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You Say "Conflict," I Say "Business as Usual"

By Mark Phelps and Dave Fisher

Mark:

Dave, maybe I’m just showing my age, but I’m feeling that the increasing pace of business is causing more conflict in the workplace. You agree?

Dave:

You ARE showing your age, but what’s the big deal? I don’t see more conflict.

Mark:

That’s just the point, some people are more aware of the warning signs of workplace conflict that others. By the way, you’re no spring chicken either!

Dave:

Hey! Funny you mention age. We know that conflict often stems from differences – whether those are differences in age – the proverbial generational differences – or simply differences of opinion or perspective. As leaders, we need to be paying close attention so we know when those differences begin to escalate.

Mark:

Right. Differences can be beneficial but when those differences begin to affect working relationships, that’s when leaders need to be prepared to respond.

Dave:

Which brings us back to those warning signs. What signs should leaders be watching for that would indicate that differences might be escalating to full-blown conflict?

Mark:

Well, when things are not going well for me, and conflict is building, my boss should look for negative first reactions, the kind that you almost can’t stop from making. It is usually non-verbal and it normally goes away in seconds. A very deep breath, eye rolling, or a grimace. Oops, I shouldn’t have shared that Dave. My boss could be reading this blog!

Dave:

Sorry Mark, you spilled the beans. But if conflict has gotten out of hand, wouldn’t you want your boss to know, so she can help to address it quickly?

Mark:

You’re right, especially if I’m having no luck at resolving it myself.

Dave:

Now you’re thinking! Like I said, leaders need to be alert for those warning signs!

Mark:

I’d like to spend more time talking about warning signs and what leaders should do when they spot them. But first, let’s ask others: What are the most common warning signs of conflict in your workplace? What warning signs might your boss see you saying or displaying?

Dave Fisher and Mark Phelps are senior consultants, DDI Leadership Solutions Group.

Posted: 06 Mar, 2013,
Talk to an Expert: You Say "Conflict," I Say "Business as Usual"
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