I’ve spent over thirty years starting, building, and running successful businesses. These have included manufacturing, wholesale, retail, and consulting operations, several of which traded internationally. In retrospect I realise the ineffectiveness of short-term workplace dispute resolution and the cumulative effect of mismanaged conflict through those decades. Reduced productivity, waste, demotivated staff, restructuring around problems, lost opportunities, absenteeism, and lowered presenteeism, were but a few of the symptoms of poor conflict management.






The knock-on effects (like re-training, staff replacement, or insurance premium increases) were never consciously linked to the mismanagement of conflict. Brand damage, poor customer service and other systemic consequences of unmanaged conflict, were completely unquantifiable and often responded to with incorrect assumptions. Expecting the presence of conflict to change is unrealistic: it is your attitude towards conflict that must change.

The far more constructive way of dealing with conflict is to manage it to unlock value. If wastage is reduced through the resolution of disputes; and creativity is generated, sparking innovation – productivity increases, with countless benefits flowing from that.

Instinctive and cultural conflict fight-or-flight responses are no longer necessary for survival. Those responses begin with the settlement of disputes based on power,

Based on how I would have wanted my own workforces to have been trained, I spent nine months writing

typifying the outdated command-and-control approach which revolved around settlement based on power, or more recently, on rights or rules. Rights based conflict resolution generates win/lose outcomes: not wanting to lose, issues are avoided until some degree of conflict crisis forces itself to the fore. Win/lose outcomes in which the parties have little chance to collaborate or come up with their own solutions, result in sub-optimal performance.

Outcomes based on interests and needs (with little attention to rights, policies, or procedures) are durable, sustainable, and motivating: all vastly better for the organisation.

It is within this “interests based zone” that opportunity exists. Leaders that recognise this as a strategic competitive advantage are building cultures and systems that reward conflict competence towards improved productivity.

Collective conflict wisdom begins with training to produce a ‘critical mass’ of conflict understanding, and the ability to have ‘successful conflict conversations’. This is the foundation to resolving conflict as early as possible and at the lowest level – by the people involved. Specialised training such as managerial mediation follows – essential tools to equip managers and supervisors to keep disputes from deteriorating to rights driven solutions, where productivity, continuity, and motivation diminishes.

Because these opportunities are so clear, I embarked on a journey to study dispute settlement at post graduate level and became an accredited mediator and trainer in workplace conflict management. I have spent time at multiple organisations with established integrated conflict management systems, learning from experiences within their structures and within their cultures.

Conflict Management Training Courses are a dime a dozen. It is when employees are engaged in systemic effects and opportunities that training and workshops have lasting value. This is more of a guided think tank than a training course.

My business experience and street-smarts, over and above the academics and theory, makes this training practical and effective. Moreover, I do not stint on using other peoples work in sections (with permission of course); where it is of benchmark standard.

It covers the basics and also generates a lot of holistic and systems thinking about ways to stop hidden losses in productivity.

Before the course begins, delegates complete the Conflict Dynamics Profile [CDP], an assessment instrument dealing with conflict behaviours [not conflict personalities] in the workplace.

CDP provides a powerful way to improve self-awareness of how individuals respond to conflict, and provides practical approaches for improving behaviours that promote more effective workplace conflict resolution.

[ see ]

Mervyn Malamed is certified to administer, assess, interpret, and coach individuals on the results.

Delegates use the outcomes to supplement the work in Module 10 ‘Conflict Behaviour’.

Up to 30% of a typical manager’s time is spent dealing with conflict….

A classic management study [“A Survey of Managerial Interests with respect to Conflict” by Kenneth W. Thomas and W. H. Schmidt, Academy of Management Journal]

Module 1: How does this fit

…in to typical organisational conflict management protocols?

Module 2: The Costs of Conflict.

Delegates complete the ‘Financial Cost of Organizational Conflict” Calculator…

…an eye opening calculator to estimate the financial cost of a specific conflict experienced [or witnessed] within the delegate’s organisation. All of the factors and assumptions are those of the delegate, and include consideration of many elements.

For example:

  • actual hours wasted by those directly involved in the conflict
  • their gross salary and benefits
  • cost to repair damages to equipment as a result of the conflict
  • estimate of absenteeism related to the conflict
  • cost of the time spent on the conflict by others employees, especially management time
  • what it costs to replace employees that quit because of the conflict, if applicable

Exit interviews, which ascertain reasons for terminations, reveal that chronic unresolved conflict acts as a decisive factor in at least 50% of all such departures.

The results are generated instantly and the session continues to address:

2.1 Primary Costs of Conflict
2.2 Secondary Costs of Conflict.
2.3 Systemic Costs of Conflict
2.4 Poor customer service is a manifestation of conflict.

