Every workplace has conflict. We all see it, and at some point, we all feel its impact. The word conflict has a negative connotation for most people, but despite that feeling, not all conflict is bad. Most often, the problem arises when conflict is ignored and people just wish for it to go away on its own.
If you jump right to solving a problem before you fully understand it, you might miss the root cause or underlying issues. Because of this, effectively managing any conflict starts with fully diagnosing it. That’s where we’ll begin in this course. Professors Klingel and Nobles, both experts in conflict resolution from the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution at the School of Industrial Labor Relations, will help you master diagnosing conflict.
You’ll get a chance to map out a conflict in your own workplace in the course project. You’ll also spend time discussing your experiences and lessons learned with your peers. After completing the course, you’ll have the tools and skills to fully diagnose any conflict in your life. You’ll also be ready to determine if a conflict is worth addressing, which sets you up to successfully use a problem-solving approach to resolve a conflict. Please note that this course has been designed as a prerequisite to the companion eCornell course, "Applying a Problem-Solving Approach to Conflict".
When most of us face conflict, we often either avoid dealing with it, or we jump in and try to force a solution. These responses may be driven by a lack of comfort with or even a fear of conflict. Unfortunately, neither response is always correct, and neither approach should be the first step. Professors Klingel and Nobles will share how to overcome these instincts and successfully apply a problem-solving approach to conflict.
The first course in this series, “Diagnosing Workplace Conflict,” focused on fully diagnosing a conflict without jumping into problem solving. In this course, you’ll look at how to best handle a fully diagnosed conflict using a problem-solving approach. A common issue we’ll address is jumping to solutions before understanding the scope of the conflict and the needs that will have to be addressed to resolve it. Thus, you’ll begin by determining the scope. Depending on the scope you may move forward with the problem-solving approach, or, you may decide to let it go. The problem-solving approach, which consists of eight steps that can be broken down into three key elements, is the framework through which this course is taught. In the course project, you’ll practice applying this approach to a conflict of your choosing. The approach is intended to be used when solving conflict you are directly involved in. Despite this, we’ll offer practical advice on how you could adapt this for other use cases.
Sometimes there's a person, a situation, or an issue that really drives you crazy. Often, the only way forward is to face the issue head on by having a conversation about it with those involved. While that may sound simple, the situations are often emotionally charged, and people tend to avoid these conversations at all costs. Generally, issues that require these conversations don't rise to the level of a conflict and aren't considered performance issues, making it even harder for those involved to know how they should move forward.
Leading challenging conversations is about facing your discomfort and dedicating yourself to the conversation that needs to happen. You'll learn to identify issues that require a conversation, and to self check if you are the correct person to have the conversation. Once you've identified a conversation, you'll follow a process that helps you create a plan, conduct the conversation, and follow up.
Let's be clear, having a conversation doesn't automatically lead to a resolution. Not having a resolution can be frustrating for many of us, so it's important that you think about success as either fully resolving the issue or helping you identify a path for productively approaching the problem using tools that you have. In the course project, you'll identify a conversation in your workplace, create a plan, practice having the conversation, and determine the appropriate next steps. Professor Nobles will guide you on how to do this using proven strategies and a refined process. This course focuses on conversations you'll have, not coaching others to have these conversations. However, the process that is taught can be shared with peers as they face situations requiring challenging conversations.
Interpersonal communication is built on the bedrock of confidence, presence, social and emotional intelligence, and being open with others and yourself. This course will cover all of these dimensions, including how they play into your management style and your workplace actions like holding difficult conversations.
Professor Pam Stepp, Ph.D., of Cornell University’s ILR School will guide you as you discover how interpersonal communication will impact your team. In the course project you will assess yourself and others on the aforementioned key dimensions. You will reflect on your past performance, analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and determine an actionable plan for future performance.
Managers must foster a good workplace atmosphere and be able to deal effectively with behavior issues as they arise. Doing so improves productivity and employee engagement and helps an organization avoid costly legal liability.
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