Conflict can be a major concern in both your personal and working life. Conflict, if not dealt with quickly, tactfully and efficiently, could lead to serious confrontation and/or a complete breakdown of relationships. It could even lead to violent and dangerous situations. A conflict could stem from a minor complaint that was not resolved and left to fester. This could then gradually grow into an insurmountable problem. A conflict can be as innocent as sibling rivalry; to a dispute with a customer or colleague over a product, service or procedure; to a war between countries in extreme cases.
As a supervisor there will be times, during the course of you working life, where you will have to deal with complaints and conflicts. Your successful handling of these situations will have a direct bearing on you and your organisation’s reputation for customer service and its continued success.
Identify conflict situations
There is a marked difference between a complaint and a conflict; complaints are generally short-lived in nature. A dissatisfaction is expressed and if resolved quickly will mostly be forgotten. A complaint, however, that is not resolved can easily turn into a conflict, as the cause of dissatisfaction has not been addressed and is left to simmer, and it then becomes a prolonged battle, struggle or clash that could, potentially, destroy an organisation.
Identify potential for conflict
A conflict does not happen suddenly; people do not go from calm and cool one moment to angry and aggressive the next; conflict builds. It may take hours, weeks or even years. However long the process takes, conflict theory suggests that there are always signs that a conflict is building and stages that it may go through. So in order to better understand the nature of conflict and its underlying causes we will spend some time, now, looking at thistheory.
Signs of conflict
As mentioned above, conflict does not come about in an instant; there will usually be underlying causes for it and the people involved with give off signals of dissatisfaction. These can be signs of a conflict brewing beneath the surface.
Early signs of conflict can include (but are not limited to):
Aggressive body language such as; narrowed eyes – trying to intimidate you; flared nostrils – a sure sign of building anger as the person takes a deep breath, either to control themselves or to go on the attack: stretched muscles in the face and jaw line – tightened in building anger and aggression: tapping fingers or feet – shows impatience
malicious or negative gossip among colleagues
difficulty in discussing an issue calmly and rationally
Tone of voice – indicating boredom, sarcasm, irritation
These are all signs of irritation, dissatisfaction or impatience. If you recognise any of these signs when dealing with a complaint or a conflict you should try to find out the reasons why the other person is starting to feel impatient or irritated. You can do this by asking relevant questions and listening carefully to their answers. In this way you may reach an understanding of the issue at hand and perhaps avoid escalating the situation.
If not recognised and acted upon these signs could then be followed by;