Conflict Competence

The challenges of the current environment make conflict more likely than ever. We are all fed up, some are facing financial issues, juggling home schooling with work & feeling isolated. Those working away from home worry about catching COVID. Those working remotely are missing the positive social interactions of the workplace. Our normal levels of resilience may well be diminished (or is it just me?) affecting our ability to keep our cool. Conflict competence (for everyone but particularly for managers) is more important than ever.

So, what is conflict competence?

Conflict competence is the ability to:

  • develop and use cognitive, emotional, and behavioural skills that enhance productive outcomes
  • while reducing the likelihood of escalation or harm.

Conflict competence improves relationships, creativity and productivity at work. It allows teams to innovate and embrace change without descending into damaging conflict. Conflict competence (like all skills) can be learnt, and we will look at this over the coming days.

How do you deal with conflict?

Do you feel your ability to do this has been impacted by the uncertainties of our current environment?

Here are a few tips on improving conflict competence.

1. Accept that conflict is normal.

Conflict and disagreements can be a rich source of new ideas. Encourage a culture of open and honest communication, where differences can be respectfully exchanged.

2. Figure out your conflict style.

We all have a natural conflict style, but we can consciously adapt this to deal better with conflict at work. Let us know if you’d like to find out more about our conflict style assessment tools.

3. Know your triggers.

If we know what our personal triggers are, and work on how we react to them, we can consciously choose a different response.

4. Practice giving and receiving feedback.

Be aware of your choice of words, tone and body language when receiving and delivering feedback. Ensure your team are also trained in giving feedback.

5. Approach difficult conversations positively

Avoiding difficult conversations isn’t the answer. Raising difficult issues in a way which brings a productive response is a great skill to have, and builds trust and cooperation.

Some people need more help to improve their conflict competence, so that they can build productive workplace relationships. Here are some ways to give extra help:

• Use of tools such as the Conflict Dynamics Profile, a 360 questionnaire to gather feedback specifically on behaviours in conflict. These can help to build awareness of conflict issues and focus development planning. This is often the first step in making positive changes.

• Specialist conflict coaching can help individuals to make huge strides forward in developing conflict competence. It can help with self-reflection, sustaining real changes in behaviour and building confidence in adapting styles and engaging in difficult conversations.

• Training for individuals and teams on giving and receiving constructive feedback and/or difficult conversations can be very helpful. Identifying the dynamics within the team and developing strategies to restore collaborative team dynamics can be transformative.