Workplace conflicts are most easily resolved and most likely to benefit performance when they are confined to the initial individuals. This is much more likely when people have the skills to respond flexibly to conflict and the culture embraces open and productive disagreement as a means to learning.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. And when left to resolve themselves, workplace conflicts rarely do. And they rarely stayed contained. In fact, they are contagious and can quickly infect teams, departments, and entire organizations with negative emotions, side-taking, and coalition formation.
When a conflict has been allowed to fester, we work with our clients to deescalate the conflict and constrain its spread using research-backed strategies and best practices to:
Diagnose the conflict situation to ensure the real issues are being addressed,
Intervene with initiatives that address the highest impact issues in the shortest time frame, and
Prevent future conflict by leveraging lessons learned.
Accurately diagnosing the conflict situation is a critical first step. It requires understanding the contribution of context and people and knowing how to influence both to achieve desired outcomes. As organizational psychologists, our doctoral specialization uniquely equips us to address both the contextual and the people elements inherent in workplace conflict.
When diagnosis reveals contextual issues at the root of a conflict, such as role confusion or poorly designed teams, we work with clients to address the issues and to restore damaged relationships. But, when contextual issues are not easily remedied or when clashing personalities seem to be driving conflict, we use situationally appropriate interventions to open lines of communication, refocus people on common goals, and help them negotiate mutually agreeable ways of moving forward.
Once the conflict is appropriately resolved, we work to prevent the destructive impact of future conflicts. We help our clients establish early-warning systems to surface and productively manage conflict. And, depending on the results of our conflict diagnosis, we may recommend skill-building and culture-shaping initiatives so our clients can better reap the benefits of conflict while avoiding its downsides.
Constraining conflict is just one of the ways that we help leaders, teams, organizations, and investors more effectively manage conflict. Our three-pronged approach is grounded in scientific evidence and a deep understanding of people in work contexts. We call it the ABC's of Conflict Management.
Our comprehensive approach to conflict management is informed by decades of scientific research and enables us to meet our clients anywhere they are in their need to more effectively manage conflict, from defusing common sources of conflict before they ignite to constraining the spread of emerging or escalating conflict.