Conflict definitions - a : competitive or opposing action of incompatibles : antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons) b : mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands (Merriam-Webster)
Conflict within the organization can exist between people, teams or different departments in the organization. Conflict can carry positive or negative character, requiring attention and resolution.
Positive conflict is a healthy process of disagreement between group members due to differences in style, character, ideas or decisions. This group recommended process prevents stagnation, peer pressure and motivates innovative thinking. It makes members identify with the group assignments and outcomes and become cooperative and active. Positive conflict is particularly effective in a group driven by a specific task to perform. Negative conflict is a phenomenon, which can be intensified in heterogeneous groups, whose members come from different backgrounds, with opposing ideas and different levels of motivation. Such conflict can occur between different factions in the group, between the head of the group and its members and between different departments or teams within the organization.
Importance of group's conflict resolution
While the group should encourage positive conflict performance, which empowers its members, in case of negative conflict - the leader of the group should consider designing a solution as soon as possible. Negative conflict has a direct impact on the decline in productivity and morale of the group, a fact that affects the group's mission accomplishment. In addition, negative conflict tends to grow and "swell" if not provided with a quick response. In this case, the message sent to all employees is that it's a legitimate behavior to ignore different and unconventional views. Hence the conflict becomes personal and causes far more damage to the group and the entire organization.
The conflict resolution technique - Point of View (POV)
The main key to deal with group conflict is communication. "Positive conflict fans" is a group that encourages communication through various means. One of these means is the use of an interesting technique, inspired by cinema, literature and theater works, called Point of View (POV). In films, POV refers to the concept of a short scene, describing the character watching something (through "camera eyes"). This scene is located generally between a shot of the character and what he sees and a shot of the character's reaction to what he just saw. This technique is one of the major elements of film editing work and is also known as "subjective camera". POV technique can allow us to experiment the role of "observer" or "hidden person" just by changing perspective, in other words:" I just want to see him, I don't want to be him". This observation capability enables us to examine each situation in several different ways, and hence draw conclusions about our particular response and behavior.
Let's get back to the communication issue as a key element of conflict resolution and examine it through the POV technique. "Positive conflict fans" will use the following means:
1. Listening without interruption, with full attention. Each participant will be able to imagine the specific perspective point of view used by his teammate: is it a POV of an active character in the conflict scene - the accused or the accuser? Is this a POV of an outsider? Is this a POV of someone who doesn't know what the conflict is about and doesn't understand it?
2. Sharing is conducted as a conversation, in which each team member suggests what he knows, what he thinks and what he feels would be effective for the group. Here the participants experience presenting in speech their own perspectives, as they try to convince the rest of the group of the benefits of taking their way.
3. Understanding. The head of the group needs to make sure that opinions and suggestions raised by the group members during the "sharing" phase and the group's task were fully understood by all group members, including understanding the motives of any member of the group which led him to think the way he thinks.
4. Mutual respect based on distinguishing between the person who's at the center of the conflict and the essence of the conflict itself. On the other hand, personal insults and accusations can escalate the conflict. The question which can be asked here: Do I identify with the participant's perspective and understand the benefits of this perspective without taking into account my personal feelings towards him?
5. Openness - the importance of being "open minded" and the ability to be pleasantly surprised. When there is listening, mutual respect and understanding the entire picture can be enlightened and the group members can discover the connections that can connect the various opinions.
6. Expression of own skills. Each member of the group has talents and skills, and a conflict is exactly the right timing to use them, to help resolve the conflict efficiently. If participants experience analyzing the different perspectives, they are usually able to find the strengths of the group members.
7. Recognition. Each group member must recognize the potential of his teammates. Conflict is an opportunity to encourage each member to use his own potential for the benefit of the group.
8. Mutual Aid - Helping team members have all the information and fill the gaps when required, in order to turn the conflict into a productive action.
9. Negotiations - the means to turn a negative conflict into a positive one, allowing free expression of different approaches and produce a solution acceptable by everyone. Different and even contradicted perspectives can exist side by side, as long as the team respects them as legitimate points of view.
10. Responsibility for progressing of the group - the group's ability to "manage" this entire process, such as helping the shy and quiet members, who are hesitant to respond or preventing other members to gain control of the dialogue.
11. Repeated reflection of the original group's goals and tasks to keep the group being concentrated on the main issues. Since POV is a visual technique, and the metaphor used is the "camera eyes", mirroring is a very effective mean in this case, especially when a real camera is present.
12. Matching expectations, often recommended at an early stage but it's also necessary during solving the conflict.
13. Leading and influence – the head of the group is expected to enable members who have these abilities to use it during the process.
14. Personal gratitude - when the conflict is resolved, it's recommended that members of the group will thank their teammates who contributed to the solution. With this gratitude they will express their recognition of their team mates' efforts, the ability to think creatively and the commitment to the group, expressed during this process.
15. Mutual trust, confidence in the group abilities and "togetherness". These are very important for the group progress towards its goals. It is recommended that the group leader will present to the group members their achievements as a group after the conflict resolution (in a manner of positive group feedback) and will indicate the successful joint observation of the various points of view.
Case studies - POV technique in use during a negative conflict resolution
During a management skills training workshop for sales managers under my guidance, one of the workgroups faced right in the beginning of the workshop the reluctance of its members to cooperate with each other which preventend them to proceed. These phenomena were due mostly to people's fear to expose their opinions or express their dissatisfaction from the company's senior management. The result was kind of total silence in the room and a feeling of pressure because of not meeting the mission time table. This is a situation which I name "a hidden negative conflict".
The head of the group with my cooperation decided to begin the process of sharing, when he volunteered to be the first to talk about his point of view. His openness and the message of "I'm one of you" soon led to the appearance of first signs of other members' opinion sharing, attention, respect and understanding. Another interesting thing happened when members were encouraging their stubborn teammates to express their views. Soon the group successfully passed the initial fears' obstacle and the negotiation stage which included presenting the various perspectives. The group eventually reached for basic solutions which were very important for the process, and received the most positive feedbacks from the management and from the other workgroups.
Case Studies - POV technique in use during a positive conflict resolution
Another managers' workgroup, dealing with negative symptoms of the current company's corporate culture, decided to deal with an unpleasant incident, which had occurred just two days before the workshop. The "main characters" of this incident belonged to this group and had expressed from the beginning of the workshop a great openness to talk about this incident in front of the group - in order to communicate between group members about this incident, avoid unnecessary gossip about it and produce a healthy process to prevent recurrence of this type of incident. The group used all the communication means while examining the various perspectives: recognizing other approaches towards the situation, listening, understanding, mutual respect, reflection, mutual aid, gratitude and an expression of trust. In less than an hour this dramatic situation, which could have easily become an active trigger to a more severe negative conflict, accompanied by personal accusations, had become a state of dialogue, listening and positive energy. The group produced a suitable solution for the incident, presented it in front of the other workgroups and was proud of its achievements.