Conflict coaching as a tool for reform

Melanie Roberts
August 5, 2021

Tolerance of racist and sexist behaviour and comments in the workplace can cause serious damage to individuals, cause conflict between colleagues and impact the broader workplace culture, resulting in workplace complaints, high turnover and loss of productivity.

If your organisation has a repeat ‘low-level’ offenders who fail to understand the impact of their behaviour (perhaps claiming any complaints about their behaviour is ‘political correctness gone mad’) – then conflict coaching is a tool that you can deploy to address the situation before it escalates.

What is conflict coaching?

Conflict coaching is a low risk early intervention process and is effective in assisting individuals to avoid behaviour which otherwise could escalate into workplace conflict with damaging consequences.

Conflict coaching involves one-on-one sessions with a trained coach who assists the individual to work through a process to enable them to learn to manage interpersonal conflict.

How does it work?

Coaching can focus on a particular dispute that involves another individual or more generally help someone to understand how their behaviour and their comments can impact others. Conflict coaching will help individuals to develop goals and actions they can take to change negative and unhelpful dynamics and supports them to consider the impact of their behaviour.

Conflict coaching is a voluntary, confidential process, where the coach uses a structured model to help the individual discuss their conflict and behaviour through a self-reflective process thereby shifting and transforming behaviour by developing self-awareness.

Individuals gain an awareness and understanding into their own behaviour and how it is perceived by others, and in doing so gain the ability to prevent or manage a dispute or their interpersonal conflicts more generally.

The conflict coaching process is not therapy or counselling and the coach does not offer advice; but is a present and future-focused and solution-orientated process.

Conflict conduct is learned behaviour and therefore within an individual’s control and with increased self-awareness individuals are likely to make choices and shift behaviour.

Conflict occurs when people perceive their values, needs and/or identity are challenged, threatened or undermined. The conflict coach first assists the individual being coached to share their perspective regarding the conflict and behaviour and then to imagine things from the other person’s perspective, by standing in that person’s shoes and working out through carefully structured questions, what that person’s trigger points are and what values were being challenged or undermined by the behaviour of the individual being coached.

By helping individuals understand their style and impact on others, they can transform behaviour by developing interpersonal skills and by building self-awareness and this helps them understand how their behaviour and style of communication impact on others and helps them to adopt new approaches.

What if the participant doesn’t want to be coached?

When an individual participates in conflict coaching they are generally referred by the organisation because they are demonstrating problematic behaviour in the workplace and in these circumstances it may mean the individual is resistant to the process and this will have an impact on the success of the coaching.

Resistance does not mean that coaching will not work as coaches commonly work with resistant people and use techniques to manage the resistance. Using coaching as part of a performance behaviour plan can help an individual focus on their goals of changing their behaviour and better managing conflict in the workplace.

Conflict coaching can be used to help an individual change their behaviour in stand-alone coaching or as a precursor to mediation, a facilitated conversation and in conjunction with training.

For event invites and compelling insights into resolving workplace conflict and building a positive culture at work!

Integrity Line

Integrity Line is an independent whistleblower service for complaints about inappropriate conduct at work, provided by Worklogic. Click here to visit the Integrity Line website.