• Simon Phillips

Conflict Management  - Why we need to be equipped to deal with it

Updated: Sep 2, 2019



In our book "Change Wisdom" Angie Beeston writes about managing conflict, and how we all need to be able to deal with it.

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Thought for us….Is conflict just difficult behaviour or a different perspective on the world…..?

We all see the world through different eyes and in this fast paced world that we are all operating under, it can be increasingly challenging to keep perspective on difficult situations when they arise, particularly in the work place.

Our teams are pressured, we’re pressured and expectations are increasing, giving rise to more demands on our time, resources and head space.

Technology has impacted greatly on the expectations others have around us. You know that situation – we receive an email and aren’t able to respond to it immediately, so someone will phone us, text, Whatsapp, Linkedin, etc, etc. to ask for a reply within minutes of us receiving that initial email.

This immediacy can create conflict very easily. We get irritated, and if someone catches us on a tough day, what could happen? We might respond in a defensive, confrontational manner. Our professional reputation can be dented from our reaction.

Similarly, the pace of change in the business world is rapid. Dynamic responses are needed, in fact, demanded, to ensure we stay ahead of our competitors and meet the high standards expected.

Change in itself can be a huge factor in creating tension and conflict and we are in danger that our attitude and behaviour is forced into a different place, one which is not conducive to effective and good communication.

Patience and tolerance seems to be in a much shorter supply in some situations. We see people being irate and reacting emotionally to what may seem like a trivial matter to us.

The downside of this changing expectation levels to responses mean stress can work its way into our everyday life without us even realising it.

Demands from all sources, external and internal, create added pressure on us, along with changes in our working conditions, the business, our teams, and so on. All this can lead to the atmosphere becoming tense and difficult.

Definition of Conflict

A serious disagreement and argument about something important. If two people or groups are in conflict, they have had a serious disagreement or argument and have not yet reached an agreement. (Source: Collins Dictionary)

Taking the perspective that Conflict Management can also be defined as MANAGING DIFFICULT BEHAVIOURS, how can we deal with these situations in the right way?

When we say the right way, what do we mean? Looking at the definition above, as employee engagement is critical to any organisation looking to develop and grow their business and invest in their people, we need to manage difficult situations and challenges.

There may be a temptation to hide away from dealing with situations because we feel uncomfortable.

But, as a professional, is it the most effective way to deal with it? It might go away, but if you have a member of your team who acts in a disruptive manner, potentially upsetting others, this can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. Think about the bad apple in the fruit bowl, in your team you really don’t want to have to deal with the impact this tension could create.

It’s true that some things will disappear by themselves and peter out. That’s fine, we need to make that call depending on the scenario. However, for those of us who have had to manage individuals who just excuse their behaviour “because it’s just how I am”, isn’t really good enough.

At its worst, ignoring the situation can exacerbate it, turning what was a small issue into a mammoth nightmare. This is that dreaded moment when in its extreme we need to call upon our HR specialists to help us out. Potentially legal advice is sought and the costs and stress as a result of this conflict are extreme.

Managers are left wondering how to re-set standards and re-build morale with the team.

Demotivation and negativity can be left behind, incredibly draining and distracting for the business to have to deal with.

That is why any potential conflict situation, however small it is deemed, needs to be addressed as soon as possible to try and avoid this happening.

Conflict can be internal or external and in either case we need to address the situation to rescue it.

Conflict can be deemed as very low key, for example two individuals who don’t particularly get on well together and act in an irritable manner around each other; to high level where there is serious undermining going on and passive aggressive behaviour may be displayed, with others being coerced into taking sides.

Taking action in a calm, rational, objective manner to ensure it is dealt with quickly is paramount.

Often intervening in the first instance will help it to disappear. If things are developing further and becoming much more difficult to handle, then we need to work on how we work with the individuals/situation to ensure damage limitation is kept to a minimum.

The results of these pressures will test the best of us and our own resilience to managing stressful situations.

Understanding and identifying:

  • sources of conflict

  • thinking of others perspectives (remember we see the world through different eyes)

  • being empathetic to individuals’ needs

  • mindful of any underlying issues

All these factors will allow us to calm things before they accelerate into something more serious.

The ability to put our mind into the ‘right’ mode allows us to think clearly before reacting – this is the ultimate goal to responding to conflict situations.


7 Key Considerations to manage Conflict:

  1. Think about your own mindset – where is it? Emotional, Rational or Wise?

  2. Consider the other person’s perspective – how are they viewing the situation?

  3. Prepare – prepare – prepare – to give the most appropriate response

  4. Causes of Conflict – remember everyone’s perception and reality is different to ours

  5. Be aware of the impact of your own prejudices and perceptions

  6. Think about your voice, tone and body language – managing your communication styles in a conflict environment is vital

  7. PAUSE button – before reacting, even if you only have seconds, this allows your rational and wise mind to kick in before emotions take over!

Change is a constant and we need to develop ways of dealing with it without too much drama.


This article is based on Angie's article "Conflict Management – Managing Difficult Behaviours" from our book "Change Wisdom" - find out more here and get a free chapter.

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