When conflict occurs, it may be a high voltage moment, entirely unanticipated. In reality, this is probably not the case as unresolved tensions will, inevitably, result in conflict. It may even be predictable since people are often in competition with each other for scarce resources and opportunities. If you add to this personal agendas or covert actions, the situation could escalate into unexpected instability.
What to do?
It is hard to predict what the resolution. The matter must be brought into the open for discussion. If it can be resolved informally in dialogue, this is preferable. This is, however, easier said than done since people get entrenched in their positions, and most people function from a win/lose mentality. There is a winner and a loser. While there is a place for this in truly competitive situations, such as sports, most of life is not a competition. Mostly, in life, we depend on cooperation from others to get the results we want.might be when people are at odds with each other, but it is wise and prudent to not gloss things over and to seek early
Getting to win/win
In a complaint process, people most often have reasonable demands when the situation is fully explored. First of all, they want an opportunity to voice their concerns from their perspective; they want their feelings acknowledged and respected; and, sometimes, an apology is all they want. An established process allows people to articulate their experience and perceived harm, receive a fair hearing and proceed toward resolution.
Why a process?
A process shifts the focus from the emotions involved to the facts of the situation and to the concrete steps leading to resolution. People tend to have a dominant conflict style, which is helpful to understand; and, there will be multiple expectations to clarify throughout the process. The necessary elements to resolution are:
- A neutral facilitator
- Agreement on the process
- and confidentiality
- Full exploration of issues
- Options for settlement
- Conclusion agreement
These are the elements of a flexible mediation process which can be stopped by either party if it is not working. A win/win solution will require and exploring all options, some of which may be new, but all of which provide a process to resolution that serves the interests of the parties and the organization.
If you do not have structured processes to prevent and alleviate tensions, learning about conflict styles is a good place to start. People will learn about their own dominant conflict style, recognize conflict styles in others and learn appropriate responses. This understanding is your first line of defence to easing tensions and preventing conflict.