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How to manage conflict
in an Organisation |
Speech for Rotary club of Bombay
Harbour Monday 29th Nov. 1999 at Indian Merchant Chamber
What is a conflict & why does
it occur ?
The oxford dictionary defines conflict as " disagreement
between people with different ideas or beliefs, it also defines it as " a fight
or a struggle". Having understood what is conflict, let us spend a bit of time
to dwelve our thoughts on - Is conflict undesirable or bad ?. To my mind
conflict is a natural part of life, I call it natural because no two individuals
are same. An organisation, is but a collection of people from different cultural
backgrounds, they have different sets of values and ideas. Individuals look at
situations or probems in organisational life from their unique perspective,
which is a result of the circumstances within which they have
Causes of conflict :
How to manage
conflicts in an organisation :
- Differing values (eg conservative v/s progressive minded)
- Differing perspectives (eg limited v/s broad, domestic v/s international)
- Differing ideas (creative v/s mundane)
- Different styles of solving organisational problems.
- Differing agendas (sometimes hidden ones)
- Differing attitudes (rigid v/s flexible)
- Differing objectives and goals.
- Differing circumstances.
Let us simulate the situations under
which the conflicts occur in an organisation. Basically there could be three
situations in an organisational context.
1. Conflict with the boss.
Conflict with colleagues/peers.
3. Conflict with subordinates
1. Managing conflict with the boss :
All of us
have read the famous rule,
Rule no. 1 Boss is always right.
Rule no. 2
In case the boss is wrong see rule no. 1.
This is not to say that one
has to be yes man all the time. When ever you face a conflict situation with
your boss consider the following approaches.
(i) Appreciate wider perspective : The boss has
wider perspective than you, therefore please consider whether there
something you are not able to visualise that your boss has
(ii) Do not offend his authority :
Every boss is sensitive to maintaining his authority. If you have a
better idea, put it in a
manner of suggestion, avoid offending his
(iii) Evaluate the impact :
Very carefully evaluate the impact of the wrong decision of the boss on
your position in particular
and on organisation in general. Do not challenge
his decision unless you have to.
bitterness : If you have to differ with your boss, just register your
point of view without making it bitter.
2. Managing conflict
with peers/colleagues :
Most of the times the conflict between
peers occurs because of the tendency of " One up manship". When ever you face a
conflict situation with your colleagues, try some of the following
(i) Communicate: Most of the
time your colleagues may be differing with you, either because they have not
understood your point of view properly or you have not communicated clearly
enough. Since you do not have any authority over them, enter into a dialogue and
discuss the issue with an open mind.
Conflict to Co-operation : Work towards skillfully converting conflict in
to a co-operation. Strive to appreciate their point of view. Find out the ways
and means to create a 'win-win' situation. If need be ammend your approach and
meet your colleagues midway.
3. Managing conflicts
with the subordinates :
In this situation you have the authority, yet
you have to be skillful in managing the conflict.
(i) Allow freedom to express : Give adequate
freedom to your subordinates to express their views freely, be patient listen to
(ii) Allow dissent :
Dissent is natural, manage disagreement constructively
(iii) Build consensus
: Identify the +ve minded persons in your team and convert them into the
'champions of causes' and let them reason it out with the ynical fellows.
Provide right kind of support, intervene skillfully to build consensus.
(iv) Develop a common vision : Appreciate the fact
that all your subordinates may not have the broad vision and perspective like
yours. Its your responsibility to share your dreams and aspirations for the
organisation with them and make them appreciate these. Through discussion,
training and counseling develop a common vision.
TEN (GENERIC) APPROACHES
TO MANAGE CONFLICTS
1. Patient listening.
understand other's point of view.
3. Avoid reacting strongly / avoid anger
under all circumstances.
4. Evaluate your responses properly before
5. Communicate, enter into a dialogue, convince or get
6. Choose the right time for dialogue, when the other person is in
a receiving mood.
7. Avoid throwing your weight, even if you have the
8. Allow dissent, manage disagreement constructively,
consensus, take people along.
10. Create a common vision if others do not
have as broad a perspective as your, explain it to them with patience, train
them & counsel them.