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The Wheel of Conflict

Steering wheel of the train service for controlling

Wheel on train service vehicle

No single element in a conflict stands alone, and no conflict arises from one single reason. There are multiple factors and these are better understood when they are placed in relation to a wheel as discussed below.

Structure, emotion, history, communication, and values are elements/factors that influence the dynamics of conflict in the workplace. All of these exist to some degree in every conflict, and how they interact and influence each other often drives the direction and the severity of a particular conflict.

Professors Bernard Mayer, Ph.D. and Christopher Moore, Ph.D;’long time students, teachers, and practitioners of conflict resolution, created a graphic in the form of a wheel to help those who want  to avoid, mitigate, and when necessary resolve conflict. Each of the above elements, viewed as a section of the wheel, form distinct aspects of a conflict, and those confronting conflict can use this representation as an aid to thinking their way through the minefield that is conflict in today’s workplace.

In the coming weeks I will use this space to discuss each of these factors and why looking at them individually is a necessary first step in understanding the larger picture. The concept of the Wheel of Conflict is important for those trying to resolve conflict because it helps them understand the complex and tense emotions that are present in these situations.   The wheel reminds us that one’s point of view is not necessarily shared by the others involved in the conflict.

I will discuss structure in more detail in my next post, but for the moment I will leave with Messrs Mayer and Moore’s description that it is in part  “…the dynamics of the participants that might be creating the conflict, for example, boss and employee…”

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