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Who is in conflict with whom?

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Think back over the last couple of working weeks. Have you been aware of conflicts:

Between you and:

one or more members of your team?

one or more members of someone else’s team?

your manager?

another manager?

Between members of your team and:

other members of your team?

members of another team?

another manager?

the organisation?

Between your manager and his or her manager?

Between your manager and other managers?

Other conflicts (what?)

The symptoms of conflict

Conflict does not always express itself in angry voices and bloodied noses. People who choose to ignore one another are often doing more damage to the organisation, if not to themselves.

Which of the following symptoms do you see in your organisation:

 Tears, raised voices, aggressive horseplay, physical fights?

 Statements expressing negative feelings – jealousy, distrust, derision, fear, dislike – about other groups or individuals?

 Individuals being prevented from getting the rewards that are
normally given to people who have performed as well as they have?

 People choosing not to pass useful information on to others?
 Individuals refusing to accept the outcomes of assessments

 People setting up barriers – being unavailable, or approachable
only through their own private rules and procedures?

 Low morale and poor productivity, especially if the people
concerned blame it on others?

What has caused the conflict?

Even if we recognise the symptoms of conflict between people we deal with
it’s no use trying to tackle the symptoms only.

So you might ask:

 What dissatisfaction or fear lies behind the individual’s anger or disagreement?

 Is the other individual or group concerned in the conflict aware of this?

 Does the dissatisfaction or fear really arise from the work situation, assessment practices – or is it a reflection, say, of some family or financial problem brought in from outside?

 Is the individual justified in blaming others or me in the organisation for the way he or she feels?

 Is it the case, for example, that individuals are in competition for something that only one of them can have – e.g. the right to decide how things shall be done, the use of certain resources, or a promotion?

 Are the individuals or groups in conflict with one another because they disagree about:

Overall goals (i.e., what to measure success by)?

Priorities (e.g., what to achieve when)?

Assessment methods

Which of them has the right to decide certain issues?

Does the conflict between certain individuals exist not because they are the people they are, but because they are in the roles they happen to be occupying (e.g., production manager and sales manager)? That is, even if the best of friends were to replace the present individuals in those roles, would they inevitably come into conflict because the interests of their groups are different?