.

Step 2 (Follow-up)

Prerequisite; Step 1
effective communication skills course and leadership communication

Refresher Workshop

Graduates are invited back to the training room for a full review of the concepts, skills, approaches, and strategies imparted in the core program (step 1). The workshop consists of two – 3.5hr sessions with a maximum of 10 participants. The first session focuses on the review part of the effort while session 2 concentrates on activities that give graduates the opportunity to demonstrate the strategies learned in Step 1.

Step 3 (Optional)

Prerequisite; Step 1
performance management training and development

Performance Development a Leadership Approach to High Performance

Most organizations have at their disposal a variety of tools to measure performance levels, compare them to expected ones, and arrive at ways to achieve peak performance from their employees; all in an effort to improve and maintain organizational performance. This paper trail is indispensable and requires consistent application and monitoring in order to be effective and reach the intended objectives.

What Graduates Are Saying

(The following comments are taken from actual graduate evaluations)

A few of Our Clients