December 2014: Best Practices for Dealing with Conflict in Teams

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In this Issue

Opening Remarks

In this  holiday season focused on “peace on earth and good will to all,” many of us would settle for just a little more peace and good will at the office.  How can leaders make that a reality?  In this edition of Transforming Challenges, Senior Consultant John Reid offers five strategies for leaders to manage conflict in their teams.

At The Reid Group, we have a passion for helping leaders and organizations transform their challenges into opportunities to create a better world. One of the ways we do that is through this e-letter, Transforming Challenges. Is there someone you know who could benefit from receiving it? Forward this edition to them and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. They’ll thank you—and so do we!

The Reid Group News

  • John Reid and Carol Guenther are presenting “Tips for Managing Business and Family Conflicts” at Rotary Clubs in the Seattle area in December, January and February.
  • Maureen Gallagher will continue her work with the Humility of Mary religious community to assist the community in the implementation of their Living Document.
  • As we enter this holiday season, those of us at The Reid Group send our best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a joyful New Year!

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

The Reid Group teleseminar series

December 10, 2014:  Transform Conflicts into Opportunities for Growth
2 p.m. PT, 3 p.m. MT, 4 p.m. CT, 5 pm ET

During this teleseminar, participants will be provided a “best practice” top ten list of creative and constructive conflict management techniques. In addition, the session will also offer tips for practical ways to build on the momentum of the call through specific actions.

Are there issues or questions you would like to hear more about?  Send your comments and feedback to us at

Feature Focus

Peace on Earth?  How About Peace in the Office?  Best Practices for Dealing with Conflict in Teams


John Reid, Senior Consultant

In this, the season “to be jolly” and to pursue “peace on earth,” how many of us experience a truly jolly and peaceful environment in the workplace?

Not to downplay the importance of continually seeking a more peaceful world, but how about starting closer to home?   And outside of home, the place where many of us experience the most conflict on a daily basis is on the job.

The cost of conflict at work is no minor matter. Indeed, a study conducted in 2008 by CPP, Inc., publisher of the Myers-Briggs and Thomas Kilmann Confict Instrument, quantified just how negative the consequences of conflict in the workplace can be:

  • U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict – this leads to even more time in gossip, protecting turf and recruiting people to sides – all unproductive activities!
  • 25% of employees said that conflict leads to sickness
  • 10% said workplace conflict leads to project failure
  • Employee turnover is an absolute and costly result of workplace conflict. Replacing employees costs 150 to 200 percent more than that of the employee’s salary and benefits. That means losing even a mid-level employee making $30,000 a year could cost your company $70,000 or more to replace.

Much of this cost is not due to the existence of conflict itself, but to the effects of unresolved conflict. Many leaders, in both their professional and personal lives, prefer to ignore the presence of conflict and hope it will go away.  Mark de Rond, in an article in
the Harvard Business Review in July 2012 likened this strategy to managing by cappucino:  “Every time conflict rears its ugly head, people break for coffee, presumably in the hope that it will help restore harmony.”

We can probably agree that avoiding conflict only increases its toxicity-so don’t do that.  We can acknowledge, as de Rond does, that conflict is a fact of life, especially in groups of highly competent and engaged people.   And further, we recognize the need for individuals to deal with conflict directly with each other whenever and wherever possible. But what can leaders bring to the table when team members are in conflict?

Here are 5 suggestions:

Establish a healthy and respectful workplace environment
This is critical so that when conflicts arise, there is an environment already in place where colleagues are in the habit of listening to one another, honoring differences and acknowledging that there may be more than one right answer.

Model respectful communication
Leaders in any organization need to try and “practice what they preach” about the importance of effective communication. This usually involves communication that is open, honest, direct and appropriate. When leaders model this assertive and not aggressive behavior, it sets the norm for all other communications.

Acknowledge the “elephants in the room”
There will always be some hard to discuss or undiscussable issues in groups. As much as possible, these issues must be surfaced and then explored in a safe environment so that the group or department can move forward without ignoring key ideas or strategies or possibilities.

Follow the “Pebble, Rock, Boulder” approach
Because conflict is a normal and expected occurrence, it is important to have a plan in place to resolve or at least manage conflicts well. One strategy calls for everyone in a group to be able to name and deal with the “pebbles” or small conflicts early on. If the small conflicts are not addressed, they may become “rocks,” which are bigger and more challenging realities. If these are not addressed well, the rocks then become much more challenging as “boulders.”

Value and practice assertiveness
In the face of aggressive behavior (expressing one’s wants and needs without respecting the wants and needs of others) on the part of one or more colleagues, passivity invites more aggression, aggressiveness begets more aggression and assertiveness (expressing one’s wants and needs while respecting the wants and needs of others) defuses aggression.

Conflict can keep your team “on its toes.” With effective conflict management that encourages non-judgmental airing of all viewpoints, conflict becomes an opportunity to help team members see the value of understanding other viewpoints while clearly articulating their own.

As the song says, “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” We hope that one or two ideas from this article can help you bring even more peace and respect to your workplace. Happy Holidays – at home and at work!


The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

bookcoverweb2Organizations large and small, religious and secular, for-profit and not-for-profit, successful and unsuccessful, go through change. John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group have been instrumental in helping many groups discover the power of Prophetic Planning. This book presents a complete overview with detailed information that any organization will find useful in understanding how to plan for change.

The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning, and its companion CD are now available from Liguori Publications as well as from

And that’s it for this month. Look for Transforming Challenges next month–and until then, have a good day and a great week.Kathy Johnson, Editor, Transforming Challenges
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