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The Role of a Leader in Conflict Resolution in the Workplace


TheRole of a Leader in Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Roleof a Leader in Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Conflictis inevitable in the work environment. Employees can differ withtheir colleagues and the management because of diverse issues. Someof the clashes are associated with the workplace while others mayarise from non-work related issues. Imperatively, the existence ofconflicts in the workplace is not a bad thing. In fact, a conflictthat is resolved successfully leads to the elimination of many hiddenorganizational problems. Furthermore, effective conflict resolutionleads to increased understanding, better group cohesion and improvedpersonal knowledge on one’s goals and expectations (Barbuto,Phipps, &amp Xu, 2011). The role of a leader is essentiallyimportant and fundamentally required in the midst of conflict in theworkplace. In other words, leaders, whether managers, CEOs,supervisors or HR managers cannot run away from theirresponsibilities in conflict management (Montes, Rodríguez &ampSerrano, 2012). The purpose of this term paper is to discuss andevaluate the role of a leader in conflict resolution in theworkplace.

Theexistence of conflicts in an organization can damage the motivationof the workforce hence causing anger and frustration (Montes, et al.2012). Most conflicts emerge when people work in teams. This isbecause they have to collaborate and interact in order to meet theset objective. While some conflicts are natural and necessary toproduce innovative solutions, others tend to be detrimental to theorganization. In order for an employee to engage in meaningfulcommunication with other team members, a leader must play his or herrole to ensure that a sufficient resolution is obtained for thebenefit of an organization, its performance, image and long-termsustainability. Imperatively, a leader or manager must assume therole of a mediator to resolve such occurrences.

Accordingto Curseu (2011) leaders must support the talents of the workforce.Conflict emerges when talented employees compete with each other. Inorder to resolve such conflicts, a good leader should tap intodifferent talents without upsetting the egos of other employees. Eachperson in the organization is guaranteed a role in the operations. Asa leader, the capabilities of each individual should be aligned withthe goals and objectives of the organization. Different talents andabilities are bound to clash, but as a leader, one should resolvethis amicably by using the varying individual skills andpersonalities in an inclusive manner.

Glenn(2014) asserts that leaders can only be respected when they actresponsibly. In addition, leadership should not be viewed as apopularity contest but as an enormous responsibility that involvesthe development and guidance of the full potential of employees,teams, and an organization as a whole. Part of the process ofresolving wrangles in the organization is identifying the source ofconflict. A leader should therefore quickly deal with the origin ofthe conflict. This will diffuse the problem before a healthy tensionturns into a disruptive debacle for the organization. Leaderstherefore, must not adopt avoidance mechanisms aimed at escapingtheir responsibilities. They should also not allow tension to disruptthe harmony within the workplace and lower productivity amongemployees. Glenn notes that leaders in their efforts to create peaceat work, they end up creating artificial and less trustingenvironments for employees (Llopis, 2014). Such leaders are moreconcerned about being popular and praised as opposed to getting anegative reputation or into situations that may expose theirleadership weaknesses (Montes, Rodríguez &amp Serrano, 2012).Imperatively, leaders cannot turn a blind eye on conflict since theyhave a responsibility to manage the organization. Part of the leadingprocess is the creation of harmony, understanding and positiveculture amidst conflicts.

Modelsthat Outline the Role of Leaders in Conflict Resolution

Leaderscan realize their role in effective conflict resolution by applyingexisting models, theories and approaches. They also need to developeffective conflict resolution skills so as to build sustainablebusiness models. Leaders should also understand that good conflictresolution leads to employee retention and better cooperation(Shetach, 2012). They must learn how to minimize and preventconflicts not because conflicts are unhealthy but because they tendto be disruptive, costly, and time-consuming. Furthermore, recoveringfrom them may take quite a while for an employee or organizationleading to decreased work output.

TheThomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)

Oneof the tools leaders can use is the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict ModeInstrument (TKI). The TKI tool assesses an individual’s typicalbehavior in conflict circumstances. The tool describes their behavioralong two essential dimensions assertiveness and cooperation(Thomas, 2013).Therefore, the tool allows leaders to understand how interpersonalgroup dynamics affect conflict handling approaches or styles. It alsoallows the managers to make informed decisions about the selection ofthe most appropriate style in their bid to resolve conflicts in theworkplace (Montes, et al. 2012). Using the model, leaders can manageconflicts in a competitive way, by using their positions, expertiseor persuasive ability to exercise control over their subordinates.Competition as a conflict approach works in emergency situationswhere decisions need to be made quickly. However, competition is anineffective way of managing a conflict and leaders can only beeffective when they take their time to get input from theirsubordinates and thereby avoid behaving in a manner that maydemonstrate either a win or loss when solving conflict(Thomas, 2013).

Aleader may pursue a collaborative approach by striving to create awin-win or loss-loss situation at the workplace when conflict arises.While leaders and their subordinates may encourage cooperation, theyalso need to understand that it takes time, resources and energy toget to a compromise. Collaboration works when leaders take aparticipative leadership style and foster a cooperative environmentthat allows employees to function as teams(Thomas, 2013).Again, leaders who use this model take quick and corrective steps toresolve disagreements and help their team members develop tonecessary skills to resolve conflicts on their own without theintervention of the management.

