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  Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

Make Use of Conflict Management

Institutionalizing the use of a Conflict Management program in the IT organization through training will provide many benefits towards decreasing the impact of violence in the workplace. Anger from employee dismissal and other circumstances is acted out in behavior such as interpersonal conflict.

In many instances, IT managers are adverse to conflict resolution either because they do not have the necessary will to carry it through or they simply do not know how to handle conflicts in the workplace.


42 percent of a manager's time is spent on reaching agreement with others when conflicts occur.

- Watson, C and Hoffman, R (1996) "Managers as Negotiators," Leadership Quarterly 7

IT organizations are comprised of a very diverse conglomeration of support groups. There is a wide variation in thinking and opinions among IT managers, database administrators, UNIX administrators, computer programmers, analysts, operators, and network administrators. Conflict will arise from differences between individuals and groups, including from the administration and enforcement of company policies such as termination of employment. Not only do significant differences exist, but the nature of IT job responsibilities creates a tense and stressful environment, many times with the ongoing pressure to keep the IT infrastructure up and running at peak performance.

Conflict management can provide several benefits including:

  • Better understanding between employees of differing opinions.

  • Building a values-oriented environment.

  • Reduced tensions and stress.

  • Diminished occurrence and magnitude of conflict.

  • Prevention of violence.          

  • Improved teamwork.

  • Increased productivity.

There are several steps which IT managers can implement within their organizations to reduce conflict. Having conflict management  in place before serious situations arise including the firing of employees will provide a solid foundation for preventing violenceSome suggestions for managing conflict in the workplace include:

  • Define, publish, and live a set of values as defined by the employer to display an example of what is expected by the entire IT organization.

  • Make it well known to the IT staff all company policies regarding unacceptable behavior and the potential consequences of violations.

  • Require training for IT professionals regarding conflict management and interpersonal relations. 

  • IT managers should not enter into romantic relationships in the workplace. In most cases, it does not work out, and the interaction at work then becomes awkward and overemotional. Not only are relationships with unattached co-workers dangerous, but getting involved with employees who have significant others escalates the potential for conflict dramatically.

  • Management should set the example for the IT organization by staying calm and composed in all situations, especially stressful situations such as terminating an employee. Employees will be watching for how their leaders handle tension in the workplace, and what behavior is acceptable even with stated company policies in place.

  • Maintain privacy in all dealings surrounding any conflict associated with the dismissal of employees. Conflict may develop at any time leading up to, during or after the release of the employee. An employee that is embarrassed by other employees overhearing the firing or being told details of the firing is likely to become upset, possibly even confrontational.

  • Encourage open communications by all computer professionals. Too many times opinions are withheld from the manager, while at the same time the disgruntled employee is complaining and wreaking havoc in the background. An open-door policy should be emphasized, regular one-on-one meetings held with the staff, and an anonymous suggestion box made available to provide ample opportunity for information exchange and feedback. Managers should not be afraid to tell an employee when they are out of line and need to improve their behavior. Individuals that communicate well should be thanked publicly at team meetings, for instance, to show management's approval of such behavior. If open communications have been practiced regularly in the past; then chances are better that healthy communications will also be exhibited during and after an employment termination meeting .

  • Address issues at the first signs of conflict. An IT manager may notice underlying tensions between their staff or even outright aggressiveness and to ignore the situation would only serve to let the tension grow. Once the employee has been informed of their firing, the IT manager should be actively observant of that individual's language, interactions, and work performance.

  • The IT manager should periodically review their own management style and relationships with other employees, especially their immediate staff. He or she should pay attention to their own performance reviews from their boss and the feedback provided by employees during one-on-one meetings. The manager must be willing to make any necessary personal adjustments that may be creating situations of conflict within the organization.

  • Always get both sides of the story regarding conflict and more if there are witnesses involved. When the IT employee is being told of their dismissal, having a witness present will provide another account of any conflict that occurs, at least during that engagement.


A good technique for regaining the advantage during conflict resolution is to answer a question with another question that is more in line with your position and the direction that you want the process to progress.

- Anonymous

The above book excerpt is from:

You're Fired! Firing Computer Professionals

The IT manager Guide for Terminating "With Cause"

ISBN 0-9744486-4-8

Robert Papaj

Oracle Training at Sea
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