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Handling Conflict

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


At some point in every manager’s daily life, you will be faced with the need to resolve conflict, either:

  • Conflict between two of your colleagues
  • Conflict between a colleague and someone else (a supplier, customer or distant colleague)
  • Conflict between a colleague and yourself

Two of the most valuable conflict management models have already been covered in the Management Pocketblog.

Exercise 1: Review Ellen Raider’s AEIOU Model

As a major figure in researching conflict, Morton Deutsch should be your first port of call. Read through the Pocketblog: Conflict: as simple as AEIOU. What are the direct lessons for you, from this blog?

Exercise 2: Review the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes

The most widely used model for understanding your choices when you approach conflict is the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes model, which you can read about in the Pocketblog: Is this Relationship going to Work? Look at the five modes and ask yourself which ones you tend to over-use and which you tend to under-use.

Exercise 3: Review the basics of Mediation

If you ever need to mediate between conflicts, then the Pocketblog: Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right will help you grasp the basics of the role, setting out six basic steps. Which steps do you do well, naturally, and which do you tend to skimp on?

All of this reading back should allow you to start to form your own ideas about what makes for productive handling of conflict. For me, there are six elements. I will offer three tips under each.

Element 1: Attitudes

  1. Respectful of differences: conflict arises out of differences – as soon as you respect those differences, conflict softens.
  2. Open Mind: try to see the other person’s point of view and what matters most to them: Respect that.
  3. People are not the problem – while behaviours may be unwelcome, distinguish the person from their attitudes, needs and behaviours.

Element 2: Discovery

  1. What do you know already: inventory.
  2. What do you not know: shopping list.
  3. What are the causes: a step towards solutions.

Element 3: Core Skills

  1. Listening: until you really hear, you cannot respect or discover the truth.
  2. Language: clear, straightforward and respectful use of pronouns (‘I’ takes responsibility: ‘you’ sounds accusatory).
  3. Calm: find ways to calm yourself so you can control your responses and remain objective.

Element 4: Strategies

  1. Spot the signs of rising tension early: move in to defuse the conflict before it gets properly started.
  2. Keep working: if you break contact, conflict will escalate in the gaps.
  3. Welcome contributions: make all contributions welcome by inviting, acknowledging and valuing every effort the other person makes.

Element 5: Support

  1. Ask for it: whenever you need it.
  2. Offer it: whenever you can.
  3. Match it: to the needs of the situation – is facilitation or mediation or arbitration the right approach?

Element 6: Cautions

  1. Avoid the mindset of trying to ‘win’. Look instead for a resolution that both parties will value.
  2. Right and wrong: are rarely appropriate categories – if they were, the conflict would be far easier to resolve.
  3. Blame, punishment and retribution: have no role. In the film Papillon, Leon Darga says ‘blame is for god and small children.’

Further Reading 

  1. The Resolving Conflict Pocketbook
  2. Discipline & Grievance Pocketbook
  3. The Mediation Pocketbook
  4. The free ACAS Advisory booklet – Managing conflict at work
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12 Blogs for Christmas

Holly&Ivy

This has been a great year for the Pocketblog, seeing reading figures rise substantially and reaching the milestone of our 100th blog posting.

So, with Christmas coming at the end of the week, let’s do a round-up of some personal favourites from among this year’s Pocketblogs.

Here is something for each of the twelve days.  Enjoy!

1. Start as you mean to go on: Happiness

After some New Year’s Resolutions to start the year off, we dived into the subject of Happiness, with ‘Happiness – as simple as ABC?’ about Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy – the fore-runner of CBT.

2. … and Start Topical

We then moved into a subject that was much in the news in February; and still is.  With ‘Bankers’ Bonuses and Brain Biology’, we looked at recent neuroscience and how that relates to Adams’ Equity Theory.

3. Generations

In February too, I wrote two blogs about sociological ‘Generations X, Y & Z’ and ‘Generation Y at work’.  I followed this up by another about what comes ‘After Generation Y?’.

4. The Gemba

In May, inspiration waned for a week, so where did I go to find it?  ‘The Gemba’.  I got it back, and later that month, got idealistic in ‘Reciprocity and Expectation’ looking at the Pay it Forward ideal and the realities of Game Theory.

5. Why do we do what we do?

In the first of two blogs on how to predict human behaviour, I looked at ‘How to Understand your Toddler’ (mine actually) and Icek Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behaviour.  Later in the year, in ‘Predicting Behaviour’, I looked at whether a simple equation (hypothesised by Kurt Lewin) could predict all behaviour.

6. One of the Best Business Books of the Year

… according to the Journal Strategy & Business is Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters.  In ‘What Makes a Good Business Strategy’ we looked at some of his ideas.

7. The Apprentice

This year, I have been a big fan of both series and have written my own episode by episode analysis of both The Apprentice and Young Apprentice.  I also did one blog on each for Pocketblog: ‘The Apprentice and Five Levels of Leadership’ and, for Young Apprentice, ‘Decision Failure’.

