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Preventing conflict

The best way to manage conflict is to prevent it ever arising. You can do this, to some extent, by promoting collaboration and trust within your team – and by preventing any individual from advancing his or her own interests at the expense of other people’s.

Here are some specific hints and tips:

 Don’t make decisions that will affect people’s work without consulting them first.

 Don’t criticise anyone’s work unless you can make practical suggestions as to how they might improve it.

 Don’t make personal attacks on people behind their backs.

 Discourage other people from doing so.

 Don’t allow cliques and in-groups to form within your team – especially if they think they are superior and/or want to score off others.

 Reward people for being helpful and supportive to one another.

 Constantly find ways to remind your people that success depends on their being a team rather than a collection of individuals.

 Don’t back people into corners from which they can’t escape without either admitting defeat or escalating the conflict.

Demonstrate by your own behaviour how disagreements can be resolved without one or both parties being left with bad feelings.

Dealing with conflict

However harmonious the general atmosphere, individuals can still take a dislike to one another. And they can still think other people are preventing them from getting something they want. So conflict can still arise.

Derek Rowntree suggests the following ways to handle conflict. As an coach you will develop more advanced skills as you practice coaching skills.

 Ignore the conflict for a while in the hope that it will blow over and be forgotten.
 Threaten the conflicting staff with some sort of punishment (or withdrawal of rewards).

 Persuade them to control their disagreement out of respect for your feelings or the team’s harmony.

 Support one side or the other (with or without concessions).
 Impose a compromise.

 Buy people off – if you give up fighting for that, I’ll give you something else you want instead’.

 Get the rest of the team to gang up and suppress the conflict.

 N.B. The above approaches sometimes offer short-term relief. But often they merely postpone the day when the conflict re-emerges and has to be dealt with properly. Might you find any of the following approaches more effective?

 Separate conflicting staff so that they are no longer working together.

 If two people are battling for a reward they believe only one can have, try to find means of enabling both to have the reward if they deserve it.

 Help the antagonists to understand one another’s point of view and recognise its validity in the other’s eyes.

 Refer the antagonists to some ‘ombudsperson’ in the organisation who is known to provide wise conciliation.

 Persuade the conflicting parties to abandon their pursuit of individual goals in favour of some new, common goal that both will agree is more important.

 Concentrate on getting the antagonists to work out their own solution rather than pushing your own

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