Module 3: Conflict Management

3.1 What is conflict? / What is a dispute?

3.2. Resolution addresses the conflict that gives rise to the dispute.

3.2.1. Sustainability
3.2.2. The seven pillars of sustainability

3.3. Transformation

3.3.1. Opportunities from conflict.


Module 4: The Phases of Conflict

4.1 Prelude
4.2 Emergence
4.3 Differentiation
4.4 Escalation
4.5 Stalemate
4.6 De-Escalation
4.7 Settlement
4.8 Resolution
4.9 Transformation


Module 5: Conflict as zero-sum game

5.1 Each party’s gain is exactly balanced by the other party’s losses.
5.2 Conflicts are not one dimensional. There are many variables.


Module 6: Power, rights and interests:

6.1. Power
6.2. Rights
6.3. Interests


Module 7: Interests vs. Positions

7.1 Positions are often based on power or rights.
7.2 Interests describe what needs to be satisfied.


Module 8: Conflict personalities

8.1 Conflict personality is not the same as conflict behaviour
8.2 Personalities drive behaviour. Behaviour derives from personality.
8.3 Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument [the TKI]:


Module 9: Transactional analysis [TA]

Parent, Adult and Child as ego states

9.2 Examples
9.3 Emotional Intelligence


Module 10 Conflict Behaviour:

10.1 Responses

10.1.1 Constructive Responses


10.1.2 Destructive Responses


10.2. Hot Buttons

10.2.1 Unreliable
10.2.2 Over analytical
10.2.3 Unappreciative
10.2.4 Aloof
10.2.5 Micro-managing
10.2.6 Self-centred
10.2.7 Abrasive
10.2.8 Untrustworthy
10.2.9 Hostile

10.3 Owning one’s own hot buttons


Module 11: Types of conflict

11.1 Values conflict
11.2 Relationship conflict
11.3 Data conflict
11.4 Interest conflict
11.5 Structural conflict


Module 12: Positive and negative conflict

12.1 Conflict is neutral.
12.2 Negative Conflict between Individuals
12.3 Conflict managed positively:


Module 13 Sources of Conflict

13.1 Perceptions & Assumptions
13.2 Assumptions that drive attitudes and behavior.
13.3 Managing conflict before it emerges as a dispute.
13.4 Primary Conflict Sources: systemic [of the organisation]
13.5 Intrapersonal/Conflict Within
13.6 Sources of interpersonal and intergroup conflict:
13.7 Email


Module 14: Group Conflict

14.1. There are two types of group conflict.

14.1.1 Horizontal conflict

14.1.2 Vertical conflict

14.2 Groupthink
14.3 When group conflicts are poorly managed.
14.4. Group leadership that contributes to destructive escalation
14.5. Signs of latent conflict among groups


Module 15: Latent conflict

15.1 Prelude to a dispute.
15.2 Uncovering conflict in non-crisis conditions.
15.3 Exposing latent conflict in ways that add value.

15.3.1 Measure
15.3.2 Observe
15.3.4 Discuss
15.3.5 Envision


Module 16 Conflict escalation and de-escalation

16.1 Destructive Conflict escalation [Glasl]

16.2 Types of Escalation

16.2.1 Aggressor-Defender
16.2.2 Conflict Spiral
16.2.3 Structural Change

16.3 Provocations contributing to destructive escalation

16.3.1 Entrapment
16.3.2 Multiple Issues
16.3.3 Intensity
16.3.4 Past grievances
16.3.5 Selective Perception
16.3.6 Negative Attribution
16.3.7 Partialisation
16.3.8 Stereotyping
16.3.9 Victimhood

16.4 Deliberate escalation of conflict

16.4.1 The conflict mountain.
16.4.2 Catharsis.

16.5 Stimulation creates anger, and anger breeds inventiveness.

16.6 Altering destructive escalation

16.7 De-escalation

16.7.1 Cognitive dissonance
16.7.2 Waning active support
16.7.3 Changes in the psyche
16.7.4 Importance
16.7.5 Buying time
16.7.6 Stalemate – also referred to as the hurting stage
16.7.7 Tactics used are now considered to have been mistakes.


Module 17: Management of workplace conflict in stages

17.1 In the workplace power is needed to manage effectively

Interests -> power -> rights rather than interests -> rights -> power

17.2 Interests-based & controlled by the parties

  • Brave Discussions
  • Whisper tools
  • Peer Mediation

17.3 Conditionally interests-based & controlled by the parties

  • Managerial Mediation

17.4 Rights based & controlled by a third party:

The Formal Process

  • Internal policy
  • Public mandate [like the Labour Relations Act]

17.5 FIRST PHASE: Self-management of conflict
80% of all workplace conflict should be self-managed

17.5.1 A Brave Discussion: the first step.

17.5.2 Whisper Tools: Peer Review Neutral Evaluation Open Doors Conciliation Investigation Peer Mediation

17.6 SECOND PHASE: Managerial Mediation

17.7 THIRD PHASE: The formal processes.

17.7.1 Formal in-house grievance protocols:
the organisation’s policies and procedures
17.7.2 Formal external grievance protocols:


Module 18: Organisational conflict strategies
Delegates do the ‘Dana Survey of Conflict Management Strategies Model’ exercise to assess the conflict management strategy in their own organisations.

