Conflict Management in Sport Organisations
In sport organisations, large and small, conflict is commonplace. It typically occurs as a result of:
- Differences of opinion about how the organisation should run programs and provide services
- Disappointment at how someone (a member or customer of the organisation) has been treated
- Perceptions that people who have decision-making power within the organisation, make decisions in their own self-interest)
- Inability to adequately communicate one's thoughts and feelings, either due to a lack of interpersonal skills or the lack of communication channels
Money is often a trigger for conflict. There is much less to argue about when there is no money at stake. But if there are dollars to be spent, and people perceive that there has been bias in the allocation of money, then one can expect some measure of conflict.
Furthermore, the passion that people have for their sport, tends to heighten the extent of conflict. People so look forward to their sport activities that emotions are bound to run high if anyone or anything spoils their enjoyment. Emotions also run high when people perceive that children have been disadvantaged, especially their own children.
Conflict between individuals, or groups of individuals, can have significant effect on the organisation including:
- Resignation of volunteers who serve on committees, or provide services such as coaching or refereeing, and the difficulty to replace them.
- Diminishment of the organisation's reputation in the community caused by the spreading of negative or malicious comments
- Division of organisation personnel into factions with diametrically opposing points of view. As a result the organisation leadership spends more time managing internal relations than getting on with the job of planning and managing sport and recreation programs, events and activities.
Strategies for dealing with conflict
It is important that committee personnel and organisation managers have
the skills to effectively deal with the inevitable occurrence of conflict when it arises. This maybe difficult when the source of the conflict may be themselves.
- Endeavour to deal with any conflict that arises at an early stage, before it becomes a significant problem.
- Personally communicate with people and try to understand the issues important to them
- Establish a rapport with people who may have an opposing view by listening, empathizing and encouraging
- Avoid favoritism
- Develop policies and procedures that ensure fairness in the distribution of resources
- Implement training programs that open communication channels and develop a cooperative environment
- Allocate jobs to be volunteers that are designed to suit their strengths and interests.
It is nearly always the best policy for solving conflict to arrange a face-to-face meeting between parties to the conflict.
For such a meeting to be effective it should:
- occur at an appropriate
time for all parties
- take place in a comfortable, positive and non-threatening environment, people involved should be physically and mentally
comfortable and relaxed
- Sometimes it may be necessary to have an impartial facilitator to help keep emotions under control and issues on track
In regard to communication between the parties, it is important to consider:
- the importance of non-verbal communication as body language can communicate more information than
the spoken word
- The importance of listening and careful interpretation of what is said by other people
- the need to understand the situation
from the perspective of the other side
- the need to utilise language that is clear, concise, complete and correct
- the use questioning to get to the bottom of what people feel and think
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