Conflict to Collaboration: Promoting positivity for success at work

Tuesday, 10th December 2019

Guest Blog by Anya Moore and Argyro Fasoura- Impact Business Psychologists

On 26th November 2019, Impact’s Business Psychologists, Anya Moore, Argyro Fasoura and Sam Warren delivered a Pro-Manchester Breakfast talk at Weightmans’ office on how moving from conflict to collaboration creates a positive environment for developing sustainable business growth by engaging employees and improving service quality. This article shares their insights into how you can identify potential causes of conflict and how these situations can be successfully managed before they become detrimental to you and your organisation.

What is conflict?

Conflict refers to an open clash between two or more individuals where typically each person believes that his or her perspective is right and the other’s perspective wrong. Conflict can arise anywhere and at any time. There are unlimited sources of conflict, but here are some common examples:

  • Different or opposing values or beliefsg. opposing political views on controversial topics
  • Different or opposing perceptions of statements or actions g. banter vs. bullying
  • Differences in styles of workingg. clashing communication or leadership styles
  • Perceived threats to a person’s individual or group identityg. treating others unkindly due to their ethnicity, religious beliefs, disabilities, and other qualities.

What are the impacts of conflict?

Whether we like it or not, conflict is a normal part of human interaction and will always be a part of our organisational life. We’ve all seen situations where different people with different goals and needs have come into conflict. However, conflict is not actually a problem in itself – it is how we respond to it that counts.

If conflict is resolved effectively, it can be Constructive! It enables us to bypass personal differences and to open up to possibilities, giving us insight into how we can achieve our own goals without undermining those of others. It involves a powerful shift from adversaries to co-operative partners which helps to develop a whole new level of trust as people learn “we can work it out”, making relationships more fulfilling and supporting.

However, if handled poorly, conflict can quickly spiral out of control, consuming vast amounts of our energy, and have harmful consequences for our relationships. It can quickly escalate to seriously harmful conduct, such as incivility (e.g. passive aggressive, rude and disrespectful behaviour) and bullying which can have significant and lasting health effects on individuals. Research has found that workplace incivility is associated with greater psychological distress and lower productivity and organisational performance. Therefore, it is important that we create civil work environments where everyone feels valued and respected as this reduces errors and stress, fosters excellence and creates a sense of safety among teams.

How can you manage conflict?

Skilful conflict-handling is key to diminishing the likelihood of conflict escalation. In many cases, effective conflict resolution skills can make the difference between positive and negative outcomes. It helps to take a collaborative approach to conflict resolution, where conflict is addressed through dialogue which is courteous and non-confrontational, and the focus is on issues rather than on individuals. If people listen carefully and explore facts, issues and possible solutions properly, conflict can often be resolved successfully.

The PEACE model, developed by our Chief Executive, Shelly Rubinstein, is a great tool for empowering staff to address conflict in healthy ways. Here are five pro-active steps you can take to prevent conflict escalation in your workplace:

Problem Identification – Agree the problem that you are trying to solve:

  • What do you want to think about?
  • Agree topic for discussion
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Agree objective of session

Exploration of Situation – Gather information about the problem to identify the underlying interests, needs, and concerns:

  • Invite self-assessment
  • Feedback
  • Check assumptions
  • Identify facts
  • Focus on relevant history only

Alternative Options – Identify how the situation could be changed and brainstorm possible solutions:

  • Generate creative options
  • Evaluate all options

Choice – Reach a negotiated agreement:

  • Choose most viable option
  • Commit to Action
  • Agree timescales, steps etc…

Evaluation – Assess whether the problem has been successfully resolved:

  • Check Progress
  • Give positive feedback and show appreciation

How can Impact help you?

At Impact, helping organisations to assess and develop their culture plays a large part of what we do as Occupational and Business Psychologists. Impact have designed the Organisational Behaviour Audit (OBA) which is a diagnostic tool designed to ‘take the temperature’ of your organisation. It is an online survey assessing perceptions of negative behaviour in your organisation, preventing them from spiralling out of control. Other services we offer include:

  • Mediation to help two or more people in dispute to attempt to reach an agreement. We use a range of techniques and tools such as the PEACE model to increase engagement and identify a more constructive way of working in the future.
  • Personal Development such as Cognitive Behavioural Coaching to help individuals to change any self-defeating behaviour, thinking, attitudes or beliefs they may hold. The technique can improve performance, increase psychological resilience, enhance well-being, prevent stress and help overcome blocks to change.
  • Group Development such as bespoke workshops to raise awareness of negative behaviour and its impact on individuals and the organisation. Individuals learn constructive approaches to tackle such behaviours and conflict, creating a positive working climate within the organisation.

For more information please talk to us:   +44 (0) 161 351 2290