Leaderscan also take a compromised position where both parties to a conflictgive up to let the other side win. Resolving conflict is a give andtake scenario(Thomas, 2013).Imperatively, a leader will demonstrate their effective role in aconflict resolution when they encourage their team members to acceptconcessions where necessary so as to maintain a certain level ofproductivity than to continue debating or arguing over an issue.Using this approach, such leaders help their members to overcomeinterpersonal conflicts and promote acceptance of diversity inculture, experience and opinion.

Agood leader should also be able to find common ground between two ormore warring employees and provide an amicable solution to theproblem. Sessions in which different employees seek problems forvarious issues. For example, brainstorming is one vital part ofturning and redirecting hitherto unproductive arguments and conflictsto the benefit of the organization. A good leader should be able tocapitalize on this and grow the company positively.

Leadersshould consider the use of a third party approach in coming up withamicable solutions to conflict. A leader should accept and realizethat some issues are beyond their control and a new participant orthird party individual can be a prolific solution to resolvingconflicts in the organization. This should not be seen as a weakness,but rather, consultation in some instances should be encouraged. Forinstance, a leader can consult an employee who is impartial and notinvolved in the conflict. This will ensure that he/she gets anunbiased viewpoint of resolving the problem.

Furthermore,a leader must be willing to sacrifice their needs and desires forothers involved in a conflict. Such leaders pursue accommodation ofthe perspectives of others, as opposed to their own. When stakes arelow, leaders choose to accommodate the divergent views for the sakeof productivity, cohesion and better understanding at the workplace(Thomas, 2013).However, leaders must be cautious, especially in situations whereindividual team members take advantage of those who are not assertivein their actions and opinions. Dictatorial tendencies should howevernot be encouraged. Therefore, effective conflict resolution based onaccommodation allows leaders to monitor their team members and theirenvironment and provide coaching and mentorship avenues so that theyfunction in a productive manner and not at the expense of others.

Also,leaders can avoid conflict in several ways, especially when emotionsare high. Controversial or unpopular decisions in an organization cancreate conflicts. However, effective leadership must resist thetemptation to ignore or avoid the conflict. Instead, a leader mustdefine the root cause of the problem, encourage active listening, andnegotiate a viable resolution. Popular vote aimed at coming up withproper solutions to different problems should be perceived andencouraged in order to maintain harmony among conflicting parties(Thomas, 2013). Furthermore, they must ensure that conflictingparties can forgive each other once the conflict has been resolved soas a productive team can be fostered(Curseu, 2011). Again, effective leaders understand that delegating conflictresolution to a third party, for example, a mediator, is an efficientway in emotive situations so that the disagreeing parties can gainconfidence in the process. Delegation though seen by some as anon-passive approach of problem-solving, it has demonstrated in manyinstances to be the most pragmatic approach to solving problems whendealing with varying personalities and in the long-run maintaining asense of respect and responsibility.

Interest-BasedRelational Approach

Basedon that premise, leaders can use the interest-based relationalapproach to solving a conflict. According to the approach, leadersmust seek to separate people and their emotions from the problem.They must ensure that team members build mutual respect andunderstanding. Team members should be encouraged to create a workenvironment in which ultimate concentration breeds top notchproduction and in turn conducive social skills and partnerships Basedon the approach, leaders are expected to solve conflicts in a unitedand cooperative way(Fisher, Ury &amp Patton, 2011).The model, developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury postulates thatthe role of a manager is not simply to resolve a conflict but toensure that members of a team feel respected, understood and that asa leader, you appreciate their different perspectives on thesituation. Using the approach, a leader must focus on courteous andconsensual behavior so that others can do the same. The leader’spriority must be to enable each side to develop an understanding ofthe other’s position and encourage both sides to reach a consensus(Fisher, et al. 2011).


Leadersplay a critical role in resolving organizational conflict directlythrough their intervention and leadership style. In their directrole, based on the nature of the conflict, they can exhibit anddemonstrate conflict management styles to realize the expectedoutcomes. These leaders may employ different styles in the resolutionof a conflict. They may use competition, integration, compromise,accommodation, controlling or avoidance styles to solve a conflict.However, they must understand that they play a critical andfundamental role in resolving any conflict in the workplace. Theymust demonstrate tolerance and apply personal skills so as to achievetheir desired results in such situations. They must seek the best outof a conflict for their team members. In conclusion, leadershipinvolves defining and communicating a firm’s long-term vision andmission. A leader in an organization must lead by example byarticulating what is needed in the realization and achievement of apeaceful work environment. Again, a transformative leader nurturesothers and builds teams that work together. Moreover, a leader mustfacilitate conflict resolution as wrangles and contentions distractteam members, and reduce productivity.


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MountainView.CA: CPP Inc.