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Focused Futures

on 23 October 2015

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Conflict is an inevitable part of life.
In Work
With Your Family
With Your Friends

Managing Conflict
The Use & Abuse of Conflict
Workplace Conflict is a specific type of conflict that occurs in workplaces. Conflicts can be due to personality clash (relationship conflict) or differences of opinion (task conflict).Can be fueled by things such as:
Pressures that an individual is feeling
Personal Dislikes, etc.
How would YOU handle the situation?
YouTube video
Lets Get Started
To get a sense of your current approach to conflict, try the self assessment on the handout I will give you now.
For each statement, mark the response that best applies to you.
Don't spend a long time pondering each answer. Just choose the answer that seems most appropriate right now.
How to Effectively Deal With Conflict in the Workplace
Examples of Workplace Conflict
Causes of Workplace Conflict
Who is Involved?
The five basic strategies psychologists identify are:
1. Avoidance
2. Accommodation
3. Compromise
4. Competition
5. Collaboration

Clashing Work Styles and Roles







Receiving Advice & Criticism
Aggressiveness vs Assertiveness

The way you handle conflict can have a major impact on your successes, your happiness and your fulfillment in life.
In this style, you give up the strong pursuit of your OWN goals and put them aside to accommodate the other person.
You feel the other person's goal is more important than yours.
You feel that being agreeable will help you achieve a more important goal later in life.
Sometimes called withdrawal, this strategy involves stepping away from the conflict & ignoring it as much as possible.
Other things may be more important than getting involved.
This strategy can be useful when the problem is trivial or you don't care about the outcome.
This means "splitting the difference" or "meeting in the middle."
Each party sacrifices some part of his/her goal in order to resolve the conflict.
Compromise works best when the goal you have been pursuing is not greatly important to you or there isn't time to work out a more complex solution.
This is the essential "win-lose" strategy. You win, the other loses.
Competition does not involve any willingness to give up your goal.
Following this too much will likely result in conflict or will make others shy away from you.
Both parties use this to find a mutually acceptable solution.
This is the strategy most likely to make a conflict constructive because it's a "win-win" approach. Both parties achieve their goals.

A Gender Difference?
Research Suggests that men are more apt to use a competitive conflict strategy than women.
This finding fits with other research showing that, in conversation, men are likely to be more aggressive, assertive and competitive than women.
Do you think these differences are in our genes or are they a product of the way our society defines traditional roles?
Poor Communication
Bad Attitudes!
Showing up late/calling in
Management Style
Personal/Family Problems
Office Romance
Substance Abuse
Being told what to do rather than asked.
-Causes tension & employees become defensive.
Employees who have different communication styles.
-One may need specifics, one may been the basics.
-Some people shut down when too much or too little information is shared.
Different behavioral back-up styles
-Some people avoid confrontation.
-Others break under pressure.
Unclear job expectations
-Conflict for the manager & the employee.
Conflict doesn't have to be so open or obvious..
Perhaps the nastiest conflict in organizations (and personal interactions) are the ones papered over by smiles & hearty greetings..
If you feel that someone who pretends to like you is really stabbing you in the back, you ARE in conflict.
Disagreement vs Conflict
It's important to realize that a mere disagreement is not conflict
Example: Say that John Smith is advocating plan A and Dan Jones is advocating Plan B.

At a company meeting you both present your arguments, the two of you disagree strongly and maybe even have a quarrel.

This isn't necessarily conflict..why?
Personality Traits & Conflict
Are there some types of people who, by their very nature, rub others the wrong way?

I.E. does their personality make them more prone to conflict?

Psychologists & organizational theorists believe this to be true.

The Real Cost of
Workplace Conflict
25% of employees say workplace conflict led to sickness and/or absence from work.
10% reported that workplace conflict led to project failure.
More than one-third said that conflict resulted in someone leaving the company, either through firing or quitting.

