Understanding and Resolving Conflict


Conflict is the opposition between two or more things, including people, organizations, and ideas. Often, conflict is perceived as an unpleasant or negative experience, but it can also be seen as healthy and beneficial.

In fact, it’s one of the most important aspects of healthy relationships, according to a study in the American Psychological Association journal Psychiatry (link is external). The term “conflict” is derived from the Latin word corpore, which means “breath,” but also refers to a struggle or disagreement.

The main determinants of conflict are perceived incompatible goals, limited resources, and interference from other parties. The key to resolving conflicts is understanding the various stages of conflict, according to Professor William Wilmot and professional mediator Joyce Hocker.

Stages of Conflict

There are five basic stages in conflict, and it is common for the conflict to go through a number of different levels before it is resolved. These stages are latent, manifest, erupted, emergent, and resolved.

Latent Conflict

This stage of conflict occurs when one or both parties have a difficult time acknowledging their differences. They may avoid talking about the problem, avoiding confrontations or communicating in other ways that might upset the other party.

If a situation reaches this stage, it can be helpful to discuss it with a third party, such as a neutral mediator or employee ombudsman(link is external). This person might be able to give a new perspective on the issue.

A good mediator can help the parties communicate clearly and work through their differences. They can also encourage them to think of potential solutions that will benefit everyone involved.

Having a neutral third party is especially helpful in cases where there is a lot of emotional energy or the conflict is extremely tense and volatile, as it may be difficult for a group to talk openly about their feelings.

In the first stage of conflict, it’s important for leaders to be able to recognize warning signs. They can look for complaints that employees have about the company, tense meetings or communication, low employee morale, and team members leaving in unusual numbers.

The key to identifying these warning signs is to be alert and observant. They can be subtle or obvious, and leaders need to be savvy to detect them quickly.

For example, if employees are complaining about long hours, it could be a sign of a managerial conflict. Managers might need to reassess how they manage their teams and their own workloads, so they don’t have to put so much stress on their employees.

If the employees are unhappy with the way the department is run, it might be a good idea to reassess the structure of the department and make changes if necessary. This might involve reorganizing the divisions, making new hires or reducing staffing levels.

If a leader is aware of the signs and takes action, they can prevent conflict before it even begins. They can do this by being observant of the warning signs and by addressing them with employees as soon as they appear.