Managing Conflict and Disagreements

Managing Conflict pic

Conflict is part of any dynamic business organisation. It arises because people care and want to do their jobs well. Conflict is beneficial when the focus is on finding the best solution. It becomes destructive when the focus is on people and “winning at all costs.”


Conflict arises because of limited resources; differing goals, responsibilities and priorities; and differing ideas or interpretations. Conflict is especially difficult when it does not produce  solutions and becomes personal.

The goal of a manager or Coach should be to avoid “win-lose” situations and to ensure productive resolution of conflict. Effectively working through conflict results in stronger working relationships and encourages creative solutions – while handling conflict inappropriately results in damaged relationships and inhibits the expression of valuable opinions.

Valuable tips

  • Put yourself in the other person’s situation and imagine how you would feel and react. Look at the other side before defending your own.
  • At the beginning of a conflict discussion, express your desire for a resolution that is acceptable to both or all of you.
  • Restate the positions held by those on both sides of a conflict: look at it as a conflict of ideas or approaches, rather than of people.
  • Do not lecture about why you are right. Simply state your point of view.
  • Bring conflict into the open without feeling that your leadership is threatened. When people disagree with you, analyse the reason for their position.
  • Ask a neutral third party to help you and the conflicting party to talk through the problem. Your HR team will always help to mediate such a situation.
  • When a conflict situation arises, discuss it with your manager. When you have handled it, seek feedback from him or her about how successful you have been.
  • Allow individuals to vent their anger. Venting frustration allows them to get it out in the open and allows you to work through the conflict.
  • Clearly tell the other person the things you both agree on before dealing with their points of disagreement. This approach provides a positive starting point and builds bridges between you.
  • If the other person feels they are losing something or that you are being unfair, listen to what the person is saying; don’t try to convince the person that he or she is wrong.
  • Attack problems – not people.
  • If a conflict escalates, call for a time out. Reconvene when you have both reduced your tension to a productive level and you have both regained your perspective.
  • Instead of showing frustration, talk about it.
  • Be willing to confront other individuals when you feel they have made an error.

DP use the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. This is designed to assess an individual’s behaviour in conflict situations – situations in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible.

You can review this model and download a PDF version to complete the questionnaire to establish your current style of managing conflict and disagreements and anise these results to assess how changes might be beneficial to you, your colleagues and your team.

Click here to download a PDF version of further notes concerning the management of conflict and disagreements – and a copy of the Thomas-Killman instrument for you to complete and analyse your own style.





Effective Feedback


If you want to give feedback that is positive, keeps others on track for successful performance and leaves them feeling motivated to tackle future challenges you can use the following two types of feedback:


  1. Motivational Feedback – This usually starts with WHAT WAS GOOD….
    This helps someone to understand that what he or she is doing that is working well. It reinforces positive behaviours and actions – the more specific the feedback the more likely it is that they will understand and be able to replicate ‘the good stuff’.
  2. Developmental Feedback – This usually starts with WHAT WOULD MAKE IT (EVEN) BETTER….
    This helps someone to understand how to change what is not working well. It contains information on what they did or said (or didn’t do or didn’t say) and what the impact was.  It then offers ideas on how to do that differently in the future. The more specific the feedback, the more likely that the employee will understand and use more productive behaviours.

To read more about effective feedback, with examples and tips – click here to download a PDF version



Neurodiversity in the workplace

by Chris Evans July 2015 Published in ILM “The Edge”

From epilepsy and Tourette syndrome to Autism and Asperger’s, there are a variety of neurological conditions that need to be addressed and handled properly in the workplace. Chris Evans talks to several psychologists, diversity experts and business leaders who are tackling the conditions head on.


Most businesses are aware of the importance of a diverse workforce, bringing together people of different races, genders, ethnicities and religions. But what about the different ways each of us learn and process information, or communicate? These are vital factors when dealing with people who have neurological differences, including dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.


