Facing Conflict: Tough Conversations

When conflict is ignored– especially at the top– the result will be an
enterprise that competes more passionately with itself than with its
” Howard M. Guttman, When Goliaths Clash, 2003

Managers spend an inordinate amount of time putting out fires, particularly
interpersonal ones. Some estimate a manager spends 20 percent of his or her time
managing conflict of one degree or another.

Conflict is increasing in organizations because of the pressure on people to
produce more and better with less. Uncertain job security, a fluctuating
economy, the stress of technological advancements– along with a background of
war and terrorism– provide more factors that put people on edge.

There is a strong link between ability to resolve conflict effectively and
perceived effectiveness as a leader.

Eliminating conflict is not the answer. Companies that try that approach are as doomed to failure as those who try to ignore conflict. Effectively managing conflict is a key to any organization’s success.

When executives stand up and declare war on barriers to candor, they
are faced with new ideas but with old skills. The freedom to question and to
confront is crucial but often inadequate. To overcome organizational barriers to open communications, people have to learn new skills, to ask the questions behind the questions.

This may call for a professionally trained coach or consultant external to the
organization who is unbiased. Executives may be standing too close to the
blackboard to see their communication errors.

The complete 2,000 word article includes these important concepts:

Three Sources of Conflict
Expectations and Assumptions
Communication Skills
Executive Sources of Conflict
Organizational Sources of Conflict
4 Ways to Cope with Conflict
6 Keys to Managing Conflict
10 Tips for Difficult Communications
A list of resources

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