Conflict Management

Conflict, in its simplest form is opposition and/or resistance. It is a difference of opinion. Conflict occurs when individuals or groups are not obtaining what they need or want and are seeking their own self-interest. Sometimes the individual is not aware of the need and unconsciously starts to act out. Other times, the individual is very aware of what he or she wants and actively works at achieving the goal.

About conflict

  • Conflict is inevitable
  • Conflict develops because we are dealing with people's lives, jobs, children, pride, self-concept, ego and sense of mission or purpose
  • Early indicators of conflict can be recognized
  • There are strategies for resolution that are available and DO work
  • Although inevitable, conflict can be minimized, diverted and/or resolved

Beginnings of conflict

  • Poor communication
  • Seeking power
  • Dissatisfaction with management style
  • Weak leadership
  • Lack of openness
  • Change in leadership

Conflict indicators

  • Body language
  • Disagreements, regardless of issue
  • Withholding bad news
  • Surprises
  • Strong public statements
  • Airing disagreements through media
  • Conflicts in value system
  • Desire for power
  • Increasing lack of respect
  • Open disagreement
  • Lack of candor on budget problems or other sensitive issues
  • Lack of clear goals
  • No discussion of progress, failure relative to goals, failure to evaluate the superintendent fairly, thoroughly or at all.

Conflict is destructive when it

  • Takes attention away from other important activities
  • Undermines morale or self-concept
  • Polarizes people and groups, reducing cooperation
  • Increases or sharpens difference
  • Leads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting, name-calling

Conflict is constructive when it

  • Results in clarification of important problems and issues
  • Results in solutions to problems
  • Involves people in resolving issues important to them
  • Causes authentic communication
  • Helps release emotion, anxiety, and stress
  • Builds cooperation among people through learning more about each other
  • joining in resolving the conflict
  • Helps individuals develop understanding and skills

Techniques for avoiding and/or resolving conflict

  • Meet conflict head on
  • Set goals
  • Plan for and communicate frequently
  • Be honest about concerns
  • Agree to disagree - understand healthy disagreement would build better decisions
  • Get individual ego out of management style
  • Let your team create - people will support what they help create
  • Discuss differences in values openly
  • Continually stress the importance of following policy
  • Communicate honestly - avoid playing "gotcha" type games
  • Provide more data and information than is needed
  • Develop a sound management system

Causes of conflict

  • Trying to overstep authority
  • Disregarding or overriding other's priorities, feelings and self-respect through words or actions or by simply ignoring
  • Making promises individually
  • Not doing their "homework" and failing to prepare for meetings
  • Not following procedures for handling complaints
  • Not keeping confidential information confidential
  • Failing to act on sensitive issues
  • Failing to be open and honest
  • Making decisions based on preconceived notions
  • Lack of loyalty
  • Springing surprises at meetings
  • Not treating board members alike
  • Not informing the board members of public concerns
  • Not providing adequate financial data or adequate information
  • Using poor public management practices
  • Making public statements before informing the concerned people
  • Failing to be open and honest with the board
  • Not providing alternatives in an objective manner
  • Not adjusting to the new reality of an involved agenda
  • Having hidden agendas
  • Violating notions of fundamental values
  • Determined, articulate advocates for every side
  • Inability to compromise
  • Rampant rumors
  • Threats of retaliation

Resolving Conflict

Searching for the causes of conflict is essential to be successful in resolving the conflict. Nine possible causes of conflict include

  • Conflict with self
  • Needs or wants are not being met
  • Values are being tested
  • Perceptions are being questioned
  • Assumptions are being made
  • Knowledge is minimal
  • Expectations are too high/too low
  • Personality, race, or gender differences are present


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