Conflict Management Case Study


The win / lose leader is the individual in your organization that treats their interactions as an opportunity to push to have things done entirely their way creating a win for themselves but potentially a loss for the greater good of the overall organization.

One survey found that managers were spending 18% of their time dealing with direct face to face conflict. Most organizations are decentralized and compartmentalized which sets up natural conflict group to group , peer to peer and management to subordinates.  An individual who adds significant value to the organization but generates too much conflict and is aggressively competitive erodes productivity both functionally and cross functionally.

This individual engages in:

  • Data-based conflict – my numbers are better than yours
  • Opinion conflict – my opinion has greater value than yours
  • Power conflict – this is mine and I am always right
  • Intellectual conflict -I am smarter than you and I’ll prove it conflict

Impact if Unresolved

An individual who leverages conflict to feed their ambitions, ego and emotions needs to be right. The following are impacts to the individual and the organization if the behavior persists and the individual does not get pushed to develop new interpersonal skills:

  • Acts as role model who sees conflict as a way to get ahead in the organization
  • Fuels emotional thinking instead of analytic and data driven problem solving
  • Lowers the negotiating IQ of the organization costing money and productivity
  • Sets the culture up as a win/lose instead of win/win organization causing high generational turnover among those who seek a more collaborative environment.
  • Err toward the new and risky at the expense of proven solutions
  • Over-complicate things
  • Lack innovation

Options For Improvement

  • Collaboration modeling and training
  • External conflict management training
  • Tighter performance management goals that measure and reward less conflict
  • Practicing Aikido
  • Conflict management mentoring

In a vacuum these options may be help the individual make small technical improvements in their interactions with others.  When several of these tools are used in conjunction with successful shadow and behavior modification coaching the individual will experience real long term growth and a desire to change their behavior long term.


An executive coach would conduct 360 interviews and assessments to demonstrate how conflict is effecting the individual’s brand and career opportunities. Conflict management models would be custom developed to the individuals role, promotion opportunities and organization’s vision and goals.  Role play and journaling would help create the momentum to change. Shadow coaching would be used to intervene and course correct in real time business conflict and to act as a monitor to unnecessary and unproductive conflict.  A coach would be a sounding board for this individual allowing them to feel heard, but at the same time the coach would help ensure that the individual focuses on changing their behavior versus focusing on the perceived shortcomings of others.

Coaching Anecdote

Nick is a technical genius working for a manufacturing company in the energy delivery space. An engineer by education, published in many technical journals and a pioneer in innovation. Nick is also excessively competitive, must win every dispute, creates conflict where it is not needed, is viewed by his peers as overly aggressive, jumps into the middle of everyone’s problems, driving for solution before others are ready and can have a chilling effect on open debate.

Nick has grown increasing restless and culturally disruptive because he has been passed over for promotion for three years. He criticizes senior management, makes others the target of his frustration and openly resists company policies and procedures. He has been given more responsibility and compensation but only for the technical expertise he brings. The threat to the company is that Nick will become disillusion and leave the company for competition and take his penchant for innovation with him. However the company is also concerned about the message it would send to others if Nick is promoted with out the necessary people leadership skills. Falling behind in technology would cost the company millions.

Because Nick doesn’t believe in performance management his performance reviews trend to be combative blood baths. He was given a senior leader mentor who gave up in frustration after six months. Nick was sent to internal and external training but existed after day one.

Nick needed someone who could go toe to toe with him intellectually and hold him accountable. An executive coach was hired who he resisted at every turn. Extensive 360 interviews where conducted and Nick was quite shocked by the results and opinions of his peers and senior leaders. They drove home the point that improvement was for everyone. Shadow coaching was deployed to provide corrective support in real time, at meetings and on conference calls. Conflict management modeling was deployed, role playing and practice situations conducted extensively. One-on-one skill building in collaboration, directing others,  emotional composure, building integrity and trust with others and personal development were conducted over the course of a year. Now Nick is good at focused listening, can find common ground on conflicts and get cooperation without creating organization wide noise, stays out of conflicts that don’t and shouldn’t involve him and sees conflict as opportunities to collaborate and has decided that it it okay if others are right not just him.

Nick is the success story the company wanted and couldn’t figure how to achieve. His first 360 ratings and his ratings at six months appear in the table below. He improved in every area by almost a full point on a five point scale. Nick was promoted and now has the global technical staff of 60 people reporting to him in 12 countries