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Dealing with Conflict

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As a coach conflict can arise from learners, fellow coaches and other stakeholders.
A certain amount of conflict can be useful and may be unavoidable.

A level of turbulence is often necessary to bring out the best in people.

The question is: how much conflict is too much? When does conflict become unhealthy, counter-productive or destructive? This may seem difficult to answer, but the signs are always there if you watch out for them

‘Positive’ conflict
Conflict is healthy if it is good-natured bantering, or reasoned argument.
Conflict is productive if it results, sooner or later, in issues being resolved.
Conflict can be constructive if it allows people to release their feelings and express what they really feel.

‘Negative’ conflict
It is unhealthy if a great deal of heat is being raised, resulting in people being seriously upset, angry, or even physically hurt.
It is counter-productive if it means that people are at loggerheads, and neither side is prepared to give way.
It will usually be destructive if it causes some people to clam up and hide their feelings.

There is no doubt that when serious or aggressive interpersonal conflict arises – between individuals, or between opposing sides – it should be stopped as soon as possible.

As the coach you will need to:

 inform team members of the standards of work and behaviour that is expected of them. There are many ways to do this, and the method you use may vary according to the individual concerned.

One of the best ways is by example: your behaviour, your work standards and the kind of language you use, must be at least at the level you expect others to strive towards.

 make sure that team members have the opportunity to discuss problems that arise, in confidence if necessary.

 take prompt action to deal with serious conflict.

 keep your manager informed, particularly when serious conflict arises.

Should conflict result in disciplinary action having to be taken, you must of course follow your organisation’s policies, and keep within the law. Proper records must also be kept.

Conflict is unavoidable in organisations. Conflict in assessment practices can end up in a court case.

The following checklists developed by Derek Rowntree draw attention to the symptoms and causes of conflict in general and suggest what you can do to manage conflict effectively.

As an coach you might find it useful to customise this checklist to your organisation