“All organisations have conflict management strategies whether by intent or by default”

This is an instrument that identifies the blend of four conflict management strategies that are currently imbedded in the structure and culture of an organisation. It is based on:

18.1 Behaviour:

how engaged…

the organisation is in dealing stakeholders

18.2 Attitude:

how adversarial…

the organisation is in dealing stakeholders


Module 19: Integrated Conflict Management Systems [ICMS]

19.1 The four pillars of a system are:

19.1.1 The Conflict Management Specialist [CMS] A Conflict Management Specialist’s [CMS] function is different from a Human Resource Professional. The office of the CMS supplements HR, but does not replace, the organisation’s existing resources for formal conflict resolution.

19.2 A Supportive Infrastructure

19.2.1 A conflict-wise ethos
19.2.2 A philosophy that facilitates disruptions.
19.2.3 An ICMS should be treated as a cost centre.
19.2.4 Collaboration amongst the executive, accounting, HR and the ICMS Champion
19.2.5 A Steering Committee of stakeholders
19.2.6 In-house marketing

19.3 Training

19.3.1 Core proficiencies: Foundation Training in the nature of conflict The ability to discuss based on interests:
to have ‘Brave Discussions’

19.3.2 Concentrated training: Managerial Mediation Peer Mediation Becoming Conflict Competent

19.4 Intervention
This means a lot more than dispute resolution. For example:

19.4.1 Contributors
19.4.2 Reactive Interventions
Responses to the needs and interests of contributors.
19.4.3 Conflict must be welcomed
19.4.4 A call-centre-style, bureaucratic, unreliable…
19.4.5 Proactive Interventions: Looking for conflict


Module 20: Listening

Listening is not waiting to talk!

20.1 Passive listening

20.2 Active listening

20.2.1 Body Language
20.2.2 Paraphrasing

20.3 Tips for active listening

20.4 Considerations and practicalities associated with active listening

  • time
  • relationship
  • conditions


Module 21: Framing and Reframing.

Saying the same thing in different ways to improve cooperation.

21.1 Framing
21.2 Reframing


Module 22: Conflict avoidance

22.1. Secondary conflict ensues, and secondary conflict is defined by mismanagement, or lack of management, of primary conflict.
22.2 Denial, as a form of avoidance, is acted out in several ways.
For example…
22.3 How do you deal with an avoider?


Module 23: Attributes of a successful conflict manager

23.1 Everyone is a conflict manager
23.2 Instinct
23.3 Quoting directly is not a good idea.
23.4 Contentious statements or words
23.5 Remember what annoys you the most in other people.
23.6 Remember that others also have hot buttons
23.7 Respect is required for effective conflict management.
23.8 Empowerment
23.9 Do’s and Don’ts – Conflict Resolution at Work
23.10 Competence at having Brave Discussions

Module 24: Brave Discussions

24.1 A Brave Discussion…

24.2 The model below covers the full progression –

24.2.1 A workplace conflict exists when:
24.2.2 A conflict conversation should be successful when:

24.3 The progression of a Brave Discussion:

Stage 1 A conversation about a conversation

i. The approach to the other party
ii. The issue statement
iii. The request
iv. The sale [if needed]
v. The cardinal rules
vi. The time and place

S1 Video Stage One FIRST The Request for a Meeting

S2 Video Stage One SECOND No Walkaways & No Power Plays – 1 of 3

S3 Video Stage One THIRD Arrange the Time and Place

Checklist: Remove land mines

Stage 2 Talking it out

i. Setting the tone
ii. Defining the problem
iii. Venting
iv. Dialogue
v. Exploring solutions

S4 Video Stage Two FIRST Expressing Appreciation & Optimism

S5 Video Stage Two SECOND No Walkaways & No Power Plays – 2 of 3

S6 Video Stage Two THIRD Open Ended Questions to Stimulate Venting – 1 of 2

S7 Video Stage Two FOURTH Open Ended Questions to Stimulate Venting – 2 of 2

S8 Video Stage Two FIFTH Support Conciliatory Gestures – 1 of 2

S9 Video Stage Two SIXTH Support Conciliatory Gestures – 2 of 2

S10 Video Stage Two SEVENTH Interests Defined

S11 Video Stage Two EIGHTH Offer Conciliatory Gestures & Take Risks

S12 Video Stage Two NINTH No Walkaways no Power Plays – 3 of 3

S13 Video Stage Two TENTH Keep Talking [no sound]

Stage 3 The Deal

Working out an implementation plan


What might happen if we don’t make an agreement?

These are the three ATNAs:

alternative to a negotiated

alternative to a negotiated agreement.

Most likely
alternative to a negotiated agreement.

S14 Video Stage Three FIRST The Deal