Even at a nonprofit where every employee has great respect for each other, conflict is going to happen; it’s just the nature of the group dynamic. The key is to make sure the disagreement is resolved in a swift and concise way.
Successful conflict resolution in a nonprofit involves more than effective individual communications, according to Marci Thomas and Kim Strom-Gottfried. In their book “The Best of Boards,” they wrote that a climate that supports respect, transparency, and straightforward treatment of differences is also required.
One way to create this type of environment is to create a code of ethics. According to Thomas and Strom-Gottfried, these serve multiple purposes: They display an expectation of integrity and they enhance an organization’s image. They cited Nancy E. Algert and Christine A. Stanley’s “Code of Cooperation for the Management Team,” from their article “Conflict Management” in Effective Practices for Academic Leaders, as a good example of a code that will lead to quicker conflict resolutions during discussions:
- Remember that every member is responsible for the team’s progress and success.
- Listen to and show respect for the contribution of other members;
- Criticize ideas, not persons;
- Do not allow hidden agendas;
- Do not allow collusion;
- Strive for consensus;
- Resolve conflicts constructively;
- Pay attention; avoid disruptive behavior;
- Avoid disruptive side conversations;
- Allow only one person to speak at a time;
- Ensure that everyone participates and that no one dominates;
- Be succinct; avoid long anecdotes and examples;
- Understand that pulling rank is not allowed; and,
- Attend to your personal comfort needs at any time but minimize team disruption.