The aim in any organization is to reduce conflict as much as possible.  Remember that some conflict is necessary for creativity.  Identifying the stage of conflict will help you to decide when and how to manage the conflict.
We start with PRE-CONFLICT. Participants are probably not even aware of any conflict. They may feel uncomfortable with each other and may avoid each other.  However, there is no acknowledgement of any conflict – there may be a feeling of discomfort.
If something occurs that irritates the discomfort the conflict can rapidly move onto the AWARENESS stage.  Here, the conflict is expressed vocally – words may be exchanged.  Participants walk away feeling upset – the outcome will not be ideal – neither party will be satisfied.   If this stage is based on issues in the pre-conflict stage then this can indicate the probability of a much deeper problem.
Next we have the DANGER stage. Misunderstandings occur because of communication breakdown.  Anxiety and stress will aggravate the situation as participants dwell on the problem. They may actively look for ways to aggravate the relationship and the problem. Quick action may resolve the situation.
If it is unresolved, it will move into the OPENstage.  Conflict is starting to impact on the work situation. The original issues are probably forgotten in the negative relationship and the open hostility. It is hard to recognize what the original cause of the conflict.  Professional intervention and facilitation may be required.
The last stage is OUT OF CONTROL stage.  Conflict has reached a crisis level. Emotion is influencing attitudes. Others are being drawn into the conflict and it could be spreading.  The participants may even seem to be acting irrationally. Once conflict reaches this stage the situation may be beyond repair.
Not all conflict will go through these stages sequentially. Conflict may go through two or three stages or just one.  Being aware of these stages will assist you in putting into place appropriate strategies to manage the conflict.
Trish @ Trischel
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