" The aim of argument, or of discussion, shouldn't be victory , but progress "
Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist and essayist
How good are you at managing conflict? Answer the questions in this quiz. Then check your score. Compare with a partner.
You are in a meeting. People cannot agree with each other. Do you:
a) do nothing?
b) intervene and propose something new?
c) take sides with those you like?
d) suggest a 10-minute break?
Your two closest friends have an argument and stop speaking to each other. Do you:
a) behave as though nothing has happened?
b) bring them together to discuss the problem?
c) take the side of one and stop speaking to the other?
d) talk to each one separately about the situation?
You see two strangers. One begins to hit the other. Do you:
a) pretend to be an off-duty police officer and ask them what is going on?
b) call the police?
c) shout at them to stop?
d) walk away quickly?
Your neighbours are playing very loud music late at night. Do you:
a) ask them to turn it down?
b) do nothing?
c) call the police?
d) play your own music as loudly as possible?
You are in the check-in queue at an airport. Somebody pushes in. Do you:
a) ask them to go to the back of the queue?
b) say nothing?
c) complain loudly to everyone about people jumping queues?
d) report them to an airport official?
A colleague criticises your work. Do you:
a) consider carefully what they say?
b) ignore them?
c) get angry and criticise them?
d) smile, but wait for an opportunity to take revenge?
Use a dictionary to help you if necessary.
Complete the 'noun' and 'adjective' columns of this chart with the correct word forms.
Complete these sentences with one of the adjectives below
Listen to the first part of an interview with Eileen Carroll, from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, and answer these questions.
1 When was the centre founded?
2 Where is it located?
3 What does it do?
4 How many mediators has it been involved in training?
Listen to the second part, where Eileen talks about the commonest causes of conflict at work, and complete this extract from the audio script.
The key problem is inappropriate 1 or no 2• So I would say, avoidance, so that managers are not 3 with their employees as effectively as they might.
There's a lot of European legislation now around the areas of sex discrimination and 4· work practices, and this does lead to a lot of controversy in the 5 .
I think other areas are: clash of personalities, 6 , different belief systems, and interestingly, I think a lot of 7 feel that their workloads can be very oppressive.
Listen to the final part and complete these notes on how to resolve business disputes.
When does joking or teasing become bullying?
In pairs, think of as many sources of conflict at work as you can.
EXAMPLES: poor time-keeping - interrupting people in meeting
Read the article and answer these questions.
Intervening quickly in cases of conflict
Managers should be sensitive to when teasing starts to become hurtful . They should be prepared to step in and have a quiet word with the team members involved. The manager should inform those involved that, while plenty of communication is encouraged, it 's important that there is respect for other people and that certain standards of behaviour are expected at work. The manager should have noted examples of the types of behaviour or language that have been used that are inappropriate at work, so that those involved will understand what is unacceptable. It's much easier to have this conversation as soon as a manager starts to have concerns about behaviour or early signs of conflict - to prevent habits from being formed and to ensure that the manager is taken seriously.
It's much more difficult to be respected if a manager appears to accept certain behaviour by letting a situation continue for weeks or months.
Dealing with conflict directly Taking action to manage conflict can appear quite worrying to some managers, but it ' s an essential part of their role and responsibilities . If managers ignore unacceptable behaviour, problems will get worse until the disciplinary process has to be used or a formal complaint is made, by which time it will be much harder to achieve a successful resolution. Some potential sources of conflict at work are obvious, such as: too much personal use of the Internet or e-mail; poor attendance and time-keeping; any form of bullying behaviour; any form of discrimination (e.g. sexism); unacceptable language; theft; drink or drug problems .
However, frequently it is the less obvious behaviour that over time. if so not confronted, will lead t o workplace disputes. Examples of less obvious types of dispute include:
• taking credit for other people's work or ideas;
• interrupting people in meetings;
• not inviting team members to social evenings or events;
• not covering for people when they are sick;
• not taking messages for people;
• using someone else's contacts without permission;
• not including people in group e-mails;
• ignoring people or being impolite;
• poor personal hygiene.
