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Conflict Resolution Within Social Work Practice

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Diana Copeland

on 1 February 2016

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Transcript of Conflict Resolution Within Social Work Practice

What is Conflict Resolution?
"A way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them" (Community Toolbox, 2015)
Effective conflict resolution often requires a vast amount of skill to adequately implement with long-lasting effectiveness
Conflict is usually avoided or dealt with in a forceful way, and people do not take time to actively listen and reflect on their specific situations

Conflict Resolution Within Social Work Practice
Understanding and Managing Conflict
There are different levels of conflict, different conflict resolution strategies, and different ways to manage and understand conflict
How conflict can arise and how it can escalate:

1. Sense of discomfort, still vague due to uncertainty of the situation
2. Type of incident, uncomfortable exchange leaving you irritated

Absence of appropriate conflict resolution

3. Misunderstandings, tension develops
4. Crisis, behaviour is effected, normal functioning is affected, may lead to more serious measures such as a resignation or physical altercation

Preventing crisis is ideal, thus proper conflict resolution is needed before misunderstandings and crisis can occur

Strategies for Handling Conflict
Different people handle conflict in different ways
As social workers, we will often act as a third party to help the service user resolve conflicts while being mindful of the service user's goals and relationship with the opposing party

Constructive Strategies
1. Problem Solving
2. Confirmation
3. Perspective-Taking

Destructive Strategies
1. Win/Lose Paradigm
2. Rejection
3. Avoidance

Why this topic?
Conflict resolution is a practice issue which frequently required in social work
For example, family violence, sexual assault, child/elder abuse, crisis intervention, working in groups, and even legislation
It is a skill that is often required, but rarely implemented effectively
Levels of Conflict
Managing Conflict

1. Fight or Flight
- this is considered a weak response, considering neither fight nor flight appropriately assess the conflict and provide a strategy for resolution

2. Negotiation
– this is considered a mostly positive response, considering the parties are willingly trying to resolve opposing interests, actively listening, and offering strategies for resolution

3. Mediation
– this is considered a very positive response, considering it is an extension of negotiation with a neutral third party

Setting the stage: genuinely committing to a mediation
Defining the issue: disclosing real concerns
Processing the issue: communication, active listening, empathy
Resolving the issue: mutual respect, measurable criteria for change

1. How have issues of conflict arisen in your placement or work experiences? Have you had to engage in conflict resolution or have you observed instances of conflict resolution? What level of conflict was present and what strategy was used to resolve the conflict? Was it effective?

2. The reading referenced negotiation and mediation as the most effective ways of resolving conflict. How often do you think conflicts are effectively handled in this way? What are the implications of the lack of effective negotiation and mediation, and do you have any examples? How can this effect employees, service users, and the functioning of organizations? Have you ever experienced or observed a lack of proper negotiation or mediation within your practice or even personal life? What were the implications?

Implementing effective conflict resolution can be an issue in practice, considering it requires a vast amount of skill and patience
In order to beneficially resolve conflict, constructive strategies must be used in order to avoid misunderstandings or crisis
As social workers, we will indefinitely experience cases involving conflict resolution which will challenge us, however; it is critical to address conflict resolution in a positive, constructive, and meaningful way
Criticism - Always think critically about structured information like this, who devised the levels and strategies for managing and understanding conflict? What is their social location? What specific types of people do their paradigms exclude?
Conflict resolution, although it can often be resolved through adequate mediation, is not a "one size fits all" practice issue

O'Hara, A. (2010). Understanding and managing conflict.
Skills for Human Service Practice: Working with Individuals, Groups and Communities,
pp. 183-198.
Conflict Resolution Through Management and Understanding
We can look at what happened to this woman, and notice that by choosing a destructive approach to conflict resolution (flight), she reached the 3rd and 4th stages of misunderstandings and crisis, resulting in homelessness
How could this conflict have been resolved effectively?

Managing Conflict
A constructive approach would have included calling CERA after the incident had occurred, in order to implement a construct approach to conflict resolution:

1. Calling CERA - Human rights advocacy, letters/phone calls to landlords, attempted negotiation
2. Landlord & Tenant Board Mediation - Process in which a legal representative mediates the issue between the landlord and tenant
3. Human Rights Tribunal - Legal hearing in which there is a court order to address the discrimination

Community Toolbox (2015). Training for conflict resolution.
Implementing Promising Community Interventions
. Retrieved from: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/provide-information-enhance-skills/conflict-resolution/main
To Be Clear...
Conflict Resolution
is a practice issue because it
occurs often
within social work practice, but is
rarely handled in an effective manner...

Consequently, this results in mismanaged and unresolved conflicts which continue to impact the life of the service user

It is our job as social workers to understand how to appropriately resolve conflicts!
Every conflict resonates within a unique context

Part of our role as social workers is to critically reflect on the conflict, practice active listening, and utilize our knowledge to fundamentally understand the conflict and implement an appropriate means of resolution
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