Effective change management should not underestimate the role of communication in the change implementation process. Hence, it is critical to examine both the positive and negative aspects of stakeholders’ relations. Since change is associated with the involvement of numerous actors and interests, it is necessary to evaluate the role of conflicts in change implementation properly. Practice shows that any reform that transforms the standard operation flow is a powerful driver of the increase in psychological tension and stress that are likely to cause additional disagreements.
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According to Mahon and Nicotera (2011), there is a wide range of workplace conflicts that can impede the change progress. Hence, for instance, confronting conflicts that commonly occur within a team creates a critical barrier to a smooth operation flow, disturbing the work integrity and increasing the frequency of mistakes and cancellations. The conflicts of interest, in their turn, that are more likely to arise between different groups of stakeholders do not allow for a united collaboration and a consistent exchange of the relevant data. As a result, leaders are unable to evaluate the change progress and determine its further prospects. Therefore, it is considered critical to ensure that they use effective conflict management strategies to ensure a smooth and consistent change implementation.
Role of Negotiation
In the frame of examining effective methods of a conflict resolution, Dignam et al. (2012) point out three strategies that prove to be particularly productive: management, mediation, and negotiation. Each strategy serves to resolve a particular aspect of the conflict problem. The communication-related aspect is commonly addressed with the negotiation method. For this reason, negotiation skills are often referred to as resolution skills since they are mainly applied to lower confrontation and settle down disagreements (Chappel & Willis, 2013). Hence, research reveals that effective negotiation strategies help not only to resolve the existing conflict but to avoid potential confrontations.
Thus, negotiation can assist in smoothing different kinds of disagreements and tension without letting it emerge in a large-scale conflict. It is also essential to note that the negotiation method relies on the use of different communication techniques that are mainly aimed at eliminating the roots and the drivers of an emerging confrontation. As a result, a good leader is expected to be a skillful negotiator. Effective negotiators consider workplace conflicts complexly, evaluating all the associated aspects, i.e. the conflict context, its cause, and the individual peculiarities of the main parties (Bryant & Stensaker, 2011). Therefore, it is proposed that effective negotiation practices should be essentially adopted to ensure conflict prevention and facilitate change.
Role of a Leader in Conflict Resolution
Numerous studies provide evidence for the critical role of a team leader in conflict resolution and the establishment of appropriate communication patterns. Hence, for instance, recent research has revealed that the major part of workplace conflicts cannot be resolved without the timely intervention of a leader. This finding is mainly explained by the fact that the participants of the conflict show weak concern about its resolution and prefer encouraging the emergence of the tension rather than seeking alternative solutions. Another reason why a leader’s intervention is obligatory resides in the fact that the main conflict initiators might fail to possess the essential communication skills to negotiate the agreement and cope with the problem on their own (Brown et al., 2011).
Additionally, it is essential to note that in the frame of a conflict situation, a leader is the only recognized source of power. Hence, there are normally a few chances that team members will consider each other’s opinions rational. Instead, they are more likely to expect someone authoritative to interfere. From this perspective, a leader seems to be the best party to resolve the conflict both friendly and efficiently (Timmins, 2011). As a result, the involvement of an external party, i.e. the team leader, is imperative.
The Role of Power in Conflict, Negotiation, and Communication
The role of power is critical in the frame of effective communication and conflict resolution. Hence, consistent distribution of power and the establishment of a recognized leader allows for productive negotiations and the elimination of different communication-related problems that might emerge in the course of the change implementation. The lack of leadership power leads to the employees’ refusal to obey the assigned guidelines and the enhancement of the actual confrontations. In the meantime, it is essential to ensure that the applied method is not unduly aggressive. Hence, excessive power exercising might be counterproductive – on the one hand, the conflict will become less visible; on the other hand, it will be more difficult to understand its cause, and, thus, the chances for its elimination will reduce significantly (Janss, Rispens, Segers, & Jehn, 2012).
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On a large scale, conflicts appearing in the course of change implementation have negative implications for the progress of a transformation. Hence, recent research that examines the roots of a change failure reveals that a significant number of unsuccessful implementations can be explained by the intense confrontation within the workforce. Otherwise stated, the key change actors have a varied vision of the change value and the expected outcomes. As a result, they cannot agree upon a consistent implementation plan or the scope of interventions (Dogherty, Harrison, Graham, Vandyk, & Keeping-Burke, 2013). From a different perspective, conflicts can be helpful as they let leaders identify the fundamental flaws in their team management practices and eliminate them before implementing change. Thus, leaders receive a chance to reconsider their managerial approaches, enhance team unity, and predict potential change-related challenges more accurately (Duffield, Roche, Blay, & Stasa, 2011).
Potential Conflicts and a Plan to Address It
It is assumed that the conflicts that may potentially arise in the course of the implementation of the proposed change will be associated with the power distribution. Hence, some of the key change actors have vast professional experience, while others do not have substantial practice. As a result, experienced workers are likely to try to take the dominating positions provoking the resistance in their inexperienced colleagues. To avoid the described confrontations, leaders must ensure consistent segregation of duties so that every actor is responsible for a particular aspect of change. Additionally, they should use effective communication techniques to guarantee that all the team members have a shared vision of the change value and strive to achieve a common goal.
Another type of conflicts that might arise is the conflict of interest. Hence, the change realization requires the involvement of specialists from different departments – Intensive Care, Radiology, etc. – so that the risk of confrontations is rather high. To avoid potential conflicts, it is proposed to form a new team within which all members will feel they belong to a close community that aims to implement positive change. It is necessary to appoint a high-quality leader that possesses perfect communication skills and the experience of working with diverse groups to form such a team and maintain its integrity.
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Bryant, M., & Stensaker, I. (2011). The competing roles of middle management: Negotiated order in the context of change. Journal of Change Management, 11(3), 353-373.
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