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Conflict management: 5 phases + 4 methods to resolve conflicts
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Conflicts are part of everyday life at work, differences of opinion are not bad per se. Conflict management is needed to prevent them from escalating. It helps to a constructive discussion and derives possible solutions. The aim is not to win the dispute, but to arouse mutual understanding and make meaningful compromises. We explain the phases in which conflict management takes place and how it works ...
➠ Content: This is what awaits you
➠ Content: This is what awaits you
Definition: what is conflict management?
Conflict management comprises various methods and measures to defuse an existing conflict. We speak of conflict when different opinions and interests clash that seem incompatible. There are always two or more people involved.
Parties should enter into a constructive dialogue, from which a mutually accepted solution emerges. The aim is a systematic examination of the causes. This is also intended to mitigate future conflicts - they cannot be completely avoided. Rather, conflict management is about ...
- to deal with existing conflicts.
- to resolve necessary conflicts proactively.
- prevent unnecessary conflicts.
Common types of conflicts in the job
Some people are confident, others shy, some take risks, others reluctant. Frictions are programmed into the mix of personalities. The resulting conflicts, however, have very different causes. Knowing them enables the appropriate approach to conflict management before a conflict gets out of hand. The following types of conflict are particularly common in professional life:
- Relationship conflicts
Wherever we meet other people, antipathies can arise that make it difficult to be together, although often no rational reason can be recognized. In short: you just can't stand each other. What begins as a subtle aversion is heightened and personified by minor attacks.
- Communication conflicts
We communicate not only through words, but also through non-verbal communication. If language and facial expressions or gestures are contradictory, misunderstandings arise. If the interlocutors do not clarify this, there is a risk of tangible communication conflicts.
- Distribution conflicts
There are different views on the distribution of existing resources. These can be material things, such as conflicts over a company car or the beautiful individual office. There are also distribution conflicts for tasks and responsibilities.
- Role conflicts
People take on different roles at work, in a group, or in the family. With each role, there are expressed and unspoken expectations of the individual. But this does not necessarily correspond to the self-image that the person has of himself. An unfulfilled understanding of roles can lead to conflicts.
- Conflicts of matter
Opinions and disagreements prevail here about something. There are different ideas about which goal is to be achieved or there are different proposals for solutions that are (at least apparently) incompatible.
- Conflicts of values
Conflicts of values arise, for example, with different work attitudes: One prefers clearly regulated processes, the other prefers to be spontaneous; one categorically excludes unfair methods, for the other they are only a means to an end.
- Power conflicts
A company is planning to merge two departments for cost reasons. Both previous department heads do not want to lose any influence. Zack - there is already a power conflict. It's about your own position in a group and the desire to keep your own reputation.
In addition, we have ten reasons that are sure to lead to quarrels among colleagues in this one PDF summarized for you.
Why is conflict management important in the job?
In addition to certain triggers and stimulus topics, the personality of the other person plays a role. There are types of conflict that are particularly argumentative. They use disagreement as a valve. Others, on the other hand, are more conflict-averse and follow an avoidance strategy.
Problematic about it: Such constellations nevertheless lead to great dissatisfaction. Just because one party to the conflict always lags behind, the problem does not resolve itself. Unresolved conflicts are detrimental to companies because they can permanently poison the working atmosphere. And sooner or later that leads to a drop in performance or dismissals. To a certain extent, good conflict management follows a holistic approach, from prevention to identifying the causes and solutions. The main concern is to avoid an escalation of the conflict.
Conflict escalation according to Glasl
The Austrian economist and organizational consultant Friedrich Glasl developed the following phase model of escalation in 1980:
Accordingly, there are three main phases, each of which is divided into three further stages. While the conflict can still be satisfactorily resolved for both parties in the first phase (win-win), the downward spiral begins with the second main phase (win-lose): one of the conflicting parties will lose out. In the last main phase (lots-lots) both lose. Such extremes of escalating conflict can be observed on the big world stage during wars.
Requirements for successful conflict management
In order for conflict management to be successful and to function, the help and employees of those involved are always required. Superiors or others can initiate and support the process. If the team does not want to resolve the conflicts themselves or is not yet ready to do so, the conflict management comes to nothing. Necessary prerequisites for successful conflict management are:
- Conflict ability
There are conflicts everywhere, unfortunately one often looks in vain for the ability to deal with conflicts. As soon as an argument is even in the air, many withdraw to avoid a possible conflict. Participants must be able to face a conflict in order to resolve it.
It takes discussion and dialogue to resolve differences of opinion. If you don't talk to each other, you can't find a solution. Instead, it simmers until it escalates.
- Willingness to compromise
Both sides must be ready to take a step towards the other and find compromises. If everyone stubbornly insists on their own rights, conflict management can do little.
It becomes particularly difficult when there are conflicts between the employee and the boss. We have tips for you in this PDF for such conflicts.
The 5 phases in conflict management
Once a conflict arises, it seldom resolves on its own. Conflict management needs a clarifying discussion. This debate usually takes place in five typical conflict phases:
1. Kick-off phase
It takes the right atmosphere and mood. In the initial phase (also the contact phase), both sides must try to be objective. Never start out with anger or a barrage of reproach. A debate is hardly possible afterwards. Delaying the trigger can help, but delaying it too long is not advisable.
2. Self-explanatory phase
Both parties factually represent the trigger of the dispute: How did it come about: What is it essentially about? What led to the escalation? Symptoms of conflict are identified and analyzed. There is no place for blame, blame, and generalization. I-messages are better: "I found that disrespectful and offensive ..."
3. Dialogue phase
In the dialogue, mutual understanding should be achieved: “Now I understand why you reacted like this!”. Avoid discussions about the point of view, such as “You're getting this wrong!” This will only lead to further arguments. Rather, the commonalities of the positions as well as the differences should be worked out.
