Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. It is present everywhere and can occur at any time, especially in an environment where different people have individual beliefs and mentalities. That is why knowing the stages of conflict management is essential for work and even personal situations.
Stages of Conflict and Its Management
There are five stages of conflict management. They follow a sequence that starts from the presence of conflict, the perception of it, up until it fully manifests externally and affects the environment.
Here are the five stages in detail:
In the latent conflict stage, conflict is already present in the situation, but the people involved are still unaware of it. It may be the lack of resources, differences in cultures, language barriers, and many other factors that can be a foreseeable conflict source.
Management of conflict in the latent conflict stage is not always done simply because of the lack of “symptoms” that need treatment. If people don’t see or feel any friction between team members, what is there to discuss?
However, if you want to prevent or minimize conflict in the long term, the latent conflict stage is the perfect opportunity to do so. Nip things in the bud, if you may.
It does not have to be anything grand. A simple sit-down discussing how each team member is different is a good start. You do need to have a good eye and become the devil’s advocate to pinpoint the possible trenches of conflict that your team might fall into down the road.
In this stage of the conflict, the persons involved become aware or begin to perceive the conflict’s presence. Usually, the person who first enters into the perceived stage of conflict is the aggrieved party. In other words, the most negatively affected person in the conflict gets to feel it first.
Moving into this stage of conflict management is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the first step to resolving a problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem. In a way, if you try to manage conflict in the perceived stage, you have already crossed out the first step.
The primary thing to note in the perceived stage is that all parties involved must be on the same level. Conflict resolution requires that everyone involved knows that there is a problem. If the other party has not reached perception, it is up to the conflict management person or team to bring them up to speed.
The “felt” stage in conflict management is like the looming dark cloud before a heavy downpour. In this stage of the conflict, tension arises. The presence of stress and anxiety has effects throughout the involved parties.
Conflict is one of those things that cause a lot of stress in the workplace. The felt stage can build up a lot of this stress and anxiety. That is why it is perhaps the most crucial of all stages.
Letting things simmer and build up for prolonged periods can result in a more significant and more damaging fallout. Picture it as an escalation of the conflict. The longer you let it climb, the higher and stiffer the resulting fall will be.
Under fortunate circumstances, the stress and anxiety will be enough for the aggrieved party to verbalize to concerned people who have the skills to handle workplace conflicts such as human resources or management. External intervention can then help all persons involved in the conflict to be in the loop about the issue. Then conflict resolution can follow in a healthy manner.
If the conflict was not addressed at the “felt” stage, it could then manifest conflict. This is the most explosive among the stages of conflict management because manifest conflict is the point where the proverbial cup overflows.
At some point during the accumulation of stress and anxiety, an event triggers one or all involved parties to explode with their grievances. Without intervention and objective discussion, things can take a sour turn.
In the workplace setting, people may try their hardest to be civil with each other despite the conflict. For this reason, a scandalous face-to-face altercation is unusual and quite extreme. However, the conflict in the “manifest” conflict stage can still come out and be observable in emails, phone calls, side remarks during meetings, messages, or any situation wherein the conflict is clearly palpable.
The aftermath of conflict happens after its manifestation, or at any point after an intervention. The conflict either dies down, gets resolved, or is put on hold.
Depending on the resolution, the aftermath conflict either gets fully resolved, or some amount of conflict remains. If one of the parties feels that the solution is a win-lose situation with them on the losing end, this can result in feelings of resentment. Further down the road, this resentment can build up again into another conflict.
That is why it is crucial to come up with resolutions that place both parties in a winning or at least a neutral position. It is also essential to check in on the conflict’s status after the resolution during the aftermath. You need to assess if the strategies employed for managing conflict remain effective.
You need a good sense of awareness when going through the stages of conflict management. Whether you are part of the persons involved in the conflict or the mediator, being familiar with the stages of conflict management can help you predict what happens during the conflict, where it begins, when you need to do something about it, and what skills you need to do so.
If you want to learn more about conflict management, check out Conflict Management in the Workplace from Skill Success. It is an online course that you can take anytime and anywhere, so you can improve your conflict management skills through knowledge and techniques from skilled experts.
Ready to learn how to effectively handle conflict? Click here to get started.