Initiatives to solve a conflict

Conflict Conflict © University of Bergen

Solving conflicts might be performed differently in the working life of different countries of the world. The freedom of the workers is different in different countries. In some places there is no room for conflict solving, when the leader of the company or the department is involved. Still, some general advices on conflict solving are given here:

The individual worker’s conflict

And what should we do? When an employee lies crying on your desk, and lets you know that this despair is about a conflict at work? The employee needs support, and you might be in the position to give advice. Simple advice can be all this person needs. You, as a potential helper, should find out:

a) Has the worker spoken to the person in question about the problem? In many cases, the employee has not done that. If not, how can there be any improvement? When no one knows you are suffering? The employee is advised to talk about the problem with the person in question.

b) Does the employee need help raising the issue with the person in question? Or has this been done already, and nothing has happened? If this has been tried without effect, you can advise the employee to bring with him a safety representative and/or the work place representative and ask for a new meeting. Health personnel and personnel in an occupational health service can also be of assistance in these types of meetings.

Disagreement Disagreement © University of Bergen

Conflict in the company - follow up

In many cases a conflict can arise in a company and include many persons. You may learn about this in different ways; through meetings with employees or through information from single workers. It is important to be aware of the fact that the management leader is the correct person to contact, in order to make things happen.

If an occupational health service exists, they must inform the management and give advice to the management as to what needs to be done. This can be a delicate affair because employees might have told the occupational health service things in confidence which they cannot bring forward. On the other hand, this confidence between the employee and the company doctor, or other health personnel presents a unique situation for receiving information about stress- and conflicting relations in the business. Here the personnel need to agree beforehand with the patient/client on what they as health personnel can say and do before moving forward, in order not to break the patients’ confidentiality.

a) The conflict must be recognised.
It might sound strange that not everybody involved by a conflict recognises it, or sees the emotional and destructive side of the conflict. However, this is not unusual. Leaders are not always informed about what is going on or understand what is happening. The background for this can be that the conflict provokes feelings of discomfort which the leader is trying to avoid. Often there will be an underlying assessment where the leader minimizes the conflict, or has chosen to put off doing something about it because conflicts often disappear in time

Alt text This leadership style is not recommended. © Colourbox

b) The role of the leader:
The leader is a central person in any conflict in his or her business. The leader can provoke a conflict through their leadership style, decisions and dispositions, or because they do not manage contradictions and conflicts present in their area of responsibility efficiently.

Conflict solutions

Roughly speaking, we have two main types of conflict solutions.

a) Process oriented approach
Here, you start with the conflict process, how the parties in the conflict influence this process and each other through their respective reactions. This is also called a psychological approach. Since conflicts always are expressed through people’s reactions, it is normal to approach the conflict by trying to move the parties to change their attitudes, by trying to give the parties insight in the conflict process and how their behaviour affects the situation. By this type of insight, new and future conflicts can be avoided. This work happens by talking to the parties separately, together and maybe in a group setting.

BrightIdeas Positive agreement. © University of Bergen

b) Administrative approach
By an administrative conflict solving approach, you start by looking at what in the company is causing or nurturing the conflict. You try to solve the conflict by changing the conditions that causes the conflict. Examples of conditions causing conflict in an organisation can for instance be unclear responsibilities and authority, scarce resources to fight over, decisions that have no acceptance among employees, inconsistent personnel policies, lack of transparency and security, incompetent management and so on.

Mediator role

PhotoSjÃ¥ppet_Mediator_Role_5.8_IMG_0047.JPG The mediator can help in solving a conflict. © G. Tjalvin

The function as mediator is central in all conflict work. The mediator is someone who is not involved in the conflict, but can help to arrange meetings to solve the conflict. Occupational health personnel, for instance, can sometimes be of great help as mediators. This type of personnel or other persons outside of a company or environment may function well as an external mediator There are many different consultancy companies offering these types of services.

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Occupational Health in Developing Countries

University of Bergen