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Are You Managing Workplace Conflicts Properly?

It’s the classic joke: Boss yells at worker, worker goes home and yells at wife, wife yells at kids, kids yell at dog. For many of us, conflict – and a bad day – starts in the morning with the kids before we go to work, then kicks into second gear with your co-workers or your boss and finally culminates at home with your spouse and children.

Conflict doesn’t have to be a part of your daily life, says Tim Scudder, CEO of an firm that prepares executives to better deal with the conflict in the workplace.

“The key to managing conflict isn’t just about pushing [employees] to resolution, but also to learn how to have nicer conflicts,” says Scudder, CEO of Personal Strengths USA.

He said that recent research suggests that the No. 1 reason why people leave their jobs is because of a poor relationship with their immediate supervisors. Conflict, both at work and at home, actually can be an opportunity to resolve long-standing issues and help people lead more fulfilling and productive lives.

“As one set of conflicts is resolved, others will take their place, so it’s important to learn how to make conflicts productive and positive experiences, instead of allowing them to distract us from our goals and disrupt our lives,” Scudder adds.

The secret, he says, is understanding the five keys to conflict and how to move employees forward toward the final step, which is resolution. Scudder’s five keys to conflict include:

Anticipation - Ask yourself how various people might view the same situation differently, Scudder suggests. When two or more people see things differently, there is the potential for conflict. If you can figure that out, you have a good shot at steering clear of it.

Prevention - Preventing conflict really is all about the deliberate, appropriate use of behavior in your relationships. A well-chosen behavior on your part can prevent conflict with another person.

Identification – There are three basic approaches in conflict, says Scudder: rising to the challenge, cautiously withdrawing or wanting to keep the peace. When you can identify these approaches in yourself or others, you will handle the situation more productively.

Management - Managing conflict has two components: managing yourself and managing the relationship. Managing conflict is about creating the conditions that empower yourself and others to manage yourselves out of the emotional state of conflict.

Resolution – To create movement toward resolution, people need to be shown a path back to feeling good about themselves. When they feel good about themselves, they are less likely to feel threatened and are free to move toward a compromise and resolution, according to Scudder.

“Unresolved or poorly managed conflict costs companies is ways they can’t even calculate,” he says. “Lost institutional memory, low productivity, bad morale and high turnover all cost real companies real dollars. On the other hand, well-managed conflict not only prevents all those losses, it promotes higher productivity and a stronger bottom line.”

The end result, he says, will be fewer conflicts, and “nicer ones with positive results.”

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