Conflict Benefits?
Can focus attention to problems that need addressing.
Stimulation of internal change-getting rid out outdated procedures, etc.
Personal Growth
Greater understanding of other employees
Consider what might have caused the conflict
Take an objective look at yourself & determine what you did or said to contribute to the situation.
Are you coming off the wrong way? How is your tone of voice? Non-verbal language?
Try to place yourself in the other person's shoes & consider how the situation could be handled differently in the future.
Be Respectful of Differences
Workplaces are diverse places, today more than ever & what is acceptable to one person may be offensive to another.
Respect co-workers opinions & ideas
Leave your biases & assumptions at the door
Listen Carefully
Before jumping to conclusions, make sure you fully understand the situation.
During conversation, make sure you acknowledge his or her feelings & paraphrase their opinion back to them to enhance your comprehension.
Be Mindful of Your Language
Avoid assigning blame.
Take note of the words you use.
Use "I" statements of "You"
Ask for Help
If the conflict can't be resolved, ask for a mediator whom you trust.
Manager, Human Resource Professional, or a Manager from a different department.
Sometimes a mediator can help you see both sides of the issue and resolve the issue quickly.
Be sure the problem is resolved
The problem isn't properly resolved until both parties in the argument feel better about the situation.
Set guidelines for how to handle a similar situation in the future.
"Let's commit that you will let me know right away if I do something that upsets you, and when you bring it to my attention, we will stop what we are doing to address it."
Have you ever had someone offer you unsolicited advice or criticism, which could be very helpful, but you get so annoyed that you can't really benefit from it?
We take pride in our work, skills, savvy, etc.
When someone points out that we're not doing something right, we feel we've been attacked. It's a blow to our self-esteem.
Receiving advice & criticism is hard for many people.
It's normally easier to give than to receive.
Possible Reactions
Feel a surge of anger or embarrassment
Strike back verbally at the person who's criticizing you.
Mentally withdraw from the whole affair, "tuning it out."
Take the advice & criticism & turn it into a positive.
Self Esteem
According to psychologists, people with high self-esteem are the ones more likely to react negatively to advice.
In other words, if you think you're highly competent, you're apt to resent any implication that you can't handle a situation on your own.
Defensive Reactions
Maybe you feel the advice stems from disrespect.
Maybe you're annoyed that the person thought you "needed" help, even if the person approached you in a friendly manner.
Defensive reactions often keep us from responding rationally
Not only do we fail to benefit from the advice, but the situation may get worse because we're upset by what's said. (Many conflicts start this way)
Researchers Jeff Fisher & Arie Nadler did research to identify conditions that produce negative reactions to assistance.
One of their interesting findings is that negative reactions are stronger if the giver of help is "similar" to the recipient in terms of status, age & gender.
When we respond defensively to help or criticism, our emotions have one immediate effect..
They prevent us from really listening to what the other person is trying to tell us.
If it's potentially good information, we lose the opportunity to benefit from it.
The following 4 steps can help us improve our ability to really listen to messages, even ones that might hurt our self esteem.
Step 1:Put aside your ego as much as possible
Separate your inner self from criticism about a particular task.
It's only the task that is in question, NOT your overall performance. And certainly not your worth as a human being.
Step 2: Suspend judgement
about what you hear
Don't decide immediately whether the other person is right or wrong.
Don't jump to conclusions about the other person's motives & attitude towards you.
Step 3: Listen to the advice itself
Concentrate fully on what the speaker is telling you.
If you can't give the person your full attention, ask him or her if you can discuss the matter at a better time.
Step 4: Use Active Listening Techniques
In other words, take an active role in the conversation to make sure you understand what's being said.
Paraphrase what the speaker has said & ask if your version is correct. Ex. " What I'm hearing is that you wish I would automatically look for something else to do when I finish a task. Is that correct?"
Ask further questions to clarify any unclear points.
Giving Advice & Criticism
7 Elements of Constructive Criticism
1. Non-judgmental advice doesn't convey judgement of the other person. It doesn't say "you're wrong"
2. Constructive criticism focuses on the issue, not the person.
3. It is looked at as a mutual problem- not the problem of just one person alone.
4. It balances the positive & negative comments. Ex. "I can see you're working very hard & things are going well overall, but there is one small thing we should look at."
5. Focus on the present, don't bring up issues that happened in the past.
6. Constructive criticism can be seen as empathetic- it shows you care about how the other person is feeling or performing.
7. Constructive criticism can open the lines of communication
Dealing with Personal Behavior
Advice should be non-judgmental & focus on the ISSUE rather than the person.
BUT what if the issue is the person?
First... you can simply try to avoid the person whenever possible. If you don't have to work with him/her, just stay away.
Second: If you do have to work with them, remind yourself that they may have some reason for their ill temper.
Perhaps their home life is terrible, etc.
You don't have to invent excuses for them. but empathy requires that you try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Third, understand that you're not actually objecting to them as a person. What you really what to change is their behavior.
Finally... if you do decide to offer the person some advice, you can focus on specific suggestions that would make the environment better for everyone, including the person. That is, you can try to show him/her how they would benefit from changing their behavior.
Using "I" Messages
Use "I" messages instead of "You" messages. "You" messages tend to sound blaming and accusing.
"You" message: "You left the dishes in the sink again."
"I" message: "When you don't clean up after yourself, I feel taken advantage of."
Aggressiveness Without Words
Aggressive people often do the following:
Clench their fists.
Point their fingers at others.
Stand with hands on hips & feet apart.
Narrow their eyes.
Keep their mouths tight & eyes fixed, showing little expression.
Raise their voices.
Where does aggression come from?
Aggressiveness often appears when people feel they are being threatened in some way.
If someone insults you, you are likely to respond with a similarly insulting comment.
Psychologists believe we inherit aggressive tendencies from our parents.

