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October 04, 2016

Workplace Conflict: An Inevitable Fact of Life

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Conflict is an inevitable fact of any organizations life. Organizations that accept this truism, do so for many different reasons, and those that do, are able to access the beneficial potential of conflict.

The impetus to accept organizational conflict and work with it rather than against it, has, for the most part, been driven by the desire to avoid pain. The direct and indirect costs of conflict (not resolved or poorly resolved) has been a big motivator.

According to Cornell's Professor Lipsky "across the board, the primary motivators are cost and time (Both are terms used to discuss cost)." 

But there are also organizations who are driven by hope rather than fear, and in coming to terms with the fact that they will always have conflict, seek to deal with it as creatively as possible.

Again, according to Lipskey "in the vanguard companies . . .the HR professionals will say this (conflict management) is a top priority for us and we need to design a system that will enable us to meet this need."

The report of the Association for Conflict Resolution, (formerly Spidr, AFM and Crnet) on guidelines for the design of integrated conflict management systems will go a long way to provide direction to organizations, however motivated. 

According to the report, organizations that are managing conflict effectively share these characteristics:

1. They provide options for all types of problems and all people in the workplace, including employees, supervisors,professionals, and managers.
2. They create a culture that welcomes dissent and encourages resolution of conflict at the lowest level through direct negotiation.
3. They provide multiple access points. Employees can readily identify and access a knowledgeable person whom they trust for advice about the conflict management system.
4. They provide multiple options -- both rights-based and interest-based -- for addressing conflict.
5. They provide systemic support and structures that coordinate and support the multiple access points and multiple options and that integrate effective conflict management into the organization's daily operations.

The reality remains, that wherever an organization is located, it operates in a legal environment that will influence how it views and responds to conflict.

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