Autism in the workplace

So often there have been stigmas, barriers and stereotypes attached to those with these conditions, particularly autistic people, which has restricted their ability to find work – only 15% of people with autism are in full-time employment – or flourish in a role. The common assumptions are that they will struggle to integrate into a ‘neuro-typical’ work environment, that communication with colleagues and clients will cause serious problems, and that autistic people can only perform roles that require repetition and working with small details and systems, such as data analysts and software specialists. But this is simply not the case.

“I’ve worked with and spoken to people on the autism spectrum in a variety of departments and roles, including social media experts and finance. They can do any job that matches their skills, just like anyone else. It is wrong to pigeonhole them into technical roles,” says Emily Swiatek, Employment Training Consultant at the National Autistic Society.

Fortunately, there are signs across the business world that things are changing. A CIPD conference a few years ago was all about why companies should hire autistic people, and now they’re addressing how companies can go about recruiting those with autism.

“Managers need to stop being scared of hiring autistic people, and instead focus on what positives they can bring to a role, and identify/work out how best to overcome any potential challenges. It’s worth getting the feet wet and learning as you go. You’re not going to have all the answers, but often autistic people produce some wonderful surprises in what they can achieve,” stresses Dianah Worman, Diversity Adviser at the CIPD.

Indeed, more and more companies are proactively recruiting autistic people based on their skillsets and the benefits they can bring to an organisation. One of the major players on this front is the global IT software company SAP.

“We introduced an Autism at Work programme a couple of years ago with the objective to have 1% of our global workforce represented by people with autism by 2020,” explains Jose Velasco, who heads up the programme for SAP. “Working with partners around the world, we go through a thorough recruitment process to identify candidates’ skills, social issues that need addressing, and give them sessions with the managers of the relevant departments (where they make presentations), so that they can get to know each other. The managers are blown away by these sessions.”
Already SAP has 55 autistic employees based in the US alone, covering a variety of different roles, including communications, graphic design and IT project management. So far, the programme has been a great success, and SAP are being approached by several other companies to adopt similar programmes.

“We’re currently piloting an autism at work programme, using SAP as our model,” says Fleur Bothwick, director of diversity and inclusiveness at Ernst & Young. “We also have a stammering network, and groups focusing on dyslexia and mental health issues.

“The important thing is for managers and employees to receive education, or do their own research, about the different conditions, what behavioural traits to look out for, how to provide support, and most importantly openly communicate with those affected about what they like and need.”

There can be issues like what hours suit them; whether there are particular situations where they don’t feel comfortable; any changes to their roles; when and how they want to discuss their performance review etc. This, in turn, reduces any anxieties for both parties (the manager and the employee).
The autism spectrum is, of course, extremely varied, which is why it is so important to identify the strengths and challenges of each individual, particularly any communication issues. Bringing in outside help can be beneficial.

“We provide one-to-one sessions with autistic people, including those with mild forms of autism, known as STEMs (Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians), often to address any social communication issues they’re having with colleagues,” explains Emma Seward, a consultant business psychologist. “Normally, when we’re coaching we won’t tell people what to do, but with STEMs we often need to explain simple things like greeting your work mates when you come into the office. We also talk with their colleagues so that they understand that the person isn’t being rude, they just process information and communicate differently, and can find it hard to empathise.”

There can be an obsession in business with social and emotional competence, asserts Sally Moore, Director at Top Stream Coaching. You only have to look at some of the job adverts specifying the need for “good interpersonal skills”, and “team players”. But actually if you “reduce social expectations and accommodate differences in approaches, companies find that they can get the best out of their autistic employees, managing challenges and avoiding vulnerabilities.”

Appreciating and valuing a different world view can only be a good thing is the unanimous view of all the experts questioned for this piece. “Sometimes adjustments might need to be made in terms of clearer communication and strategies. For example, some autistic people don’t like ambiguous information, such as ‘I’ll get back to you later’, but not specifying a time, or changing meeting times at the last minute. But actually clarity on these issues can benefit all employees,” argues Steve Williams, Head of Equality at Acas.

The overall feeling is that hiring more people with neurological conditions is a positive thing, and creating a culture of awareness and understanding in the workplace to allow them to flourish can only help alleviate any fears, remove stigmas and avoid confrontations based on misunderstandings.

