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Proactive approach the best approach in conflict management: Expert

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HC Online | 20 Feb 2012, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Christina Turner says HR professionals need to approach conflict management in a proactive manner.
  • Bernie Althofer | 23 Feb 2012, 02:07 PM Agree 0
    Most line managers and supervisors are required to communicate across a number of levels in an organisation. From time to time, conflict will occur. Given the potential for a 'relatively minor' issue involving communication to escalate into workplace conflict, and ultimately allegations of bullying and harassment, it is important that all workers be provided with the basic elements of communication and conflict resolution the workplace. There is little doubt the communication in a contemporary workplace involves not only written and verbal communication, but also the use of various electronic devices and systems. It would be easy to blame a number of aspects e.g. generational gaps and differences, workplace culture and the like. It might not be as easy as that. I suspect that there are systems and processes such as recruitment, selection, placement, inductions, performance management, role/job descriptions and the workplace environment that contribute to the potential for conflict. Having the will to change some or all of these systems might be difficult when there is an inherent belief regarding 'personality clashes' or one where workers who complain are viewed as whingers or malcontents. It might also be the case that there is a prevailing view that conflict should be 'swept under the carpet' and that if left alone, will gradually wilt and die a natural death. Yes, organisations do have policies and procedures regarding conflict resolution options. These organisations may also have well developed support networks e.g. Harassment Referral Officers, Peer Support Officers etc. However, if the workplace culture is such that conflict is viewed as a 'personality clash', and that conflict should be referred to HR for resolution, it seems that in some cases, line managers and supervisors might be leaving themselves exposed, particularly given the harmonisation of OHS laws.
    It is important to note that healthy conflict can have numerous advantages and in many cases, the reason why this works well, is that participants know and understand the rules of engagement. In cases where negative conflict escalates, it seems that individuals lack the required skills and abilities to manage either their own behaviours and conduct, or that of others.
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