Managing Conflict in the Workplace, Part Two

managing conflict in the workplace

This week’s episode is the continuation of our discussion of Managing Conflict in the Workplace with David Liddle, a thought leader in the areas of Organizational Dynamics, conflict resolution and Transformational Culture. He is the CEO of The TCM Group, and author of the book Managing Conflict: A Practical Guide to Resolution in the Workplace. In Part Two of the conversation, he explains:

  • The Six F's of Management Theory
  • The different stages of a conflict's lifecycle;
  • The benefits of mediation in managing workplace conflict; and
  • How to redesign conflict management in your workplace!

If you missed Part One, you can listen here!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 

The Six “F’s” Of Management Theory

  • Failure
    • Failure is a concept that many people fear, and while fear of failure can be a motivator for some, most let it eat away at them and let it discourage any leaps of faith or innovation.
    • When it comes to managing conflict in the workplace, fear of failure can cause leaders to shy away from correctly handling conflict, which in turn will just lead to more conflict.
  • Feelings
    • It is incredibly important leaders understand that it is ok and encouraged to ask their employees how they feel. This can mean asking how they are doing, how they are feeling about a certain subject, and in general. 
  • Fights
    • This centers around the “how” of managing conflict in the workplace: how do managers deal with conflict and how can those conflicts be resolved for all parties?
  • Flourish (one of the more positive “F” words!)
    • How do we create a situation where everyone can experience success and flourish together?
    • What does success look like?
  • Flow 
    • Is there a flow of empathy, dialogue, and engagement throughout the organization?
    • What about a flow of ideas, meaning, and purpose?
    • This flow can contribute to a sense of happiness and productivity for leaders and employees alike. 
  • Forgiveness
    • Forgiveness is all about accepting responsibility for what went wrong and moving forward from it. 
    • Forgiveness is also about distributing and accepting apologies when something goes wrong or there is a conflict.
    • The ability to move on and move forward is impossible without forgiveness.


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The Different Stages Of A Conflict’s Life Cycle

  • Pre-Conflict
    • This is an area in which managers struggle and could be more effective when it comes to managing conflict in the workplace.
    • Spotting budding conflicts and disagreements like breakdowns in communication, a system failure, a merger/acquisition, etc. is the key to avoiding conflict in the first place. 
    • Build conflict management systems as a predictive and proactive tool to prevent problems from escalating.
  • Middle Stages
    • This is typically where the situation becomes more damaging and the language becomes about right, wrong, win, lose, attack, and defend.
    • This is where we need our HR colleagues to step in and even senior managers to step in influence change through coaching, mentoring, and mediation.
  • Explosion/Implosion
    • This is the end stage of the conflict that everyone should seek to avoid, the stage where the conflict finally bubbles over into a very serious problem and all of the organization’s resources must be thrown at it in order to stop any catastrophic damage being done.

Benefits Of Mediation In Managing Conflict In The Workplace

  • Mediation is a powerful process that can have numerous positive effects for all involved.
    • For individuals it can:
      • Alleviate stress and trauma from the conflict
      • Help build stronger relationships with colleagues, family, and neighbors, and 
      • It can even reduce the stresses and strains conflict causes that hinder healthy sleep patterns and general well-being.
      • Mediation can also help to improve overall productivity following a conflict.
  • Mediation pulls us back to what is truly important: striving to achieve the personal, professional, and organizational goals an individual or organization sets out to accomplish.
  • There is also an alignment between organizational success and implementation of a mediation program.
    • When it comes to the labor market and the recruitment of talent, people will decide to work for organizations that will provide them with happiness and satisfaction, which can be difficult to achieve if leadership performs poorly in regard to managing conflict in the workplace.
  • Mediators are skilled at working through complexities and understanding different points of view.
  • We are more divided than ever both in society and in our workplaces and we need mediators to help resolve conflicts before they become serious issues.

What Can HR Professionals Do To Overhaul How They Are Managing Conflict In The Workplace?

  • The best place to start would be to consider your people and your values.
  • Once you have established your values, devise how to manage conflict in the workplace with those values always at the center of that management method. 
  • To help design this system, it is important to involve as many people as possible - meaning leadership, management, HR, union support, etc.
    • Each of these parties are involved in this process and they become stakeholders who can help align conflict management to the core values of each party and the organization as a whole.
  • Develop a “Triage Criteria”
    • Triage criteria are helpful when used as an assessment tool as part of your resolution strategy.
    • This involves looking at things like: How long has the situation been going on?, How complicated is it?, How serious is it?, What are the needs of the parties involved?, What is the risk to the organization?, etc.
    • Once those criteria have been established, each will be scored and then form an aggregate score. From that score, the resolution strategy will become clearer.
  • This process allows for HR to change some of the more “paternalistic” processes into ones that feel more level and fair.
    • Remove “finger-pointing” and punishments and replace them with the development of mutual understanding, which will help all parties involved to better manage conflict in the workplace.
  • While this approach may seem less action-oriented when it comes to conflict resolution, it is also important to develop actionable steps to follow this kind of strategy to ensure that the conflict does not occur again.
  • While it may be necessary in some situations, firing employees should be seen as a last resort when it comes to those action steps as the entire process should be geared more toward resolution rather than grievance and discipline. 
  • Mr. Liddle’s website provides detailed information on effective resolution frameworks and strategies.

The TCM Group

  • Mr. Liddle founded The TCM Group 20 years ago. It promotes and provides training, mediation, and consultancy for organizations along with providing a wide array of support systems:
    • They help HR, people professionals, and leadership rethink and reframe their internal systems and processes. 
    • They focus on transformational culture which allows organizations to develop a fair, just, inclusive, sustainable, and high-performing environment.
    • They also help leadership understand and utilize what Mr. Liddle calls the “three R’s of good leadership” - recovery, resilience, and resolution.
    • They offer training on mediation skills, a national certificate of workplace mediation, which is an accredited mediation skill training course. 
    • They provide the systems and processes that allow companies to imbed their own mediation systems in their respective workplaces. 
    • They also provide shorter courses on things like: mediation, negotiation, information and skills courses for managers and leaders, investigation skills, and more.
  • The TCM Group’s team consists of 40-50 mediators who work across the U.K. and, increasingly, overseas.

The TCM System

  • TCM stands for the Transformational Culture Model. In this model, everything centers around values, and from there the systems and processes branch out. 
  • Using an evidence-based approach to drive the transformational culture is imperative.
  • Shifting from “HR” to people and culture is another essential aspect of the TCM System.
  • The system is also focused on transformational leadership in which leaders are capable of resolving issues effectively.
  • Aligning employee experience and customer experience has a massive impact on the success of the TCM System.

Mr. Liddle’s Upcoming Book: Transformational Culture: Develop A People-Centered Organization For Improved Performance

  • Mr. Liddle’s new book is slated for a release in fall of 2021.
  • Through his work on managing conflict in the workplace, he has been able to gain insight on organizational culture and has developed some ideal strategies that work to help organizations better themselves. 
  • The “Transformational Culture” he is writing his book about is helping organizations create cultures that are fair and equitable. 
    • It also focuses on creating just organizations that hinge upon restorative justice that center upon values. 
    • Inclusivity is another prominent topic throughout. This is a culture where people can see each other for what they are and who they are while helping them to describe and utilize their “inner brilliance.”
    • Sustainability is a crucial aspect of Transformational Culture as well. 
    • Finally, driving high performance is important as one of the end goals of the implementation of Transformational Culture.

David Liddle Background


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