Click here to download a PDF version of this article





Covey’s Circles of Influence

 Covey's Circles in DP style

Stephen Covey’s circle of concern and circle of influence

In his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) Covey distinguishes between proactive people – who focus on what they can do and can influence – and reactive people who focus their energy on things beyond their control. Reactive people maintain an attitude of victimisation and blame.

The model is based on two circles. The first is our circle of concern. This includes a whole range of things – global warming, the state of the economy, the clothes your children want to wear, attitudes in society, the organisation you work for, the things your colleagues do, the way people drive their cars etc. The actual list will depend on the individual, but the important thing to understand is that there may be little you can do about many of these things since they are outside your influence. Devoting energy on them may be a waste of time – the equivalent of shouting at the television – and time and energy once spent cannot be reused.

Our circle of influence will be much smaller. It includes the things we can do something about. The extent of this will obviously be related to your power – the President of the USA or Chair of Ford may have far more influence than you or me.

The key is to focus your energy on those things that you can influence – this will enable you to make effective changes. If you do this you will find your circle of influence starts to increase – others will see you as an effective person and this will increase your power. Conversely, if all your energy goes into those things you cannot change your circle of influence will shrink. Not only will you drain your energy, other people may start to see you as unduly negative and critical.

Knowing how far your circle of influence extends is an important aspect of personal effectiveness. So is forming partnerships and alliances – you may not have any direct influence over something in your Circle of Concern, but you may know other people who do. A team can have a wider circle of influence than an individual.

So reactive people find their circle of influence shrinks, while proactive people find that it increases.

To read more about Covey’s Circles of Influence, we strongly recommend the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” written by Stephen Covey

Click here to open a PDF version

Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail by R Meredith Belbin

For every manager, getting the most from their team is paramount in achieving superior results. Belbin’s vital area of management research supersedes the usual preoccupations with qualifications and experience, considering instead the Team Role behaviours which shape everyday interactions in teams. This book is an account of the experimental study of management teams at Henley Management College from which Belbin’s unique Team Role theory developed. Now in its third edition the original theory has been fully updated and rewritten in parts by the author, with chapter summaries and updated illustrations. This is the original book by Meredith Belbin, offering the only authoritative explanation of how Belbin’s world-famous Team Role language came into being.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni offers a leadership fable that is both enthralling and instructive He turns his keen intellect and storytelling power to the fascinating, complex world of teams. Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech’s CEO, faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Will she succeed? Will she be fired? Will the company fail? Lencioni’s utterly gripping tale serves as a timeless reminder that leadership requires as much courage as it does insight. Throughout the story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.

The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams by Kenneth Blanchard, Donald Carew, Eunice Parisi-Carew

The alternative way towards better team-building, this is the bestselling management tool from the author of The One Minute Manager.

Most managers spend over half their time working with a team, and the One Minute Manager’s practical advice shows how any team can work better and more effectively. The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams explains the four stages on the way to building a high performing team: Orientation, Dissatisfaction, Resolution and Production and reveals how to tap the creativity and potential of people at all levels in order to become an effective group leader.

Effective Strategic Leadership, the Complete Guide to Strategic Management by John Adair

It is the role of Strategic leaders to respond to change and external events, establishing a strong organizational structure, allocating resources and communicating strategic vision. As a strategic leader, your decisions may appear more risky, your actions more visible and achieving results more complex than for organizational managers. In Effective Strategic Leadership John Adair teaches you everything you need to know to enable you to be clear about what you want to achieve and to lead with purpose in order to turn your strategy into reality. Among other things, he shows you how to: Judge situations quickly and respond accordingly; Make decisions based on incomplete information; Pick the best second-tier leaders to achieve your objectives.

Why you need to focus on Attention

Daniel Goleman explains why attention is like a muscle and you need to exercise it. We have a wealth of information but a scarcity of attention. It’s becoming one of our scarcest resource yet it’s the secret to high performance and fulfilment. For more insights, read his latest book: Focus – the Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Watch the film clip [1:15 mins]