Management Skills: Dealing With Conflicts and Challenges

Introduction

Being responsible for teams and their performance is an extremely difficult task. To coordinate the efforts of different people and workplace departments, leaders and managers often have to deal with disputes or other force majeure events that cause stress and financial losses. This essay reviews modern literature on disputes and crises in organizations to identify practical skills and competencies that are critical to proper conflict resolution.

Problem’s Significance to Organizational Life

Unlike interpersonal contacts in everyday life, communication in organizational contexts involves a limited opportunity to select interlocutors based on the presence of common interests or mutual sympathy. To be put in other words, to be effective specialists, people in organizations are expected to deal with different types of colleagues, which involves psychological stress. Teams are sometimes comprised of individuals who support mutually exclusive cultural, religious, or moral values, and it can give rise to workplace conflicts. Without proper approaches to dispute resolution, the tension between colleagues or entire groups of employees can have a detrimental effect on the organization’s reputation and position in the market (Jungst & Blumberg, 2016).

In particular, ongoing conflicts that involve two or more coworkers affect individuals’ workplace performance, making them devote more energy to coping with stress rather than to performing their tasks (Jungst & Blumberg, 2016). Due to the consequences of workplace conflicts, managers should be aware of the key ways to prevent and resolve them. It requires the development of multiple skills and competencies discussed in the paper.

Modern Research and Practical Suggestions

Understanding the main source of poor relationships between employees can be listed among the key prerequisites to proper conflict resolution. As is clear from Lencioni’s (2005) work, mutual trust between colleagues forms the basis of effective teamwork, whereas its absence causes people to react in a protective manner, thus creating an unhealthy environment. The term “trust” is used by the researcher to define the situation, in which all team members know that their colleagues’ intentions are positive, so there is no need for defensive communication or excessive vigilance (Lencioni, 2005). Therefore, to contribute to conflict resolution, the manager should develop a variety of skills to promote mutual trust in teams.

To acquire the needed dispute resolution skills and competencies, managers have to distinguish between different conflict management styles. According to Masters and Albright (2005), the collaborative style of conflict management often helps to solve issues without neglecting some side’s interests. Long (2018) also agrees that collaboration and the demonstration of trustworthiness present the basic elements of effective conflict resolution strategies. Being able to demonstrate positive intentions and readiness to help the conflicting parties plays a significant role when it comes to both inter- and intra-level disputes.

Dealing with unwanted events at work requires both analytical skills and thoughtfulness. Workplace conflicts and crises have different sources, ranging from negative relationships between stakeholders to external factors that are poorly controlled (Bundy, Pfarrer, Short, & Coombs, 2016). With that in mind, particular skills that are relevant to conflict management include an ability to analyze different parties’ expectations and make predictions about potential problems (Bundy et al., 2016). This suggestion may sound too complicated, but in essence, it presents the manager’s ability to see connections between different aspects of the working process and analyze them.

In order to deal with workplace conflicts, leaders and managers have to focus on the development of new competencies and knowledge acquisition. As is stated by Masters and Albright (2005), having professional knowledge related to leadership or the theory of conflict management is not enough for success. In addition, to minimize the negative impact of challenges on the team’s performance, the leader should also have analytical and interpersonal competencies (Masters & Albright, 2005).

As for interpersonal skills that are particularly relevant in this case, they include leaders’ ability to motivate employees, provide emotional support, and convey messages effectively (Beenen & Pichler, 2016). Thus, apart from improvements in theoretical knowledge, interpersonal skills are required to provide a timely response to difficult situations at work.

The presence of poorly controlled open disputes is not the only sign of the team’s dysfunctional performance. Based on the model proposed by Lencioni (2005), team members’ fear of conflict can also contribute to challenges. In some organizational environments, people prefer to understate or ignore imminent problems, and it causes a lack of transparency in decisions and further exacerbates the situation with mutual trust (Lencioni, 2005). Given the potential consequences of careless attitudes to challenges in organizations, managers’ participation in conflict resolution is absolutely necessary.

Choosing the conflict avoidance approach, specialists should be aware of its potential effects on the organization. In modern literature on the topic, avoidance is characterized as the least effective option in case of workplace tension (Zhang & Wei, 2017). It is because attempts to avoid confrontation are typically used by individuals who are indifferent toward themselves and others (Zhang & Wei, 2017). When it comes to conflicts in ethnically heterogeneous teams, the avoidance strategy can sometimes be called a cultural marker. To illustrate the point, in some collectivistic cultures of the East, the maintenance of good relationships between two parties is more valued than openness and sincerity when it comes to interests (Zhang & Wei, 2017).

