Helping Families & Counselors

Manage Conflict

 Self Evaluation Questionnaire


Five cases to test the style of conflict resolution we use based on our own frame of reference.  (Make a copy of the attached answer sheet for each person before reading the cases. Then have everyone write the style they chose next to the letter they circled for each case read.  Then discuss with the group. What patterns surfaced? etc.)



     Your department has been swamped with work during the last three weeks.  Not only has your department had their regular work but they have also been involved in several major projects.  This increase workload will probably continue for two more weeks, and the department has already fallen behind in their regular work.  You are considering how to get everything don on schedule when your group executive calls to tell you that senior management needs a special report from your department by the middle of next week.  This report will take quite a bit of time to do and will require you and your key supervisor to work together to generate the information.  It is Thursday afternoon and you feel strongly that you and your key supervisor should spend the weekend working on this report so that you don't fall any further behind.  You know that this is going to be a problem with the supervisor because it is his son's birthday and they are planning a family outing to the mountains.  What do you think you should do?

 A.  Tell the supervisor about the problem and ask him to work one day during the weekend.

 B.  Talk to the supervisor about the emergency that has come up.  Tell him you are sorry about the timing, but you will both need to work during the weekend.

 C.  Talk with the supervisor about the report and ask what suggestions he has for getting all the work done.

 D.  Talk to the supervisor about the report and tell him to go ahead with his plans that you will do what ever you can on the report during the weekend and the two of you can finish it next week.

 E.  Don't mention the report for senior management now.  Let the supervisor enjoy the weekend with his family and you can worry about the report next week.



     You have been the manager in this department for nine months.  One of your goals is to help develop initiative in your employees and to have them take more responsibility for the success of the department.  In the past two days two employees have come to you individually with ideas for improvement in their department.  Both ideas are good but in some major areas they conflict with each other.  The employees are aware of each otherís requests and each one is anxious about having their idea selected.  There isn't any way you can implement both ideas.  What do you do?

 A.  Decide who has the best idea then ask the other person to go along with the decision pointing out why you feel that is the better decision.

 B.  Wait and see.  The best solution will become apparent.

 C.  Tell both employees not to get uptight about the disagreement it is not that important.

 D.  Get the employees together and examine both of their ideas closely.

 E.  Implement one or two suggestions that don't conflict with each other from each personís proposal.



     You are in a department where from time to time in the past another department has borrowed some of your employees to help their department at peak times.  This has put very little strain on the employees in your department since the demands have been small, infrequent, and not during your departmentsí peak periods.  Lately, however, there seems to be an almost constant demand for two to three people.  Two days this week the rest of your department has had to work overtime and work through lunch to get all the work done.  What do you do?

 A.  Let it go for now.  This is more likely a short-term situation.

 B.  Try to smooth things over with your own crew.  They all have jobs to do and cannot afford not to work together well.

 C.  Let the other department have one of the two to three people they requested.

 D.  Go to the other department supervisor and talk about how the demands for additional operators could best be met without placing your department in a bind.

 E.  Go to your manager and ask her to tell the other department to stop requesting help.



      Your boss has been in this position for six months and it is very clear that he wants to run things his way.  You feel that you can work more effectively when you have more freedom to chose the approach you take to your work and to supervising your employees:  and you have been very successful in the past.  Your boss has now asked you to implement some new rules in the department.  You feel these rules are taking away more freedom from you and your employees and are asking you to treat your employees like children.  What do you do?

 A.  Don't do anything right now and see how the employees receive them, after all, he is the boss.

 B.  Implement the new rules but tell yourself and your employees not to worry about them you want enforce them strictly.

 C.  Implement the new rules and tell yourself that the next time that he asks you to do something you disagree with, that you will talk with him.

 D.  Talk with him about the rules and how you believe implementing them will have a negative effect on productivity.

 E.  Ask your bossís manager if she will help you solve your problem.



      Two of the employees in your department do not get along with each other.  They avoid working together as much as possible and speak to each other only when absolutely necessary.  Their dislike for each other is apparent and some times the tension from their relationship is felt in the rest of the department.  What do you think you should do?

 A.  Talk with each of them separately about the problem and then have a three-way conversation.

 B.  Ask them to put up a good front for the rest of the department telling them that you will do your part by not assigning them to work together if they will make an effort to be pleasant to each other.

 C.  Don't do anything right now it's really a problem between the two of them and they should be able to work it out.

 D.  Talk with them together about how childish their conflict is then assign them to work on a project together.

 E.  Assign them desks at opposite end of the room and make an effort not to assign them work on any projects together.




"Managing Conflict Creatively"


Case #1

A.  Compromise

B.  Power Play

C.  Problem Solving

D.  Acceptance of the Problem

E.  Avoidance of the Problem


Case #2

A.  Power Play

B.  Avoidance of the Problem

C.  Acceptance of the Problem

D.  Problem Solving

E.  Compromise


Case #3

A.  Avoidance of the Problem

B.  Acceptance of the Problem

C.  Compromise

D.  Problem Solving

E.  Power Play


Case #4

A.  Avoidance of the Problem

B.  Acceptance of the Problem

C.  Compromise

D.  Problem Solving

E.  Power Play


Case #5

A.  Problem Solving

B.  Compromise

C.  Avoidance of the Problem

D.  Power Play

E.  Acceptance of the Problem









Acceptance of the Problem

Avoidance of the Problem


Power Play

Problem Solving



NOTE:  Circle ONE letter for each CASE given by the presenter.




         CASE #1                               CASE #2

               A                                     A

               B                                     B

               C                                     C

               D                                     D

               E                                     E



            CASE #3                               CASE #4

               A                                     A

               B                                     B

               C                                     C

               D                                     D

               E                                     E



                               CASE #5














(Discussion Guide)



1)  Permit the other person to talk without interruption about the problem.  Paraphrase back what you heard before responding.

2)  Limit the discussion to the issue that is adversely affecting your relationship right now.

3)  Chose an optimal time to bring up and discuss problems between the two of you.  Deal with the problem in the first five minutes after recognizing an issue exists, tag it, and leave it to an optimal time.

4)  Engage the other person in a discussion of creative solutions and alternatives that may involve personal change.


1)  The only healthy out-come is to have "two winners."

2)  Accept anger in conflict as a healthy form of emotional communication that promotes personal growth and enhances relationships.

3)  Agree to disengage from interacting if responses on either part become punitive in nature.  "Take a time-out."

4)  Conflicts usually develop not because the other agrees or disagrees, but because they think you don't understand.  Take the time to really understand where the other person is coming from.


   (Discuss with the group and have them define each type.)

1)  firecracker

2)  visit to Iceland

3)  memory lane rehash

4)  social zinger champion

5)  trivia fights

6)  guerrilla fighter

7)  gang fights

8)  last word scenario

9)  provocateur

10) semi-annual free-for-all


Note:  Give each person a copy of the Your Choice: Relapse or Recovery Chart.  If the chart is not on the website you can get a copy from the MFGT Resource Center.

Special thanks to Vann Joines, PhD, Southeast Institute, Chapel Hill, N. C. who helped me improve my ability to manage conflict and from which the content in this lecture came. (

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