Conflict Competence through policy development. Photo by cowomen-unsplash

#97 Support Conflict Competence With Policy Development

What policies will support an organization in gaining conflict competence? Firstly, there has to be a conscious decision by leadership that it would like personnel to be effective in dealing with conflict, and an intention to take concrete steps to make that happen. Without such a deliberate direction, policy development will not be culturally supported in the organization.

The intention and conscious direction could be expressed as follows. Personnel are expected to cooperate with each other and work with the differences they encounter in areas of overlapping responsibility. This means working with others they may think are incompetent, others they may have disagreements with, or others they may find pushy or avoidant.  They are expected to make progress with their conflicts. 

Conflict Competence through policy development. Photo by cowomen-unsplash

Generating such an organizational capability may be a significant culture change; if so, this requires acknowledgment. To be conflict competent becomes a long term strategic initiative that needs to be tracked and given continuing energy and evaluation over time. It is imperative that leadership enthusiastically endorses and models it for others. And it is imperative that personnel at all levels are involved in developing the vision and strategies for change.

Assuming such an intention and direction have been reached, how does one then craft policy that supports this desired change? Here are three areas of policy development to consider.

Professional development, performance reviews, and hiring to support conflict competence

Conflict engagement and resolution capabilities can be enshrined in professional development plans and performance feedback. Evaluation criteria for these can be generated, for example:

  • Works to repair bruised or damaged relationships
  • Seeks informal partnership arrangements that enhance productivity
  • Communicates dissatisfactions and expresses them as observations rather than judgements or evaluations
  • Tolerates value differences and personality differences in others
  • Works to deepen understandings when differences with others arise
  • Helps manage conversational processes during meetings
  • Makes use of differences as sources of innovation 
  • Easily takes responsibility for their role in non-constructive statements, aggravating responses and troubled relationships
  • Attempts to generate collaborative or compromise-based resolutions before becoming authoritative, accommodating, or disengaging

Similar expectations regarding collaboration and conflict competence should be stated during the hiring process. Prospective employees can be questioned about their attitude and past experiences with conflict, and an assessment of conflict competence should be a criterion in deciding whether to hire someone. 

Educational support for all, and coaching for individuals as needed

This character of personal development expectation for the workplace is quite a tall order. On a practical level, personnel require two types of developmental support: firstly, training for everyone in conflict competence, and secondly, individual coaching where it is warranted. 

Dispute resolution services

Additionally, expecting two people to always be able to sort out differences on their own is not realistic. Third-party support for mediation and facilitated group processes should also be available – possibly from supervisors or designated internal mediators. Note that the expectation of resolution remains. The organization provides assistance to parties, who are expected to embody collaborative attitudes and undertake the required work. 

In conclusion

Policy development is supportive of and probably necessary in the development of conflict competence, but on its own, it’s not sufficient for the required transformation. As stated at the top, leadership must get behind a cultural change and model new behaviours on a day-to-day basis. 

In blog post #93 I outlined eight dimensions of leadership that empower a leader to be effective in conflict. This post expands on the fourth dimension of leadership in conflict – policy development.

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