In some instances, the approach being discussed helps to prevent unnecessary disputes over minor or fringe concerns. However, at the same time, it often leads to the so-called false harmony that involves hidden conflicts (Zhang & Wei, 2017). Therefore, due to its multiple negative effects, avoidance can be applied to a limited number of cases.

Continuing on the topic, to minimize the detrimental impact of workplace challenges, managers can collaborate with other specialists to create the culture of conflict resolution, in which special attention is paid to the analysis of the parties’ claims. Importantly, the use of approaches to dealing with workplace issues that overrely on “determining who is right and who is wrong” is believed to be an unfavorable option in terms of cost-effectiveness (Hann, Nash, & Heery, 2016, p. 2).

Instead, managers are recommended to search for and implement strategies that focus on the reconciliation of different parties’ interests (Hann et al., 2016). By placing emphasis on people’s needs, team leaders can improve their reputation and offer timely solutions in equal measure.

Without doubts, managers can never be proficient at everything, and this is why dealing with workplace conflicts requires some experience in the delegation of responsibility. According to McKenna and Maister (2005), when workplace crises arise, the manager’s main job is to analyze the situation with reference to different specialists’ competencies and personal qualities. For instance, when disagreements involve the organization and its clients, it can be logical to use the assistance of specialists who work with customers directly and understand the causes of their disappointment (McKenna & Maister, 2005).

At the same time, in case of critical situations related to potential criminal acts or significant ethical violations, it is beneficial to enlist the support of external professionals who specialize in certain issues (McKenna & Maister, 2005). Thus, managers are not obliged to make all important decisions on their own in case of difficult situations at work. Instead, to ensure the maximum effectiveness of their work, these specialists are to recognize their gaps in experience and knowledge. Importantly, by asking other professionals to help them, managers do not give up their responsibility.

Based on the research findings cited above, it is possible to formulate a few practical suggestions to be taken into account by managers. To begin with, self-criticism is important when it comes to dealing with crises and organizational conflicts, and people in managerial positions are to evaluate their knowledge and skills objectively to avoid making costly mistakes. More than that, to be effective in crisis management, these specialists can be recommended to polish their communication and analytical skills on a regular basis to gain new and valuable experience. Finally, they are advised to avoid overusing the strategy of conflict avoidance due to its potential harmful effects on organizations’ corporate climate and reputation.

Conclusion

To sum it up, people in leadership and managerial positions play a significant role in the success of their companies’ conflict resolution strategies. To make positive contributions, such specialists are to engage in continuous learning and develop analytical, interpersonal, and delegation skills. Apart from that, profound knowledge of different conflict resolution strategies and their negative consequences is required. Finally, managers should know how to use all employees’ strengths in order to deal with crises and disputes with minimal losses.

References

Beenen, G., & Pichler, S. (2016). A discussion forum on managerial interpersonal skills. Journal of Management Development, 35(5), 706-716.

Bundy, J., Pfarrer, M. D., Short, C. E., & Coombs, W. T. (2016). Crises and crisis management: Integration, interpretation, and research development. Journal of Management, 43(6), 1661-1692.

Hann, D., Nash, D., & Heery, E. (2016). Workplace conflict resolution in Wales: The unexpected prevalence of alternative dispute resolution. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 1-27.

Jungst, M., & Blumberg, B. (2016). Work relationships: Counteracting the negative effects of conflict. International Journal of Conflict Management, 27(2), 225-248.

Lencioni, P. (2005). Overcoming the five dysfunctions of a team. In T. Keller & R. Brandt (Eds.), Management skills: A Jossey-Bass reader (pp. 606-630). San-Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Long, C. P. (2018). To control and build trust: How managers use organizational controls and trust-building activities to motivate subordinate cooperation. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 70, 69-91.

Masters, M. F., & Albright, R. R. (2005). Dealing with conflict. In T. Keller & R. Brandt (Eds.), Management skills: A Jossey-Bass reader (pp. 579-605). San-Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

McKenna, P. J., & Maister, D. H. (2005). Deal with your crises. In T. Keller & R. Brandt (Eds.), Management skills: A Jossey-Bass reader (pp. 564-576). San-Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Zhang, Z. X., & Wei, X. (2017). Superficial harmony and conflict avoidance resulting from negative anticipation in the workplace. Management and Organization Review, 13(4), 795-820.