Every workplace has conflict. We all see it, and at some point, we all feel its impact. The word conflict has a negative connotation for most people, but despite that feeling, not all conflict is bad. Most often, the problem arises when conflict is ignored and people just wish for it to go away on its own.

If you jump right to solving a problem before you fully understand it, you might miss the root cause or underlying issues. Because of this, effectively managing any conflict starts with fully diagnosing it. That’s where we’ll begin in this course. Professors Klingel and Nobles, both experts in conflict resolution from the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution at the School of Industrial Labor Relations, will help you master diagnosing conflict.

You’ll get a chance to map out a conflict in your own workplace in the course project. You’ll also spend time discussing your experiences and lessons learned with your peers. After completing the course, you’ll have the tools and skills to fully diagnose any conflict in your life. You’ll also be ready to determine if a conflict is worth addressing, which sets you up to successfully use a problem-solving approach to resolve a conflict. Please note that this course has been designed as a prerequisite to the companion eCornell course, "Applying a Problem-Solving Approach to Conflict".

When most of us face conflict, we often either avoid dealing with it, or we jump in and try to force a solution. These responses may be driven by a lack of comfort with or even a fear of conflict. Unfortunately, neither response is always correct, and neither approach should be the first step. Professors Klingel and Nobles will share how to overcome these instincts and successfully apply a problem-solving approach to conflict.

The first course in this series, “Diagnosing Workplace Conflict,” focused on fully diagnosing a conflict without jumping into problem solving. In this course, you'll look at how to best handle a fully diagnosed conflict using a problem-solving approach. A common issue we'll address is jumping to solutions before understanding the scope of the conflict and the needs that will have to be addressed to resolve it. Thus, you'll begin by determining the scope. Depending on the scope you may move forward with the problem-solving approach, or, you may decide to let it go. The problem-solving approach, which consists of eight steps that can be broken down into three key elements, is the framework through which this course is taught. In the course project, you'll practice applying this approach to a conflict of your choosing. The approach is intended to be used when solving conflict you are directly involved in. Despite this, we'll offer practical advice on how you could adapt this for other use cases.

The course Diagnosing Workplace Conflict is required to be completed prior to starting this course.

Sometimes there's a person, a situation, or an issue that really drives you crazy. Often, the only way forward is to face the issue head on by having a conversation about it with those involved. While that may sound simple, the situations are often emotionally charged, and people tend to avoid these conversations at all costs. Generally, issues that require these conversations don't rise to the level of a conflict and aren't considered performance issues, making it even harder for those involved to know how they should move forward.

Leading challenging conversations is about facing your discomfort and dedicating yourself to the conversation that needs to happen. You'll learn to identify issues that require a conversation, and to self check if you are the correct person to have the conversation. Once you've identified a conversation, you'll follow a process that helps you create a plan, conduct the conversation, and follow up.

Let's be clear, having a conversation doesn't automatically lead to a resolution. Not having a resolution can be frustrating for many of us, so it's important that you think about success as either fully resolving the issue or helping you identify a path for productively approaching the problem using tools that you have. In the course project, you'll identify a conversation in your workplace, create a plan, practice having the conversation, and determine the appropriate next steps. Professor Nobles will guide you on how to do this using proven strategies and a refined process. This course focuses on conversations you'll have, not coaching others to have these conversations. However, the process that is taught can be shared with peers as they face situations requiring challenging conversations.

Mediation is widely used to settle disputes ranging from conflict between neighbors to conflict between nations. Though personal disagreements and international commerce don't share the same substance or consequences, the key procedural elements of the mediation process are the same for both, so workplace conflicts tend to take the same shape regardless of the industry or the size of the conflict.

In this course you will focus on the use of mediation in resolving organizational conflict where the manager or supervisor serves in the role of mediator. Even if you are not a trained mediator, you can draw on proven mediation techniques to help resolve workplace conflict in productive ways. During this course, you will closely examine a workplace scenario and practice properly setting expectations for mediation of that conflict. In each module, new information will be revealed that will ask you to adapt to the various needs of the disputing parties. Additionally, you will practice handling unforeseen emotional outbursts in a productive way and ultimately propose solutions that consider everyone's interests. Through creative work in examining the scenario and reflecting on how the lessons might apply to your own workplace conflicts, you will learn how to expertly prevent inevitable workplace conflicts from escalating.

The following topics are delivered as live virtual sessions and taught by Cornell instructors and industry experts. You will actively engage with the instructors and your peers as you progress through each topic. Participation at each session is required for successful completion of the certificate program.

Dates:  September 28 – October 28, 2021, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00am – 5:00pm ET

Course 1 - Negotiation Skills for the Workplace

Negotiation is a fundamental method for resolving conflicts and reaching agreements to solve an array of workplace problems. In this session, you will discover and practice negotiation skills through a series of role plays and experiential learning.

Starting with simple, one-on-one negotiations of everyday situations, you'll progress to more complex group negotiations, including both informal and formal workplace negotiation situations. You'll gain insight into your own negotiation biases, weaknesses, and strengths, and build negotiation confidence and competency. You'll determine how to plan a negotiation strategy and practice the communication skills necessary to surface the underlying needs and interests driving the negotiation in order to craft agreements. Both competitive and collaborative negotiation skills are explored.

Course 2 - Diversity, Equity, and Cross-Cultural Approaches to Conflict Engagement

Examine the roles that culture and identity play in conflict and conflict resolution. You will discover how to understand, anticipate, and engage with cultural and identity differences in conflict exchanges. Case studies and exercises will help you to understand how differences are perceived in conflict exchanges. Discussions and activities focus on extensive self-reflection regarding social identity, intersectionality, and cross-cultural communication techniques to enhance conflict resolution. Dispute resolution methods, perception process, and attribution theory are key discussion points.

Course 3 – Facilitating Conflict: Collaborative Problem Solving

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Learning to facilitate conflict conversations between employees and helping them to develop the competency to resolve conflicts on their own can help you make conflict more manageable for everyone.

You'll explore techniques, tools, processes, and skills for facilitating conflict using a collaborative problem-solving approach for resolving one-on-one conflicts. Topics and tools focus on problem solving, listening and messaging skills, neutral issue statements, de-escalating emotions, developing options, and facilitating and gaining commitment to agreements.

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