How to Handle Organizational Conflict

Handling organizational conflicts is a key task for leaders in for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations. The ability to resolve conflicts and form an environment for creating solutions is a test of leadership skills and abilities. Leaders must also recognize their own tendencies for either top-down decision making or consensus building and, when necessary, work against their own natural inclinations. While handling conflict is uneasy, the outcome can create a favorable and satisfying environment.

Things You'll Need

  • Neutral setting
  • Paper or computer for note-taking
  • Action steps
  • Working agreements
  • Policy handbook

Instructions

    • 1

      Identify the root problem. Isolate competing interests among labor, managers, or executives as stated in the book "Images of Organization" by Gareth Morgan, where he writes that employees "bring their personalities, private attitudes . . . and sets of commitments from outside their work allowing these extramural interests to shape how they work in both job and career." Apply the same principle to strategic or office volunteers in a nonprofit organization.

    • 2

      Survey key managers and employees. Clarify corporate goals and department goals, then bring the key parties together to show how the role of each member is valuable to the organization. List competing interests that may exist on specific projects. Evaluate the job and career aspirations of key employees. Learn if competent volunteers in a nonprofit are taking ownership of tasks that belong to paid staff members.

    • 3
      Help those involved share responsibility for solving the conflict
      Help those involved share responsibility for solving the conflict

      Know the stages of teams in an organization and determine what stage the conflict is existing within: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Choose a conflict resolution strategy for the stage such as direct dealing, described in the book "Managing Teams" by Lawrence Holp as "whoever is involved in a confrontation is responsible for trying to resolve the conflict."

    • 4

      Evaluate the communication set out from leadership within an organization. Clarify goals and any misunderstandings resulting from memos, meetings, or recently appointed positions. Eliminate any governance positions in a for-profit or non-profit that may have conflicts of interest among members as noted on the website Boardsource.org, which has a Q&A titled "How does a nonprofit safeguard against organizational conflicts of interest?" and recommends creating "a carefully written conflict-of-interest policy based on the needs and circumstances of the organization. Ask each board and staff member to agree in writing to uphold the policy."

    • 5

      Decide whether the conflict is best resolved through top-down decision making, an interpersonal level or through team resolution. Instruct that the problem be identified and set a deadline to request a workable solution. Accept the input from the parties involved and then determine if agreement has been reached. Set a time to revisit the problem, if appropriate, to ensure the same conflict does not occur.

Tips & Warnings

  • Listen carefully to all sides involved in the conflict.
  • Evaluate leadership communication.
  • Determine the underlying cause of tensions and exchange of words.
  • Do not be brash in resolving conflict.
  • Know legal parameters.
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References

Resources

  • Photo Credit in a office image by Marin Conic from Fotolia.com work in office image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com

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