Transformative Conflict Management

Transformative Conflict Management

Conflicts in the workplace do not necessarily have to be problematic or lead to absenteeism and additional costs for the organization. Things can also be handled differently! Dealing properly with a (potential) workplace conflict can actually yield benefits for the individual, the team and the company.

Workplace conflicts should be seen as a functional tool for the development and innovation of people and the organization. It is about putting conflict in a positive light and developing a sound conflict policy. In this way you achieve profit in the broad sense of the word: you limit the costs of conflicts, you increase productivity and you let the employees' job satisfaction take precedence. After all, a healthy company requires a healthy heart!

The aim must be to allow the actors to take action themselves and to work on a solution of the conflict. This ensures that points of view do not stagnate and harden, because those involved actively participate in the conflict transformation. Developing a roadmap is crucial, and the resolution of the conflict must go beyond the mere content of the current conflict. Let the actors help determine how conflicts will be dealt with in the future, and make agreements about the jointly obtained solution.

It does not matter whether your company is large or small, developing a clear and transformative conflict policy is essential, all the more within family businesses, to ensure that disputes are dealt with methodically and structurally. This is a crucial point for me, and the question: "How are conflicts handled within the organization?" must be central, along with the mission, vision and values ​​of the organization. It must become part of the DNA of your organization and its employees that conflicts in themselves are not a problem, because the fact that conflicts occur is completely normal. Depending on the size of your company, this can be worked out in various ways: from simple A4 information sheets that are hung everywhere to the installation of an integrated and transformative conflict policy with conflict managers and teams. Conflict has the function of promoting growth and development. Not only on a personal level, but also on a content and organizational level. The mindset must be that people are open to it, because if they close themselves off, it will dominate them.

That conflict is not inherently bad is supported by the following observation: a conflict in itself, be it work-related or in the private sphere, has positive characteristics in any case. It is valuable and informative, it sets priorities, it clearly establishes boundaries, it pushes interests forward and it renews dynamics. When an organization is able to accept conflict and use it as a catalyst for growth, development and change through transformative conflict management, this will also be reflected in a positive atmosphere, greater employee satisfaction and performance, and higher quality of products and/or services. There will also be noticeably less absenteeism due to conflict, burn-out and stress if all employees are conflict-oriented and differences of opinion can lead to learning moments and strengthening of work relationships. Employee satisfaction will increase exponentially, as the model described above leaves room for employees to breathe. The differences are accepted, and this allows them to make a personal contribution to the company, at every level and in every department. Employees who interact a lot with customers will provide a better service and this in turn will also have a positive effect on the customers themselves. In my humble opinion, in this way you achieve the absolute symbiosis of sustainable social entrepreneurship that allows both the well-being of the employees and the profitability of the company to triumph together. Hence, I want to emphasize again that conflict policy and transformative conflict management should be one of the foundations of your organization.

To conclude, I would define Transformative Conflict Management (TCM) as follows:

“Approaching conflicts methodically, developing rules to recognize and acknowledge them structurally, to avoid unnecessary escalation, and to exploit them by transforming them into joint positive or constructive outcomes for both the individual and the entire organization, and all this with the inclusion of tools to deal with future conflicts. TCM largely determines the organizational development into an open, communicative and qualitative organization.”

By the way, I cannot stress enough that there is no reason whatsoever to keep a conflict indoors, but rather on the contrary. As explained above, conflicts within an organization are not negative. The organization does not lose its influence if a third party is brought in, and the approach by HR or union representation is simply not impartial. The latter parties will always tend to tackle the problems themselves, without making the conflicting parties responsible for the solution. In mediation, resolving a conflict is actually the responsibility of the conflicting parties. It is the parties themselves who strive for a jointly supported outcome and an alternative, creative solution to achieve a win-win situation. In this way they break with the balance of power that is often present in working relationships.

The task here is not exactly the elimination of the conflict, but to understand its mechanisms and to develop psychological and social structures that allow the conflict to generate positive changes and thus contribute to open communication and thus the overall quality of the organization.

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