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Quiz Yourself on How You Manage Conflict at Work

Would you like to improve your skills in managing conflict? Here are some questions that may provide insights into the professional and personal costs of continuing to manage conflict as you've always done it.

  • Is your method giving you the results you want?
  • Would you be eligible for more promotions if you improved in this area?
  • Would less work stress seep into your personal life if you managed conflict head-on - the way you handle other areas of your professional life?

Quiz yourself:

1. Do you avoid problems, hoping they will disappear on their own?

___ Often    ___ Very infrequently

2. Does your competitive spirit, which can be helpful in the work you do, spill over into interpersonal relationships and situations that require trust or teamwork?

___ Often    ___ Very infrequently

3. When you have a difference with a co-worker, do you give in "just to make life easier"?

___ Often    ___ Very infrequently

4. Do you wait for an emotionally charged situation to settle down before you respond?

___ Often    ___ Very infrequently

5. When someone seriously provokes you, do you keep your true feelings to yourself?

___ Often    ___ Very infrequently

6. After a conflict has ended, do you replay the incident over and over in your mind to figure out other ways to handle such a situation in the future? Do you criticize yourself for not handling it better this time? Do you have trouble letting it go?

___ Often    ___ Very infrequently

Your goal is to respond constructively to conflict often (or always) and respond destructively to conflict very infrequently (or never). Look at how you've rated yourself on a few constructive and destructive responses to conflict.

Considerations when you evaluate your responses:

1. Avoiding (destructive response). If the issues associated with a conflict are important to you and/or others, they won't slip quietly out the back door. Some factors may seem to shrink, but the real issues remain as roadblocks until they are addressed. Instead dissipating with time, unsolved problems usually get worse.

"Don't wait for your ship to come in - swim out to it." (Anonymous)

2. Winning (destructive response). A competitive, must-win strategy is very effective in some areas of work life. However, an absolute refusal to yield an inch during a conflict with a colleague or team member is damaging to the outcome and destructive to the working relationship. "Must-win" attitudes cause hurt, embarrassment, anger, and loss of good will and are highly ineffective in situations calling for trust and teamwork.

"One of the first principles of perseverance is to know when to stop persevering." (Carolyn Wells)

3. Yielding (destructive response). Giving in to another person just to avoid further conflict is not a constructive response. Conceding immediately sends a message of low self-esteem. Capitulating often comes from fear - of reprisal, escalation, losing control of one's emotions in public, others' disapproval - as well as from false hopes for a miraculous disappearance of the problem.

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." (Eleanor Roosevelt)

4. Delaying Response (constructive response). Rash acts and poor decisions can happen in the heat of a new conflict. It may be better to establish some psychological and even physical distance with a "time out" from the conflict. This does not mean opting out of the situation altogether. When calm (perhaps as soon as 20 minutes later), the parties may be emotionally ready to think logically toward achieving a real resolution.

"Time cools, time clarifies; no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours." (Mark Twain)

5. Expressing Emotions (constructive response). There is some value in not expressing all of one's emotional responses during a conflict, but hiding relevant feelings can be a stumbling block on the path to conflict resolution. Suppressed emotions can negatively affect job performance, relationships with co-workers, and loyalty to the organization. Pent up emotional reaction can have a negative personal effect as well, taking the form of depression, insomnia, headaches, and other emotional and physical ailments.

"Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologized for the
truth."
(Benjamin Disraeli)

6. Self-Criticism (destructive response). Honest and accurate self-appraisal can motivate change and self-improvement, boost self-esteem, decrease stress, and enhance job performance. But negative self-criticism is another story. The overly self-critical person fails to move on after a conflict is over. The result can be feelings of helplessness, impaired judgment, and poor decision-making. The overly self-critical person may keep a conflict alive in repeated attempts to resolve it "perfectly." Another caution: Those who tend toward self-criticism also may be too critical and demanding of others.

"Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose." (Anonymous)


For a thorough assessment and a full development guide to help you improve your conflict management skills, you may want to consider taking the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP)® . CDP (individual version) and CDP (360 version) are excellent professional development tools. Contact us for more details.


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