Managing Conflict, Valuing Diversity, and Maintaining Open Communication

Change breeds’ conflict. Organizations that can best manage conflict will achieve change quicker and more efficiently. Managing conflict is a term many use and few understand. Conflict is when two or more parties have interests that to some degree are, or perceived to be, competing. At the most basic level, conflict is about individual values and beliefs and ultimately dependent upon perceptions; conflicts are thus subjective, and the parties’ perception of the values in conflict is what is most important. A given situation is regarded as conflict situation if, and only if, the adversaries perceive that they in a conflict. Disputes on the other hand, occur when the struggle of competing interests reaches a critical point, and negatively impacts the process or relationships of the parties.

Conflicts have both benefits and costs. Benefits of conflict put parties on an equal footing, focusing attention on real problems and increase internal cohesion. Although it may appear hard to realize at the time, conflict encourages growth and change, stimulates innovation and functions as a “safety valve” for the system overall to help reduce strain and stress. However, the costs of conflict if it goes unchecked have destructive consequences and damages to relationships. In addition these may include time, productivity, morale, turnover, absenteeism, lost of opportunity and development, sick days, low innovation, and low loyalty. The cycle of violence and vengeance through strikes, lockouts and sabotage may ensue from the conflict, which is not dealt with in a way that produces positive consequences and outcomes.

Some steps you may want to consider when trying to maintain a positive work environment in our constantly changing and diverse workplace, from Managing Diversity, Performance Resources Inc.:

• Communication is the key to breaking down the cultural; barriers between people.

• Be clear and concise and avoid slang, especially with those for whom English may be a second language.

• When a conflict arises, consider the possibility that the root cause may be cultural in origin.

• Be especially alert for the non-verbal language of those whose cultural background is different from your own.

• Learn to accept that different cultures have different though equally valid perspectives.

• While you are learning about the culture of others, also take the time to explain your organization’s culture.

Have you ever been misunderstood?

Say something
Say how you feel
Say what you think
Put it into words
I’m listening
It works

It’s the power of words


1. Speaker:
Express how you feel honestly and openly

2. Clear language:
Say what you mean

3. Environment:
Free the air of distractions

4. Listener:
Listen carefully to what the speaker says

5. Feedback:
Verify and clarify

Poor communication undermines morale

At least 1,500,000,000 words make up 5,031 languages

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