8. Drucker Triptych

Has any one individual been as influential in establishing management as a pragmatic academic discipline as Peter Drucker?  To recognise his various achievements, I wrote a triptych of blogs over the summer:

  1. The Man who Invented Management
  2. Management by Objectives
  3. R.I.P. Corporate Clone: Arise Insightful Executive

And one of Drucker’s direct contemporaries was W Edwards Deming, so I also took a look at ‘Demings’ System of Profound Knowledge’.

9. Crazy Times

Will history look on Tom Peters with the respect that it holds for Drucker and Deming?  Who knows?  But without a doubt, Peters has been influential, insightful and provocative for thirty years or more, and I am sure many of his ideas will survive.  In ‘Crazy Times Again’, I drew a line from FW Taylor (father of ‘Scientific Management’) to Peters.

10. The Circle Chart

In ‘Going Round in Circles’ I returned to management models and one of my all time favourites: Fisher and Ury’s Circle Chart. I applied it to problem solving rather than, as they did, to negotiation.

Fisher and Ury are experts on conflict resolution, as is Morton Deutsch. In ‘Conflict: As simple as AEIOU’, I looked at a fabulously simple conflict resolution model that originated in Deutsch’s International Centre for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.

11. Two Notable Events

Two notable events made the autumn memorable for Pocketblog: one sad and one happy.

  1. In ‘A Bigger Bite’ we marked Steve Jobs’ passing
  2. With ‘Three ways to get it wrong’, we marked our hundredth blog, by looking at one of the towering social psychologists of today, Daniel Kahneman

12. And finally, our most popular topic

Tuckman’s model for group formation has proved to be our most popular topic by far this year.  We have returned to it three times, each time looking at a particular facet:

  1. ‘Swift Trust: Why some teams don’t Storm’
  2. ‘Team Performance Beyond Tuckman’
  3. ‘Tuckman Plus’ is the first of two posts.  It is the last topic post of 2011 and its companion (‘Part 2: Transforming’) will be the first of 2012

So here’s the deal

  • Have a very merry and peaceful Christmas.
  • Have a very happy and healthy New Year.
  • Be good, have fun, stay safe, and prosper.

From all at Management Pocketbooks,
our colleagues at Teacher’s Pocketbooks too,
and from me particularly.

Mike

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Conflict: As simple as AEIOU

Well, if you think the title means you can solve every conflict easily, you must be living in a different world from the rest of us!

Intractable Conflict

Indeed, one of the foremost books on conflict resolution, The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, even has a chapter on ‘Intractable Conflict’.  Intractable conflicts come in three flavours:

  1. Conflicts over irreconcilable moral differences
  2. High-stakes conflicts of distribution of resources
  3. Conflicts over relative power or place in a hierarchy

Day-to-day Conflict

So, I will set the moral, resource and power stakes a little lower and talk about simple workplace conflicts; like ‘who moved my chair?’ or ‘why do you never wash up your coffee mugs?’.

Being able to resolve daily conflicts like these is an important workplace skill, and one that is often overlooked in schools, colleges and training for job-starters.

How bad will it get?

Morton Deutsch Morton Deutsch is considered by many as the founder of our modern theory and practice of conflict resolution.  He wrote widely and The Resolution of Conflict is one of the most important books on the subject.

In it, Deutsch sets out seven factors that determine how well (constructively) or badly (destructively) the conflict will go:

.

  1. The characteristics of the parties
    … their values, aspirations, intellectual and social resource, attitudes to conflict, and power relationships
  2. The prior relationship between them
    … including their attitudes, beliefs and expectations about each other, and the levels of trust
  3. The nature of the issue causing the conflict
    … its scope, flexibility, significance, expression
  4. The social environment of the conflict
    … the encouragements and deterrents, social norms, mediating agents
  5. The stakeholder to the conflict
    … their relationships to the parties and to each other, their own interests and characteristics
  6. The strategy and tactics employed by each party
    … their legitimacy or illegitimacy, the use of incentives such as promises of rewards or threats of punishment or coercion, openness and integrity of communication, commitment, what they appeal to
  7. The consequences of the conflict to each party
    … and also to other stakeholders: gains and losses, precedence established, short- and long-term effects, reputational impacts

The ICCCR

Deutsch founded the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1986.  It is committed to developing knowledge and practice to promote constructive conflict resolution, effective cooperation, and social justice.

There, the former training director, Ellen Raider, developed a useful mnemonic device that has been used in training in workplaces and educational institutions.

AEIOU Conflict Management Chart - Ellen Raider

Students who are taught this mnemonic find it easier to share their needs and acknowledge other peoples’ needs and so work towards a solution.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Resolving Conflict Pocketbook

The Teamworking Pocketbook

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook

The Discipline & Grievance Pocketbook

The Working Relationships Pocketbook

Learn More

Here is an hour-long interview with Deutsch and, if conflict really interests you, there are also interviews with other key thinkers in the field on the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (SCAR) website.

CODA

It seems Ellen Raider’s is not the only AEIOU model for conflict management.  A cursory wander around the web also unearthed:

  1. Acknowledge-Express-Identify-Outcome-Understanding
  2. Assume-Express-Identify-Outcome-Understanding
  3. Active Listening-Empathise-Intent-Options-Underscore
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