Mediators Post

Workplace Conflict Resolution — Central to any organization

Author´s name: Capt. Tarique Khan

Profile: IIAM accredited mediator

Location: Gujarat

“There are in fact two things — Science and Opinion; the former begets knowledge, the later ignorance” - Hippocrates

The gamut of any conversation is based on an opinion formed of someone or something — few beforehand, most during conversation and majority afterwards.

Opinion and pre conceived notions are lost sisters and go hand in hand. Both work on the basis of assumptions and both are considered as a negative traits to any human being. The whole concept revolves around critical information being fed into our system i.e., brain which can lead us to think negative and ultimately act negatively towards an individual, society or group. We may use the term “characterizing” here to reflect on its effect on the whole concept.

“The greatest deception which men incur, proceeds from their opinions” — Leonardo da Vinci

The other day I was in a meeting discussing on a particular subject of growth and how a particular company worked its way towards creating a successful brand, when suddenly the chair stated that the person being referred to is of a particular community. The point worth noting is that we were all talking positive traits about that person and still the term community was forced into the conversation. What this characterisation did was that it diverted the topic of discussion to some other dimension — never thought beforehand. I am sure many of us must have come across such conversations. What the subconscious mind did here was the moment a name was referred to; the community of the person, the past traits, the pre conceived notion and thus the opinion was revealed to all — which exposed the chair´s thought process. A conflict could have erupted had the people sitting in the meeting were to express their disagreement — which they did, but not openly and resorted to closed criticization post the meeting.

“Unmanaged conflict is the largest reducible cost in organizations today, and the least recognized” — Dan Dana

Conflicts at workplace are quite common and we get to hear a lot of them at various workplaces. It happens when two individuals disagree, when they have an adverse opinion of someone or something, when their behaviours are argumentative or when they receive unfair treatment from the management or their seniors. All these lead to toxic workplace where people will loose interest, will be low on morale and will ultimately lead to reduction in productive output.

Most misunderstandings are resolved immediately however there are many which are deep rooted and needs professional advice to have the issues mitigated. By the time the HR gets to know about the issue, conflict usually reaches a point of no return. The most important role the HR plays to any organization is to maintain a decent balance between the management and the employees. Therefore the HR is the most important entity which is sought after during a conflict and his/her/their most important role is to ensure that the crack which has developed between the two entities should not be widened and at the same time be filled up at the earliest.

The HR, in general, is able to precisely demonstrate “things that are allowed” and “things that are not allowed” but seldom is there a procedural map for the employees to refer to in case of a conflict in any organization.

Below are some of the causes of conflict in any workplace:-

» Relationship issues within a team
» Difference of personality and different style of working within a team
» Organizational culture / organizational change
» Active obstruction or allegations of it
» Lack of co-operation within the team or from senior management
» Bullying / harassment or allegations of it
» Active discrimination or allegations of it

Below are the few points that could help in putting a stop to the conversion of disagreements into conflicts:-

Immediate Intervention — Immediate intervention is as important as commencement of the treatment for a disease showing early symptoms. Half the battle is won, when one intervenes early. As what seems a big issue may only be a small disagreement at the ground level. Hence ground level realities needs to be checked and addressed immediately.

Communication — Everyday dialogue is very important and needs to be fostered. Informal communication between those under dispute should be encouraged. Open communication between them, if required, in private should be facilitated. This will eventually calm them down and lead to opening of communication channels and talk about differences face to face across the table.

Organizational change — Whenever a company contemplates change or during the times of organizational change, conflicts tends to show an increasing trend. The organizational change, for all purposes, should take the form of development within the organization and not result in conflicts. We are aware that change has now become constant in any organization structure. Hence the management must change from reflexive to reflective strategy to minimise the conflicts and foster development. Organizations will need to get out of the “e-relationship” module or a superficial relationship to a more empathetic relationship to be able to get into the future levels of development.

Conflicting Priorities — Conflicting deadlines are often termed as normal occupational hazard. Multiple reporting lines can be tough to handle as one needs to deal with several priorities which are often conflicting leaving people drained and frustrated. Different people prioritise differently. Organizations should ideally have single reporting lines and if it is not feasible, then several reporting lines should be well defined in terms of priority. Interdependent goals should be mapped, visible and targeted accordingly.

Not all conflicts are bad. Healthy conflict nurtures new ways of thinking and can boost productivity by driving an organization forward. Many a times conflict itself can be the best catalyst for change. The best form of conflict can be witnessed in the form of open conversations, debates, and brainstorming sessions.

Having said that every organization must contemplate on having a “conflict resolution module” in its policy, vouching for mediation as the primary means of conflict resolution and should strive to make it central to its organization. This will not only result in huge cost saving, but will build trust amongst the employees. An employee trust cements the employee — employer partnership.

“When human beings live together, conflict is inevitable. War is not” — Daisaku Ikeda

With fraternal greetings,
Capt. Tarique Khan
IIAM accredited mediator

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Anam Jawaid
4th Sept 2019

It is a very enriching piece, very lucid and also in sync with your article on mediators. If one can attempt to implement the above mention points then it will lead to a happier work environment.

4th Sept 2019

Intresting article

Sudeep Guhathakurta
5th Sept 2019

Message is very cut and clear, and this is actually the problem for every corporate now a days, and in coming days these problems will be in increasing trend because of personal stress and suffocated working environment in maximum corporate and what I feel is conflict resolution module will play a major role in coming days.

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