Conflict is an inevitable part of life, a result of actual or perceived incompatibilities surrounding the needs or interests of two or more parties. Where social transactions occur, conflict naturally emerges. No one can escape its certainty. Not friends. Not families. Not communities. Not even nonprofits.

According to Bernard Mayer, author and Professor of Conflict Resolution at Creighton University, the goal is not to perfectly resolve conflict, but to engage it constructively. Within organizations, an intentional approach to conflict can help leaders identify threats to program success and opportunities for enhanced service delivery, improving overall organizational effectiveness.

When considering conflict among team members, Mayer’s Wheel of Conflict describes the interplay between three types of human needs to consider and understand in the midst of conflict. For each type, offer questions to help make for productive conflict engagement and resolution. 

Survival Needs: Food, Shelter, Clothing, Security
– Are the basic needs of your employees being met?
– Do employees feel secure and safe in their work environment?

Identity Needs: Meaning, Community, Intimacy, Autonomy
– Do employees derive a sense of meaning or purpose from their work?
– Do employees experience a healthy balance of connection and autonomy within the organization?

Interests: Substantive, Procedural, Psychological
– How do organizational processes and procedures enhance or diminish employee effectiveness?
– Are there conflicting objectives or expectations among employees?

When finding talent is more challenging than ever, addressing conflict within organizations in a constructive way can increase employee retention and make for a healthy environment to invite new employees into.

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