4. Solution phase
Solutions are now being sought for every single point of contention. Important questions for this are:
- What would one be fair solution for the respective conflict?
- Which of the proposed solutions would be makeable?
- Which of the feasible solutions are for both sides acceptable?
These proposals are then assessed to determine whether they are feasible and acceptable to all parties involved. The discussion partners agree on exactly these solutions and agree on when the success or failure of the implementation should be discussed again.
5. Closing phase
At the end of the conversation, all proposed solutions that have been jointly accepted are repeated again and checked and decided by both parties. The conflict is finally settled and ideally both can shake hands on an equal footing.
Basic rules for all phases
- To stay objective
It is the top priority in the event of a dispute. Anyone who becomes polemical or personal in the process disqualifies himself and can just as easily save himself the discussion of a conflict. In any case, nothing useful will come out of attacks below the belt. Instead, keep calm (also in tone) and always (!) Remain confident - even if you are being attacked in an unobjective manner.
- hear out
In the second phase in particular - the self-explanatory phase - it is important to first allow, listen to and understand both points of view. Both parties to the dispute should never interrupt each other - that would be disrespectful and not exactly for better understanding.
- Demonstrate appreciation
However, listening and letting them finish is only half the battle. In order to defuse a conflict, you should at the same time signal that you understand the other person's attitude. This does not mean that you agree or approve of his opinion. But you clearly show (also verbally) that you understand the motivations and respect them on a human level.
- Find common ground
In the course of the conflict discussion, do not focus solely on what divides you, but also pay attention to what connects you. Similarities often form the basis for a later solution.
Solve conflicts with these solution strategies
First of all, you need to recognize the conflicts. Those who are not affected themselves do not always perceive conflicts. If they remain unresolved, they are very detrimental to both those directly involved and to the company. It is therefore particularly important for managers to recognize these eight typical signs of conflict in the workplace:
4 tips on how to resolve the conflict in the early stages
There is often no need for a mediator for minor differences of opinion. With the LEAF method, you can resolve conflicts when they are in the early stages, according to the Glasl phase model in the first level. The acronym LEAF stands for the following content:
- Listen = listen
Many conflicts arise from misunderstandings. If one were to listen to the other from the start, they could be avoided. At the latest when you want to settle a dispute, you should listen to your counterpart why it is so angry. The important thing is not to go into defense mode straight away, but to let the other person finish.
- Empathize = empathize with someone
By resisting the impulse to immediately hook up on each point and respond, you can more easily change perspective and put yourself in the person's shoes. Would you have done the same in her place? Seriously try to understand the other person and treat them with benevolence.
- Apologize = apologize
Sometimes people unjustifiably “blow off steam” on another person when the real source of the anger lies entirely elsewhere. If this is the case or the trigger is an absolute lapalie, prove your size and apologize for the mistake. Even if your counterpart contributed: If you dare to take the first step, the other side will meet you in the vast majority of cases.
- Fix = repair (solve the problem)
Offer a solution to the problem. If the mistake is clearly yours, you should be able to demonstrate convincingly that it will not happen again. If you cannot immediately think of a solution to the problem, you can ask the other person what they expect from you.
If there is already a full-blown conflict, mediation by a third, impartial party may be required. This can take the form of mediation or supervision.
4 types of conflict + 4 tips
Do you know the four typical conflict personalities? You will come across these again and again in your working life. Which these are and how you can resolve conflicts can be found in our detailed dossier (PDF), which you can download free of charge here:
Solution strategies (PDF)
Conflict management: methods and exercises
The conflict discussion in five phases is a basis in conflict management, in addition, various methods and exercises are used. Only through this is it possible in practice to actually work out proposed solutions, to achieve mutual understanding and to clarify differences of opinion. We show the best known and most common methods in conflict management:
Change of perspective
In conflict management, other opinions have to be understood, and actions and statements have to be understood. To do this, both have to change their perspective and sometimes put themselves in the other's shoes. What did the other want to achieve? How does it feel from his point of view? Questions also help here. Only then are factual, appreciative and well-founded arguments possible.
The main purpose of the Harvard Method (PDF) is to improve negotiations. Because conflict discussions are nothing more than negotiations, the method is also suitable for conflict management. It basically consists of the four principles:
The basic problem of many conflicts does not lie in opposing positions, but in the conflict of mutual needs, desires, worries and fears - the motives. Like an iceberg, these are mostly below the surface. Recognizing them is crucial because it is much easier to negotiate and compromise.
Mediation is a voluntary, out-of-court arbitration procedure in acute conflicts. The parties must freely consent to the method. The mediator is obliged to be impartial, so he does not make any decisions, but leads the debate neutrally. The mediator offers those involved support in finding a solution, but does not provide any ready-made solution proposals.
Supervision can also be used to solve structural problems in a team. The interactions and behavioral patterns within a team or organization are analyzed in order to improve them or to eliminate potential sources of conflict. The supervisor and the clients determine beforehand which rules of the game are to be followed. In the process itself, specific situations and the inner workings of those involved are then reflected on in order to make the respective motives more transparent.
Different outcomes of a conflict
The aim of conflict management is to resolve disputes and differences of opinion, to appease the arguments and, if possible, to satisfy all sides. However, this is only the ideal. In reality it often looks different. There is just not just the peace, joy, pancake solution to a dispute. Even if this is fundamentally resolved, not everyone is happy with the situation in the end.
A distinction is made between five basic scenarioswhich can also be found in the negotiation matrix.
A win-win situation is desirable. After a constructive discussion, a common solution will be found, with which everyone involved is completely happy. The input of both sides is taken into account equally and there is insight from all parties. In practice, the compromise is much more common. Compromises have to be made, but those involved are satisfied with the solution.
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