Navigating Change & Conflict

Sources of Conflict

by Tony DiLeonardi

Before I jump into ideas on how to handle conflict, it is imperative that you understand the sources of conflict. If you know the source of the conflict, chances are the more equipped you will be with managing the conflict. In the business world, I believe sources of conflict can be divided into two categories:  organizational factors and people factors.

First, let's consider organizational factors. As conflict exists in all organizations, I'd safely bet that from the list below, you've experienced each one at different points in your career:

-Lack of resources, lack of clarity (especially during change) and overregulation

-Unhealthy competition, perceived or real injustice  and lack of alignment

-Low interaction, differences in function, level and professional perspective

While the power to manage organizational conflict may be out of your control, the key is to focus on what can be controlled in the situation.  Also, remember that while the challenge may be internal, your goal should be to help resolve it before your clients feel the impact.

People factors are the sources of conflict that we generally have more influence over.  I  will break people factors into three categories.  The first, normal differences among people, has been well illustrated by a system William Marston developed in the 1920's. In general, most people are a combination of several styles, with strengths and challenges inherent in each one. The second area, perspectives and feelings, are emotion driven and generally occurs when a message is distorted or someone's selfishness impairs the relationship.  And third, interpersonal factors that span from lazy communications, power struggles to sender/receiver error.  Managing interpersonal factors is where your efforts can directly impact whether a difference in styles escalates into full-blown conflict.  

In my next post we'll talk more about working through conflict situations.