Psychological conflict management

In Psychological Conflict Management, the problem is approached by covering and verbalizing the experiences, thoughts, and feelings that the involved parties have concerning the conflict. This is facilitated by the psychologist, in a tightly controlled and structured process, that focuses on clarifying that the experiences, thoughts, and feelings concerning the conflict may partly be a result of oneself and not “just” a result of the others actions. Already here, tensions and the level of conflict will typically be lowered.

Further on in the process, the primary focus becomes uncovering and clarifying the positive intentions behind the actions, decisions, and behaviours, that have irritated the others and created the conflict. This way, when the parties gain insight into the underlying positive intentions, the level of conflict will typically decrease further.

Finally, the aim becomes finding alternative ways to achieve the positive intentions, the individual has, with the actions and behaviour that is perceived by others as irritating and conflictual. In some cases, employees may cooperate to find alternative behaviours and actions. At this point in the process, agreements can typically easily be made, concerning optimal cooperation in the future.   

Psychological Conflict Management begins with a meeting with the requestor (typically the involved parties’ manager), where the psychologist that is facilitating the psychological conflict management is introduced to the conflict, its background, and progression, as well as the organisation’s/department’s current situation and additional challenges. The scope of the process is also agreed upon. It is the requestor’s task to ensure the involved parties are willing to participate in the process. In highly tense conflicts, it may be necessary for the facilitating psychologist to have a short talk with the involved parties before the collective session begins. Other times, the psychologist meets the two parties without prior knowledge about the content of the conflict.

Then, 2-5 sessions/meetings lasting approximately two hours are planned and held, where the involved parties meet with the psychologist. It may also be necessary for the psychologist – throughout the process and in agreement with those involved – to have sessions with the involved individually, where the primary focus becomes the individual’s experiences and reactions, and the potential motivation for these. Throughout the process, or toward the end, the requestor is invited to participate in a conclusive session, where the involved parties can discuss what they resolved – agreements, recognitions/acknowledgements, etc. It may also be relevant to arrange a follow-up session 2-3 months later. 

They may sound temporally and financially extreme, but when considering what a conflict often already has, and may continue to cost, in terms of reduced productivity and job satisfaction, potential job changes, as well as the positive changes that Psychological Conflict Management typically results in, our experience is that the investment is largely worth it.