21st Century Organizations: A Crucible of Organizational Conflict

September 11, 2015 By Irma Tyler Wood

Crucible: A vessel designed to withstand extreme temperatures without melting or cracking

- Webster’s Dictionary

 Can your organization withstand the extreme heat generated by conflict and globalization?

  1. Massive, rapid, ongoing change - changes, in technology, markets, economies, competition, communication, and governments have meant organizations have had to rapidly change their strategies and structures to survive and thrive. Change triggers transition which increases the frequency and intensity of organizational conflict
  2. Globalization has created a more diverse economic market place and a more diverse workforce and has heightened cultural proximity.  Organizations must communicate across geographical, cultural and language boundaries.  The opportunities for miscommunication and misunderstanding are legion. 
  3. A major generational shift - as boomers age out of the workforce and millennials enter the workforce, organizations experience the clash of expectations, experience and culture.     

Any one of these factors would increase the frequency and depth of conflict within an organization; taken together they create a virtual tsunami of organizational conflict.  Manage conflict well and your organizations will reap the benefits of increased creativity, productivity and commitment.  Manage conflict poorly and the organization will experience high turnover, low employee morale and an enormous waste of tangible and intangible organizational resources like, time, profits, productivity, trust, candor and commitment. 

Managing conflict effectively is key to maintaining organizational health and effectiveness.  What should a leader or a follower do to help his team and his organization manage conflict effectively?

  1. Explicitly address the fact that conflict is expected and is a normal process and a good facilitator of creativity and commitment and that you expect your team to be able to manage it effectively.
  2. Assess the culture of conflict management in your organization, is it being buried, and left to fester until it explodes or are teams and individuals raising and resolving conflict effectively.
  3. Equip your team with the skills and tools to manage conflict constructively.  A two or three day conflict resolution course or a monthly session to transfer skills and tools are two ways to accomplish this. 
  4. Model the use of the skills you want them to use and support and encourage their use of the tools when they come to you with a conflict.
  5. Step in and mediate only on those conflicts they can’t or shouldn’t resolve on their own.
  6. Hold them accountable by including conflict resolution skills as a part of the way you evaluate their effectiveness as an employee.
  7. Jointly develop a set of ground rules or norms about how the team or the organization will handle conflict.  

To learn more about how leaders can manage conflict effectively please visit our website to read more about the Conflict Resolution Trainings that are offered and our Constructive Conflict Management Toolkit. Our Toolkit empowers individuals and organizations by giving them an array of sophisticated conflict resolution tools (16 tools in all) which they can use to effectively diagnose, prevent and/or resolve conflict.