Managers should not ignore problems that are developing in their teams. It 's vital that line managers have regular, informal , one-to-one conversations with the people they manage, so that these kinds of issues can be discussed naturally where possible.
However, managers must also be prepared to begin informal discussions if they think a problem is starting to develop. Conflict at work can lead to absences, so return-to-work interviews so are a l so a good opportunity for managers to ask questions about any conflict issues that might be worrying employees.
Read the article and answer these questions.
1 What should managers do when teasing starts to become hurtful?
2 Why should managers note examples of inappropriate behaviour or language?
3 Why should managers get involved as soon as conflict develops?
4 What happens if managers ignore conflict and poor behaviour?
5 What are the advantages of return-to-work interviews?
Find words in the article that mean the opposite of these words.
1 appropriate 2 acceptable 3 polite 4 formal
Discuss these questions.
1 Have you ever been involved in any of the examples of conflict listed in the article? How did/would you feel?
2 What behaviour at work do/would you find inappropriate or unacceptable?
3 How would you deal with these problems?
• First conditional
if+ present simple, will + infinitive without to
This describes a possible situation and its probable result.
If he bullies anyone again, he'll lose his job.
If sales increase, we'll make more profit.
• Second conditional
if+ past simple, would + infinitive without to
This describes an unlikely situation and its probable result.
If he made more eye contact, he'd be a better negotiator.
• Conditionals and negotiating
Conditionals are often used when negotiating. We use conditionals for offers.
If you sign the contract today, we'll give you a 10% discount. (firm offer)
If you ordered 100 cases, we'd give you a larger discount. (less firm offer)
SKILLS : Negotiating: dealing with conflict
SKILLS : Negotiating: dealing with conflict
Which of these are good ways of dealing with conflict in a negotiation?
1 Avoiding eye contact.
2 Smiling a lot.
3 Sitting back and appearing relaxed.
4 Stopping the discussion and coming back to it later.
5 Saying nothing for a long time.
6 Saying 'I see what you mean'.
7 Finding out why the other side is unhappy.
8 Focusing on the issues, not on personalities.
9 Saying something humorous.
10 Speaking calmly and slowly.
Rachel, an American executive, works i n a sales office in Geneva, Switzerland. She is negotiating a salary increase with Scott, a director of the company.
1 What do these figures refer to? a) $60,000 b) $120,000
2 List the arguments that:
a) Rachel uses to get an increased salary;
b) Scott uses to avoid paying her the salary she asks for.
3 What solution do they finally agree on?
Listen again and complete these extracts.
1 I think I'm a lot more than that to the company. My work's greatly undervalued at the moment.
2 I've done really well in the last two years. I've exceeded my by almost 40% ...
3 Put yourself in our shoes. We're facing a difficult situation, you know that.
4 OK, I understand what you're • I can see your point of •
5 Let me suggest a • How about if we give you a n increase to, say, $80,000 now and promise to review your salary in six months' time?
6 I'm pleased to hear it. I think we've everything.
Work in pairs. Role-play this situation.
A marketing executive meets the General Manager to discuss an overseas posting. The marketing executive has not been chosen for the position and is very unhappy.
You are the marketing executive. When you joined the company, your boss promised that you would be sent on an overseas posting after one year. He also told you that you would get an excellent bonus and a luxury car for business and personal use. You are very unhappy indeed for these reasons:
• You were not selected for a recent posting to Argentina (a colleague from the Spanish subsidiary was chosen instead).
• You have been given a middle-of-the range car.
• Your bonus was 50% less than you expected.
Persuade your boss that you've been unfairly treated. Try to negotiate a better deal with him/her.
You are the General Manager. Your company is going through a difficult financial period. You have been told to keep costs as low as possible. You know that the executive is very unhappy for these reasons:
• They were not chosen for an overseas posting in Argentina.
• They have to use a middle-of-the-range car.
• They received an end-of-the-year bonus which was below their expectations.
Persuade the executive that they have been treated fairly. These are your reasons for the decisions:
• The executive was not fluent enough in Spanish for the overseas posting.
• They need more training in teamwork skills before being posted overseas.
• Only senior executives are given top-of the-range cars for work and private use.
• All members of staff received small bonuses because of the financial situation.