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)?