Monday, 23 February 2009 18:00

When Needs Become Conflict

Written by Richard Lannon

Recently I was reminded that only 10 percent of conflict is extreme and that 90 percent of conflict is acceptable. In working with a client, I noticed some needs that were not being met. Those needs erupted into what we would call conflict between several people on the team. It was interesting to observe what took place. Mostly it was a flight situation. The people in the conflict situation left the area. This is not a bad thing as sometimes you just need to get out of Dodge. When it comes to conflict we all need to take some common thinking into consideration.

First, conflict has its positive place in our lives. Conflict is natural and depending on our disposition we might fight/flight or fend/befriend. We are wired that way.

Second, think of conflict like the ice berg in the ocean; two-thirds of it is underwater. For people the portion under water has to do with our history, values, culture, beliefs and feelings and all the other stuff that is happening in our lives.

Third, one-third of the ice berg is above the water. This is where we observe people behaviours. The above the water iceberg represents the actual conflict event that occurs among individuals and teams.

Conflict thinking is often broken down into four levels. These include:

Position: This is the level that is about facts, data, and information. At this level a person or team takes their position.

Standards: This level is about policy and procedures that do not necessarily fit the individual or team culture. Somewhere a change is mandated without regard to the people impact.

Objectives: There is a lack of alignment in the organization, team and individuals goals and priorities. People are confused and are not sure what is important. There are conflicting interests and generally poor leadership.

Culture: The culture level is about values, beliefs and attitude. This is the level where individual, teams' and organizations' interest lies. This level is the deeper under the water level that should be understood and taken into consideration. This level can represent a real challenge.

We all need at least one approach to conflict resolution. The following 10 steps is an approach used in dealing with one on one conflict that, if engaged correctly, can go a long way towards resolving conflict.

  1. Present the issue without emotion, blame, or judgment
  2. Ask for the other person's point of view
  3. Explain your point of view clearly
  4. Clarify and define the issues in terms of both your needs
  5. Create a joint plan with which you both agree
  6. Brainstorm and discuss possible solutions
  7. Select the best chance of meeting both your needs
  8. Develop a realistic plan of action and determine who will do what, by when, where and how
  9. Implement the plan, make a commitment to it and follow it
  10. Evaluate the success of the solution based on the joint objective

During the conflict resolution discussion, do your best to keep your emotions in neutral. That does not mean divorce yourself from your emotions. It simply means that it is alright for both sides to recognize their emotions and feelings. Each party needs to acknowledge their emotions, be willing to describe the situation and express how they feel. In turn, they must clearly specify what is expected and consider the consequences of individual, team and organization behaviours.

Much of conflict resolution is about acknowledging and settling the emotions through collaborative problem solving to satisfy the various stakeholders' interests to the greatest degree possible.


Richard A. Lannon partners with business and technology organizations to help clarify their goals and objectives and train their leadership and professionals on how to achieve them. He provides the blueprint for you and your organization to be SET (structured, engaged and trained). That is why his clients call him the SETability Expert. Voice: 403-476-8853 Email: richard@braveworld.ca Web: http://www.braveworld.ca/
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