Coaching Through Conflict - Chapter 2 - AAA Handbook on Labor Arbitration & ADR, 3rd Edition
James H. Keil is Founder of Adaptive Consulting Team—a dispute management consulting firm. He is a former professional football player and commissioned naval officer who served honorably during the Vietnam era. He was a corporate sales and marketing manager for three Fortune 500 Companies in a number of regions of the United States and has served as a major policy-making official in Maine State government. He is on the American Arbitration Association’s commercial mediation and arbitration panels, and is a member of the AAA’s New England Construction Advisory Council.
Coaching Through Conflict
James H. Keil
People in most workplaces experience some level of conflict on a regular basis. The human condition guarantees it. When two or more humans have to spend time together in the same space, there will eventually be some sort of conflict between them. It is especially true in today’s workplace when you factor in the tension of deadlines, instant communication with multiple parties, information overload, downsizing, overnight mergers, or any of the other burdens with which today’s workers are familiar, not to mention relationships.
Most of us recognize that not all conflict is bad. In fact, if we can find ways to manage it, conflict between workers can provide a very positive competitive stimulus that aids productivity. When managed, conflict can also improve quality output by providing checks and balances to work that might not otherwise exist.
The question is: how might conflict be realistically managed? Can it be kept under control? The answer, of course, is probably not in all cases. Still, many people who have participated in team sports can remember times when clashing personalities were kept in check through the influence of a coach. Even those who have not participated have seen examples in professional sports of players who don’t like each other, but who somehow find ways to suppress such feelings and manage to accomplish greater goals.