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Managing Conflict: The Key to Organisational Change Success



Managing Conflict: The Key to Organisational Change Success

Do you move towards conflict or run away at the first sign? 

Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of any organisation. In fact, recent studies(1) show that over 35% of organisations report experiencing conflicts on a regular basis.

This is not surprising, given that organisations today are more complex and diverse than ever before. With different personalities, values and goals working together, it is only natural that conflicts will arise.

However, while conflict can be disruptive and uncomfortable, it is important to remember that it can also be a powerful catalyst for positive change. When effectively harnessed, conflict can lead to better ideas, more innovative solutions and greater opportunities to achieve sustainable outcomes.

The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.

Thomas Crum

A study by the University of California(2) found that teams with high levels of conflict resolution skills are more likely to produce creative and innovative solutions.

person discussing ideas

This is why managing conflict is a must-have skill for change agents and project leaders. Whether you are a manager, team leader or simply a member of an organisation, being able to handle conflict effectively is an important capability that can help you achieve your goals and drive success.

One of the key benefits of managing conflict is that it can lead to better outcomes. By adopting a mindset of open communication and collaboration, conflict can help to identify areas of disagreement and find common ground. This can lead to more effective decision-making and better solutions to complex problems.

In addition, managing conflict can also help to improve relationships within an organisation. When conflicts are handled in a positive and constructive way, it can help to build trust, promote respect and create a more cohesive team.

So, how can you effectively manage conflict in your organisation? One of the most important things is to recognise the different types of conflict that can arise. These might include personality clashes, differences in values or beliefs or disagreements over goals or strategies. At an organisation, I saw this movement when relating to a conflict to do with the way in which the approach to change a programme could be rolled out for an operational centre that carried out high volumes of omnichannel transactions for a large UK organisation. The differences became strengths. The result was a ‘joined up’ first step for change.

Once you have identified the source of the conflict, it is important to approach it with a willingness to listen. At Kinetik, we use two powerful ways to practise active listening that allow movement from your position, even if you fundamentally disagree with the person or people opposite.

person presenting to an audience

In addition to recognising the different types of conflict and approaching issues with an open mind, it is also important to understand your own conflict management style. Everyone has their own natural approach to dealing with conflict and being aware of your own style can help you to manage conflicts more effectively. 

For example, some people may have a tendency to avoid conflict, while others may be more confrontational. Some may try to compromise or find a middle ground, while others may prefer to compete and “win” the argument. Understanding your own style and considering other styles for different situations can help you to better manage conflicts and achieve more positive outcomes. At kinetik, we use a diagnostic to identify individual natural conflict styles using the Kilman model.

Another key way to manage conflict is through creativity. When facing a conflict, it can be easy to fall into old patterns of thinking and behaviour. However, by approaching conflict with a creative mindset, you can generate new ideas and approaches that may not have been considered before. This can help to break down barriers, find common ground and ultimately lead to more positive outcomes. At Kinetik, we have a range of gamified methods to generate creative thinking.

In conclusion, while conflict is a common occurrence in organisations today, it can also be a powerful tool for positive change. By managing conflict effectively, change agents and project leaders can help to bring about better outcomes, improve relationships and create a more positive work environment overall. So, if you want to be successful in today’s world of complex and diverse organisations, managing conflict is a must-have skill that you cannot afford to overlook.

At Kinetik, we offer a two-day immersive training on conflict management that can help individuals and organisations to develop their conflict management capabilities. We help each individual identify their style but, more importantly, consider a range of options for different scenarios. You will become more aware of situations; whether it’s around the journey of change, the values of the organisation, or even the order of things, our training will allow you to reflect on your conflict management skills and allow you to become more creative for positive outcomes.


(1) CIPD. Managing Conflict at Work: A Survey of Employees. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2014. 

(2) De Dreu, C. K., Baas, M., and Nijstad, B. A. Conflict Management and Innovation Implementation in Teams.” Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol. 32, no. 4, 2011, pp. 517-538. 

(2) University of California. Team Conflict Resolution Skills and Creative Solutions.” Journal of Innovation and Creativity in Organizations, vol. 15, no. 2, 2020, pp. 45-59.

(4) Kilman, R. H. (2020). Five Conflict-Handling Modes: An Empirical Analysis of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Journal of Business and Psychology, 35(2), 147-168.