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Deal constructively with conflicts or dilemmas

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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For this assessment criterion, you will be required to demonstrate that you are able to manage conflicts or dilemmas that may occur with your colleagues.

In any relationship, whether personal relationships or working relationships with colleagues, other professionals or clients, there will inevitably be conflict. This should not always be classed as a negative thing – if managed well, it can lead to positive changes that benefit everyone. As a manager, there will be times when you will be called upon to handle, mediate or help to resolve workplace conflicts, so you will need to be prepared with proven techniques to do this in the right way.

First and foremost, it is essential to understand that conflicts should be dealt with swiftly and not be allowed to fester. This can lead to low team morale and ineffective team-working. It can also result in a lack of trust and confidence by team members towards the leader who will be regarded as incapable of handling disagreements. That said, time and space can be used to give team members the opportunity to calm down and think more clearly, but the underlying conflict must still be resolved so that everybody can move forward.

Before steps can be made to find a resolution to a conflict, both parties must commit to the process and the underlying issue must be identified. To do this, you will need to talk to each party to establish their point of view. This should be carried out in a calm and collected manner that is sensitive to the feelings of each team member. You should also demonstrate impartiality, to prevent an imbalance of power.  It will be useful at this point to establish if the conflict stems from a disagreement about working practices or a disagreement with personal values and beliefs.

A structured process for conflict management was proposed by LaFasto and Larson in their book ‘When teams work best‘. Constructive conversation between parties is argued to be the best method of resolving conflicts, with each party committing to making a positive difference and appreciating the other’s perspective. Signed agreements or contracts may be used to solidify the commitment. The leader’s role is to be an enabler and mediator for this process.

If a resolution cannot be found, you may need to develop a list of points that are agreed upon by both parties and find an amicable way for them to move forward ‘agreeing to disagree’ that doesn’t affect their working practice. It may be necessary to obtain support from others. Your human resources department may be able to help or the services of 3rd party mediation or arbitration services may be acquired (e.g. ACAS).

Whatever happens, you should ensure that you remain non-judgmental and impartial whilst providing support to all parties.

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