When did you first start thinking about conflict resolution techniques for the workplace? If you say you first tuned into methods to resolve conflict sometime in the 1980s your are not far off according to a new study in the journal Conflict Resolution Quarterly (CRQ). Another way of saying this is to ask: Have you read Getting to Yes? That book by Fisher, Ury, and Patton was published in 1981. It was a game changer. Just about everyone has heard about or read that book!
Because that well-known book has been around for more than 30 years, you would think the concepts it contains would be almost common knowledge for today’s decision makers, managers, and entrepreneurs. However, a recent study in CRQ illustrates how much more work needs to be done to educate leaders and employees about conflict management. Authors Katz and Flynn asked leaders and employees in Broward County, Florida about their views of workplace conflict. The authors identify three main factors influencing conflict in the workplace: Power, organization demands, and worth. Power means the capability and means to accomplish tasks; organization demands refers to differing expectations about duties, quality, and speed; and worth means self esteem and other emotional needs.
In their study of Broward County, the authors found that leaders and employees had:
- Little awareness of how conflicts affect their organization,
- Different definitions of conflicts,
- Different views on the effectiveness of existing systems,
- Little awareness of the techniques or approaches available to reduce workplace conflict.
The authors conclude by recommending “… any conflict management model in today’s society must be flexible, adaptable to … situations and cultures and leadership styles, be practical and cost-effective, and be easily communicated to employees in the organization” (pg. 407).