COACHING THROUGH CONFLICT - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 55, No. 2
The author is founder of Adaptive Consulting Team—a dispute management consultancy 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, is a member of the AAA’s New England Construction Advisory Council, and a member of the Building Futures Council, SPIDR International, and an associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (London).
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Conflict is experienced at some level in the workplace on a fairly regular basis. Managing such conflict can, however, be a major challenge. Drawing from his experiences as a facilitator, Jim Keil illustrates how informal work groups can be used to overcome conflict in the workplace and how —when managed successfully—conflict can be put to positive use.
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 also can 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.
If coaches can win contests with friction between players, could some of these principles be applied in the workplace? In the process of attempting to calm conflict situations in the workplace that had either become violent, or where there were threats of violence, an associate and I have developed a process utilizing some of these techniques that can provide a management matrix with promise.
The genesis of this conflict management model is a simple questionnaire, which we have used in many facilitated workshops. The questionnaire follows: