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Fitness building for executive leadership

Dialogue and peaceful transformation of conflicts

Conflict is natural part of life. Conflicts often arise within organisation at many levels: between individuals and between teams or units. If addressed constructively and cultivating dialogue, conflicts can be opportunities for personal and organisational learning and growth. Below are a few proposals which could contribute to an organisational culture based on dialogue and positive transformation of conflicts.

Creating a Code of Conduct

A code of Conduct is a set of conventional principles and expectations outlining a range of social norms, rules and responsibilities that are considered binding by the individuals that are part of an organisation or a group. Develop a Code of Conduct or ethical guidelines which show awareness and commitment to peace values applied to internal practices. These document(s) should guide all aspects of the organisation’s work and their projects.

Ideally it would include the following aspects:

  • Written commitment to a culture of dialogue
  • Written commitment to internal conflict transformation procedures
  • Procedural guide for conflict transformation in the organisation
  • List of resources on and conflict transformation, dialogue processes, nonviolent communication, etc.

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Reviewing an existing code of conduct

Promote a culture of dialogue and the ability to transform (internal) conflicts

Promoting a culture of dialogue and abilities to transform conflicts constructively requires working on developing peace knowledges, attitudes and skills. For example, these may include the following:

Knowledge

  • Knowledge of the social, cultural, political and economic context of the organisation and the background of the team members
  • Knowledge of languages
  • Knowledge of peacebuilding and conflict transformation literature

Skills

  • Respect for the opinion of others
  • Honesty
  • Responsibility

Attutudes

  • Critical analysis
  • Conflict analysis
  • (non-violent) communication
  • Mediation and negotiation
  • Leadership and participatory management

Strategies for conflict transformation in organisations

A strategy to transform an internal conflict needs to be based on an in-depth understanding of the conflict. Conflicts can be between individuals, between teams or departments, or even among organisations which are part of a federation or network.

Possible sources of conflict

  • Different goals. Conflicts over goals in individual work units are a natural part of any organisation, but depends how they are handled/transformed.
  • Interdependence of work. Refers to the degree of which departments rely on each other for information, compliance, assistance or resources.  It could also refer to the degree to which employees are dependent on each other and interfere each other’s work.
  • Ambiguous rules and misunderstanding of information. Job specifications and task responsibilities are vague and/or unclear. There could be disagreement regarding responsibilities for tasks and resources. This could lead to conflicts between managers and other members.
  • Incompatible personalities. Two or more people do not get along or have differences in personality, attitudes, values, and beliefs.
  • Power dynamics and differences in status. One member questions the influence of another member. Conflict could escalate because of somebody challenging the status quo and trying to increase their own power or status in an organisation.
  • Communication Breakdown. Could arise from lack of or poor opportunities to communicate, insufficient communication skills, different perception of conflicts
  • Scarce Resources. Groups, teams or departments could compete for scarce or declining resources including money, supplies, people or information.
  • Competitiveness in the organisational structure/practices. Conflicts may surface because of the focus on competitive performance.
  • Lack of accountability. No one is willing to take responsibility for problems when they arise.
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One useful method to address conflict is mediation/facilitation of dialogue. Here are some basic basic tips that you can use within your organisation:

  • Understand the conflict. Before you engage, make sure all the perspectives of the issue have been taken into account.
  • Acknowledge the problem. Perceptions on the issue may vary across various members. Acknowledge the frustrations, grievances and concerns from the start.
  • Be patient and take time. Take time to evaluate all information. Thoroughly evaluate your decisions before your act upon them and ensure you are not creating more harm.
  • Focus on the problem, not the person. Avoid passing judgement of people based on your preconceived ideas. Focus on identifying and resolving the conflict, not on changing the person.
  • Set conflict transformation guidelines. Before announcing a formal meeting between the parties in conflict, have them all agree to a few guidelines. Guideline may involve a certain communication process, restorative practices, reconciliation measures.
  • Keep the communication open. Ideally all parties involved should resolve the issue among themselves. Allow all parties to express their points of view, but also share your personal opinion. Facilitate the meeting by supporting them to identify root cause of the conflict