Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
An MMA webinar today covered how to skillfully manage internal conflict, neutralize its negative effects, and maintain a positive and healthy work culture.
Katie Gilfeather, an employee assistance program professional and clinician with AllOne Health, began by discussing common causes of conflict, saying that inadequate communication and perceived performance issues are prominent influences.
AllOne Health Regional Executive Director Michael Stuart explained the difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict, in addition to various examples of conflicts that might arise within city and town halls. He described how poor communication can develop from fundamental differences in personality and lead to workplace disputes and confusion around project delegation.
Unmanaged conflict can diminish performance, reduce morale, and increase turnover, triggering a residual impact on the overall municipal workplace, as well as the health of appointed and elected officials.
To resolve and mitigate conflict, Gilfeather said it’s essential to set expectations and create alignment between colleagues. She stressed the significance of early intervention and enhancing interpersonal communication skills to sharpen emotional intelligence and increase conflict resiliency.
Stuart and Gilfeather offered several strategies for addressing conflict, such as remaining calm, using neutral language, and being timely in your response. Remaining calm helps prevent a conflict from escalating and activating the body’s “fight or flight” response.
Gilfeather highlighted the importance of listening, recognizing the brain’s default response, and responding instead of reacting. Taking the time to process your emotions, and using more effective language to communicate your position, is less likely to exacerbate tension and prolong the conflict.
The session wrapped with an emphasis on early intervention and effective communication, encouraging appointed and elected officials to approach anger with empathy.
Sandwich Town Manager Bud Dunham moderated the question and answer session, where attendees asked about responding to tension in a timely manner and mitigating conflict between committee and board members.
• Coping With Conflict: Internal Resolution Strategies presentation (1.5M PDF)