Very few people would say they actually like conflict. Yet, it’s an unavoidable fact of life, particularly in workforces in which a wide variety of people frequently interact with each other. Still, if properly managed, conflicts can help foster new ideas and strengthen teams.
According to a new study from CPP Inc., the more training employees receive on conflict management, the better the chances are for positive outcomes when conflicts arise. Richard Thompson, CPP’s divisional director of research, defined positive outcomes as “some sort of a resolution to the conflict where both parties — if not feeling like there was a win-win [result] — at least feel like they were heard and their opinions were valued and contributed to the resolution of the conflict.”
However, the majority of respondents (56 percent) reported they hadn’t participated in any conflict management learning programs. Thompson attributed the lack of training to the fact that leaders in most organizations are resigned to the presence of conflict in their enterprises and don’t want to dwell on what they feel is a negative characteristic.
“Historically, conflict is one of those things that’s just kind of expected when you put people of diverse backgrounds in a room together,” he explained. “I think, culturally, we just don’t think a lot about it and often ignore it in the hopes that it will just go away.”
Another interesting finding from the study was that the majority of conflicts are personality-driven, as opposed to being caused by, say, struggles over resources (though that’s a common point of contention, as well).
“There are a few things implicated by this study that you should focus on when doing conflict training,” Thompson said. “Individual differences that we bring to the table can be perceived as being part of the problem. That confirms my life experiences, but it doesn’t necessarily confirm what organizational psychologists attribute conflict to.
“When you’re doing training, it’s important to understand the different ways you can deal with conflict and how individuals’ differences and personalities can feed into conflict. It’s important to get people to recognize that others are different: They make decisions in different ways, take in information in different ways and process information differently. They can look at the same things and come to different conclusions, and that’s OK. It’s how you deal with that issue that allows you to have positive outcomes.”
When instructing employees on conflict management, it’s important to figure out who the audience is and how to most effectively deliver content to it, he added.
“I think it has a lot to do with who is coming to the training. If you have an existing work group that has a conflict problem, that’s probably going to be better with some prep work, followed by classroom. But if it’s me trying to learn individually about conflict, then an e-learning platform would probably be fine in that situation.”Filed under: Technology