Seven Factors: Contributions to On-Going Conflict

Why some conflict is resolved easily while other situations continue?


1. Unwillingness to Resolve

If someone has a grudge they might prefer to maintain the conflict just to annoy the other person.  Alternatively, if the other person is their senior or has more power, they may feel that they will lose something when a solution is found.

2. Payoffs

We refer to a payoff when someone gains something from keeping the conflict going, such as entertainment value.   This may indicate the presence of a workplace psychopath in your office.

3. Poor Communication

Failure to communicate effectively can prevent stakeholders from understanding each other, or make them defensive and unwilling to attempt to solve the problem.  Communicating effectively will make a major contribution to the success of conflict resolution.

4. The Real Cause Not Being Addressed

Red herrings are used to throw stakeholders off identifying the underlying causes.  People will address side issues that may be easier to talk about rather than the real issue which may be too uncomfortable for them to address.

5. Unsatisfactory Solution

Sometimes the solution that is reached is satisfactory to some stakeholders but not to others.  In some cases a solution is imposed on those involved and is not welcomed by all parties.  The solution will therefore be temporary.  The real conflict has not been addressed, and is likely to reappear – possibly in a new form.

6. Emotions not Being Handled

Negative emotions and feelings are often a sign of conflict.  If feelings of frustration, fear and anger not acknowledged, these emotions are likely to grow.  Acknowledging each other’s emotions can help us communicate openly and to identify the real reason for the conflict.  Ignoring these feelings is unlikely to lead to an effective and lasting solution.

7. Lack of Confidence

It is quite common for people to avoid confronting an issue because they doubt their ability to be able to handle it effectively.  Sometimes this results from an unsuccessful attempt to resolve a conflict in the past.  Eighty percent of Australians would rather avoid conflict.  For many people, the lack of confidence comes from lack of skills and knowledge about how to resolve a conflict.