Conflict Management Training: How to Identify Different Types of Conflict and Deal With it Quickly and Effectively

Your team is probably made up of many different types of people; it’s inevitable that you’ll have different personality types in a team but you’ll also have people of different ages, genders, cultures, backgrounds, interests, and so on. And that’s good. Diverse teams mean diverse perspectives, which can be instrumental when it comes to innovation. Unique perspectives are an asset, yet they also present leaders with a potential problem: that views will clash, creating conflict within the workplace. 

Conflict is common, no matter the depth of your management skills. It’s reported that 85% of employees experience conflict at one point or another, and you’ve probably already witnessed some degree of tension during your time as manager. You already know that as a leader, one of your responsibilities is to resolve situations where conflict is present, but having never needed to conduct this sort of task previously, you may be feeling unsure about how to handle sensitive topics.


Introducing Conflict Management Training

It’s estimated that only one third of businesses train their leaders in a specific conflict management module, and it appears that The Netherlands performs especially poorly in this area. Research from Myers Briggs suggests that 63% of leaders in The Netherlands have absolute zero conflict management training, lagging behind the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, and the United States. Conflict management training should be a priority for new leaders, with these dedicated modules not only outlining the most common types of conflict present in teams, but also highlighting key indicators which could allow managers to spot potential conflict before it escalates out of control. 

Many managers believe that when something is wrong, they’ll know it. And in some situations, this is indeed the case. Some employees feel naturally comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, and may make their leaders aware of possible conflict situations prior to them becoming a problem. However, as you already know, your team is made up of lots of different types of people, and not all will feel this way. Through conflict management training, you can learn more about the small indicators that could suggest that tensions are brewing. Possible indicators may include:

  • Loss of productivity, poor performance, or a notable decline in work quality
  • Tense communications between team members, perhaps with raised voices
  • Unhappy faces, negative responses to requests, and increased levels of fatigue
  • A rise in sickness-related absenteeism as employees try to avoid bad situations


Types of Conflict

Once conflict situations have been identified, conflict management training can also help new leaders to assess each individual situation, enabling them to tailor their approach to the type of conflict that’s present. While there are many possible types of conflict, there are four primary conflict types that are typically found within teams:

1. Win-Loss Conflict

Win-loss conflict occurs when one member of the team feels that they’re unable to succeed if someone else is succeeding; the feeling is that one needs to fail for the other to thrive. This can happen when team members have views that directly contradict each other. A good management practice for this situation is to highlight the individual value of both viewpoints, rather than trying to integrate them. Try to show that both ideas can exist simultaneously, and that both are essential for driving the team forward.

2. Interdependent Conflict

Interdependent conflict occurs when multiple people are working on different areas of a shared project. Tensions can rise quickly if the productivity of one person in the chain prevents another from being able to complete their tasks and meet deadlines. This can result in blame-shifting and make your board presentations extremely uncomfortable. It is much better to work to prevent these situations from happening in the first place by delegating tasks effectively to the right people, with the right skills (conduct a skills gap analysis to get this right), and communicating clearly to ensure that everyone is clear on their tasks. 

3. Personality Conflict

Personality conflict will happen in almost every team. It’s natural that not everyone will personally like each other, and they shouldn’t be forced to be friends. Instead, it’s important that your team understands why they have all been chosen for the position; because, regardless of their individual personalities, they all have the skills and the passion that’s needed to make a difference, and to drive the business forward towards a common, shared goal. Be sure to promote and highlight the ‘bigger picture’ here. 

4. Discrimination Conflict

As a leader - and as a new leader especially - you’re keen to prove yourself. You’re eager to show that you’ve got what it takes to effectively manage a team. However, one of the most important characteristics of a good leader is knowing when situations are beyond your control, and having the confidence to ask for help when needed. Discrimination conflict is one of those times. This is a very sensitive and very serious situation, and it’s always best to refer this type of conflict to your HR team. 


The Importance of Conflict Management Training

There’s a tendency for managers to view conflict management as just another task that leaders must include as part of their responsibilities. However, as can be seen from the above, conflict management is actually very closely linked with leadership style. 

Conflict management training acknowledges this connection, helping leaders to better understand how their management approach can significantly impact their ability to respond to conflict situations and generate satisfactory resolutions. Through training, potentially damaging conflict situations can be transformed into opportunity. 

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