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Thrive to Global Human Captial

All conflict management research confirms that setting a safe environment is a critical element in successful management of conflict. In a safe environment, all participants believe they will be respected and treated fairly. The authors of Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace present a model that includes three different types of necessary trust.23 One is contractual trust or trust of character which is confidence in the intentions of others. The second is communication trust or trust of disclosures. In an environment with communication trust, everyone is comfortable that people will share information, be honest, and keep private information confidential. The final type is capability trust; when present, the participants have confidence in others’ abilities to deliver on promises. That model recognizes that trust can be harmed by betrayal, but also rebuilt.

Another description of a safe environment is one with mutual respect and mutual purpose.16 Mutual respect involves using a tone of voice and words and facial expressions that convey respect for others as human beings. Mutual purpose is having the common goal of problem solving. Although the first model may seem difficult to achieve in all situations, mutual respect and mutual purpose are basic required elements for an effective discussion of a conflict.

How does one establish a safe environment? The conversation must be held in a private, preferably neutral, setting with enough protected time for the discussion. Some experts suggest that a potentially neutral way to establish the goal of joint problem solving is to start the discussion by describing the gap between the expected and observed behavior. Other options include asking for permission to discuss a topic or beginning with the facts from your perspective or your observations. It sets the wrong tone to start the conversation with your conclusion, particularly if it is harsh. One should share all appropriate and relevant information and avoid being vague.16 Other tips to maintain a safe environment include asking open-ended questions, focusing initially on points of agreement and using “I” statements. Some examples of “I” statements are “I feel frustrated” and “I am concerned.” One must be aware of one’s body language as well as tone and volume of voice