Personal Reflections in Conflict Resolution Essay

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Personal Reflections in Conflict Resolution

The Critical Importance of Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

In many respects, interpersonal conflict is inevitable in the modern workplace. All of us experience various pressures and difficulties on the job as well as myriad external factors that we cannot help but allow to affect our moods and outlooks and the way we respond to stress. Whereas conflicts of various types and degrees are inevitable, the degree to which they affect our individual performance, that of our teams and business units and, ultimately, our organization differ tremendously based on how well we implement strategies to resolve conflicts after they occur.

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In principle, the difference between employees and teams that overcome conflicts in the workplace and those who do not seems to be much less about whether or not conflicts occur, or how often, and much more about how we respond to them and whether or not we allow them to generate long-term problems that undermine optimal business operations and interpersonal relationships on the job. Certainly, recognizing the potential for conflict before it occurs and acting to mitigate that potential, avoid conflict altogether or reduce its severity are all helpful strategies. However, the natural consequence of working together over the long-term often means that a certain amount of conflict is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Generally, the way we react to interpersonal conflict at work determines whether we will be able to minimize any detrimental effect it has on our work and on team unity and business operations. Effective conflict resolution allows us to minimize disruptions and resume business as soon as possible. Conversely, ineffective conflict resolution does the exact opposite: namely, it exacerbates tensions that may already exist, it increases the likelihood of continued conflicts, and it undermines business operations at the expense of the team and, potentially, of the entire organization.

Identifying Factors that Contribute to Conflict Issues and my Resolution Approach

Essay on Personal Reflections in Conflict Resolution the Critical Assignment

In most situations generating conflict in the workplace, there are at least two types of contributing factors: (1) the substantive elements of the conflict, and (2) the personality issues, differences, and inter-relational dynamics between the individuals involved. As a supervisor, I have learned that dealing with substantive issues is always important, but to the extent that conflicts involve personal issues between or among the individuals, focusing exclusively on the substantive elements can result in a failure to genuinely resolve the conflict and prevent recurrence.

In that regard, I have learned to look beneath the surface of the apparent source of conflict. Many times, the topic of the argument of dispute is actually little more than the vehicle or mechanism through which employees who have problems getting along manifest those problems. Naturally, that is not always the case; sometimes, the apparent topic of the dispute is actually the only matter at issue. However, in my experience, it is much more often the case that conflicts among coworkers that rise to the level of requiring supervisory intervention are rarely the result of isolated substantive disagreements. More often, by the time conflicts come to my attention, they actually reflect longer-term issues between or among the individuals involved and the circumstances of the specific conflict brought to my attention is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. That is why, as a supervisor, I have learned to inquire into the underlying relationship and the past history of relations between the individuals before investigating the details of any seemingly isolated event that generates conflict.

One of the most common sources of interpersonal conflict in my experience is the perception by individuals that others do not respect their authority or their expertise, and in some cases, their opinion. I have learned that different people have very different triggers for their anger and very different sensibilities in terms of what types of responses from others can cause or intensify negative reactions. Frequently, the source of conflict goes back much further than the immediate problem and, in many cases, the immediate problem is merely the last straw rather than the first element of conflict.

I have learned to discuss the issue with each of the individuals involved first, and then to have a discussion that involves both (or all) of them. After allowing each person to relate the details of the conflict to me as they see them, I will often inquire into whether or not the individual believes that this is an isolated instance (from their perspective) or whether the incident might be part of a larger or longer-term problem or issue between them. In my experience, this line of inquiry often proves quite helpful and I have observed what I believe to be genuine first-time realizations on the part of the individuals involved that the issue is actually more than the matter immediately at hand. On some occasions, the individuals have seemed relieved to have the opportunity to express a long-developing frustration and they will express significant issues that really have little to do with the immediate matter, except, of course in that the latter is only a manifestation of the former.

That discussion usually allows me the opportunity to initiate a discussion about what it is, more generally, that each individual believes might be contributing to the problem on the part of the other. Meanwhile, perhaps the most valuable aspect of those discussions are the opportunity they provide for me to inquire of each person whether he or she believes that anything on their part might be contributing to the issues. Even when met with initial denials or protestations of innocence, I have found that people can be prompted to be more honest in these discussions than they might have been with themselves or with one another previously. I have noticed that one tell-tale sign that my approach might be leading somewhere positive is when it elicits laughter in response to questions such as "Did you know that would annoy your coworker when you did it?"

At that point, I try to express that some of these types of responses to people with whom we ma have difficulties or differences are perfectly natural. I may ask the individual to take some time to think about what types of things the other person could do, in general, to resolve the particular issue and to reduce the potential for continued conflict. Of course, I also ask the person to think about how he or she might also have contributed to the conflict and what types of things could have been done differently and might be done differently in the future, on their part, to reduce the potential for conflict.

Depending on the substantive elements of the issue (in my subjective opinion), I may weigh in, taking care to phrase my response in ways that focus on the issues and on what I believe might have been the problem (or the solution, as the case may be) without creating the impression that I am taking sides. My determination of who might have been right substantively will affect the way that I handle the situation from that point. If it is clear to me that one person was right, I will let that person know privately, but I will then try to help that person identify what he or she could have done in the same situation, notwithstanding having been right on the issue of dispute, that could have allowed the individuals involved to resolve the situation before it generated a conflict that required my intervention. I will also advise the other person what I believe to be the correct analysis of the substantive situation and make the same inquiry, notwithstanding who may have been right or wrong, and try to identify what could have been done by the individuals to reduce the intensity of the conflict before it became elevated to the point where it came to my attention.

Finally, in situations where it is less clear who may have been right on the substantive issues, I may bring them in to my office together after meeting with both individuals separately and asking them to conduct these types of inquiries separately. During that phase of the conflict resolution process, I may attempt to articulate my understanding of each person's position or complaint in front of the other. I will then ask each person to tell me first, what he or she might have done to help create the problem or to make it worse; and second, to tell me what he or she believes the other person might have done in that regard.

Ideally, I allow both individuals the same opportunity and then I ask them both to respond to what has been expressed by the other person and to respond to it. The final component is that I articulate what I believe to be an accurate synthesis of what each person might have done to help create the problem; what each person believes the other person might have done in that regard; and, ultimately, what each person acknowledges to be his or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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