These are called learned patterns.
What do you think?
A man who reacts to criticism by shoving his critic in the chest probably learned this response in childhood-and never out grew it.
A woman known for sarcastic remarks in meetings may have learned early in life to protect herself with scornful words
As these examples show, the behaviors we learn early in life are often not the best. We CAN, however, modify them.
Did You Know?
Workplace violence-an ultimate expression of aggression-is a growing concern.

According to the Nat. Inst. For Occ. Safety & Health
Homicide is the 2nd leading cause of death on the job. Among women, it's number one.
On average, 20 workers are murdered every week in the U.S.
About 18,000 U.S. workers are the victims of assault each week.

To avoid aggressive behavior you need to be assertive...
Direct eye contact.
Posture that is firm and straight but not stiff.
Serious but not severe facial expressions.
Gesture that reinforce the message without threatening.
Objective (not judgmental) language
Short, to-the-point sentences.
Honest statements of feelings and desires.
Frequent use of "I" messages.
Voice that is steady & strong without being loud.
Willingness to listen to other people.
Handling Anger
The Origin of Anger
We all get angry at times. both at home and at work.
Anger, however, isn't our first response, no matter how much we are provoked.
Anger is what psychologists call a secondary emotion.
This means it stems from some other emotion.
For example, if someone insults you, you'll first feel the psychological pain. Your self esteem may be wounded.
If the putdown occurred in public, you may feel shame.
You may also be afraid others believe what was said.
These primary emotions then lead you to anger
Feelings That Trigger Anger
Anger In a Nutshell
To put is simply, anger is a response that helps you cope with being vulnerable.

Like aggressiveness, it is usually defensive in origin, even though it can put you on the offensive against others.
Consequences of Anger
Anger can have many negative results
There are severe consequences, people may turn violent with fists, knives and guns

For most of us, however, anger takes the form of words, looks or gestures and can nevertheless have bad effects.
Think of a time when your anger at a friend or loved one disrupted your relationship for days, weeks, or longer.
Anger in the Workplace
In a work environment, uncontrolled anger is likely to produce consequences such as:
The angry person says unwise things or makes exaggerated accusations.
Other people get angry as well.
Additional grievances are aired, complicating the situation.
Relationships are strained or broken.
Morale and team spirit are undermined.
Did You Know
The Harvard School of Public Health did a study that showed a link between anger and heart disease.
Following 1300 men with an average age of 62 for 7 years, the men with the highest levels of anger were three times more likely to develop heart disease than men with lower levels.
7 Steps for Managing Anger
Step 1: Accept the fact that you're angry.
Step 2: Decide exactly what you're mad at.
Step 3: Be sure you understand the facts of the situation.
Step 4: Decide whom you can speak to about the problem.
Step 5: When you speak up, do it in an assertive, not aggressive, manner.
Step 6: Propose a solution that would be acceptable to you and also potentially acceptable to the other person.
Step 7: Afterward, reflect on the entire experience and learn from it.
Preventing Conflict
Problems of Perception & Interpretation
Our perceptions are marvelous sources of information
We learn a lot about people by seeing what they look like, watching them act, hearing what others say about them, etc.
Unfortunately, they are often wrong.
Sometimes our eyes and ears simply mislead us.
You hear, "My boss is a stupid dunce."
What was actually said, " My boss is stupendous!"
Our errors are caused by the way our perceptions slide immediately into interpretation. We're always trying to make sense of what we see.
Ways Perception/Interpretation Become Distorted
First Impressions:
After we form an opinion of someone, we're very reluctant to change it.
We actually tend to ignore or downplay later information that contradicts our first impressions.
Implicit Personality Theories:
These are unspoken assumptions about which personality traits and behaviors naturally belong together.
We might assume someone who is kind to animals is also warm and kind to humans.
Sometimes the link is accurate; other times it's not.
Fundamental Attribution Error
When we interpret someone's behavior in a situation, we tend to attribute too much of the behavior to personal characteristics and too little to the situation.
For example, when you see someone banging their fist on his desk after a call from a client, you may think this means he has a bad temper.
In reality you may have responded the same way. Maybe the client was really abusive.
Examples of Fundamental Attribution
Event: Child screams in a restaurant
Common response: "What a bratty kid!"
Thoughtful response: " Maybe that child has a stomach ache."
Event: An old friend passes by without acknowledging you.
Common response: "He's stuck up."
Thoughtful response: "He could be having a really bad day
Preventing Errors of
Perception & Interpretation
You probably can't prevent them entirely
However, once you can accept that you-like all people-are prone to them, you can minimize their effect.
The following techniques can help:
Check your perceptions. Did you actually hear what you thought you heard?
Instead of assuming you know why someone behaved the way he or she did, think about other possible interpretations.
Seek additional information. Talk to the person or someone else who was there.
Separate your feelings from the matter you're investigating. Try to stay objective.
Full transcript