BSBWOR203 – Deal Effectively with Issues, Problems, and Conflict

BSBWOR203 – Deal Effectively with Issues, Problems, and Conflict


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Element 3: Deal Effectively with Issues, Problems, and Conflict

Performance Criteria Element 3

3.1 Respect differences in personal values and beliefs and their importance in the development of relationships

3.2 Identify any linguistic and cultural differences in communication styles and respond appropriately

3.3 Identify issues, problems, and conflict encountered in the workplace

3.4 Seek assistance from workgroup members when issues, problems, and conflict arise, and suggest possible ways of dealing with them as appropriate or refer them to the appropriate person.

Deal Effectively with Issues, Problems, and Conflict

Respect Differences in Personal Values and Beliefs and Their Importance in the Development of Relationships

Every organisation has their own culture, that is, their own way of doing things, viewing things, their own shared values, assumptions, beliefs, and norms.

Some organisations have organisational cultures that may view an employee or supervisor seeking advice as a sign of their incompetence or inadequacy.

Conversely, some organisations might view the seeking of advice as a sign of an employee’s confidence in their own abilities and knowledge; a sign of their emotional maturity; a sign of their openness to ideas and innovation; and a sign of their commitment to their own professional development. This is a good demonstration of the diverse range of opinions and values you may be working with in your workplace.

Ideally, as an employee, you must be able to seek and exchange information and advice on the areas within your responsibility. This requires you to:

• Be clear about your role and responsibilities
• Know what you don’t know
• Know what you do know
• Know what your manager needs and wants from you
• Communicate clearly, consistently, and effectively.

Identify Any Linguistic and Cultural Differences in Communication Styles and Respond Appropriately

Embracing Diversity in your Workplace

Diversity can often cause difficulties in the workplace – they should not, but communication problems and the like can cause significant issues when you are trying to deal with people who may have different first languages as well as different cultural needs and desires. The attitudes in our workplace that we hold can play a significant part in managing diversity. Ensure that there is:

• Respect
• Trust
• Honesty
• Listening occurring between different individuals.

Knowing how to treat those people in your organisation well is a critical part of being a strong team player. You need to know how to communicate well, understand individual differences, and more.
When you are considering how diversity affects working relationships, take account of the 3 major forms of diversity that need to be considered in the workplace. These are:

• Biological diversity – how we perceive things using our eyes, mouth, ears, hands, and the like. These types of diverse attributes generally cannot be changed in any way. You can’t change someone’s skin colour, or their physical abilities.

• Environmental diversity – much of people’s personalities are drawn from the environment within which they were brought up. Educational levels, styles of parenting, and our experiences all affect the type of person an individual is.

• Psychological diversity – a person’s individual differences may also play a critical role in the way that they are perceived or the way that they portray themselves.

Let’s now consider the way in which you present yourself in the workplace, especially with regards to discussing matters such as race, age, disabilities, and the like. If you do this wrong (even if it is completely unintentional), you are going to have some major problems on your hands. People can be very sensitive to the way that this type of thing is discussed, so what can you do to ease problems when discussing personal matters with a diverse workforce?

• Try to build rapport with others in your work team.
• Always be open and honest.
• Identify the major issues that you are facing at the very start.
• Take the time to appreciate individual differences. Even if you disagree with someone, if it is in their nature, you should not be overly critical, as their opinions deserve as much respect as your own opinions do.
• There are no right answers.
• Avoid using words that could offend.

People from different cultures send and receive messages differently. These differences increase the chances of the other party misunderstanding the message being sent. To avoid such misunderstandings, it is important that you recognise cultural differences. When dealing with people from other cultures, the safest way to communicate is to remember that everyone’s thoughts and actions are not necessarily like our own. While neither culture is doing things ‘the wrong way’, you should assume that differences do exist, so that you will be ready to deal with them. The major types of misunderstanding are:

Language Barriers

Speakers of a second language have great difficulty unlearning these aspects of language, and may even be unaware of such differences. This can result in communication problems even if they use the correct grammar and vocabulary, particularly when they feel under stress, as they may well do in the health care or retail environments. This also applies to forms of English spoken by, for example, Caribbean or Indian communities, which are likely to employ different cultural features: in such cases, the language barrier may be more significant because it is not seen as such.

Paralinguistic Features

The tone of a conversation in Australian English may be conveyed using paralinguistic features including:

Conversation structure, which for most European languages, tends to follow the convention of stating the main point first. Speakers of other languages may build up to what is important, and may lose the interest of Australian English speakers who are unaware of this difference.

Emphasis which is placed on a word to give it more importance within a sentence; think about the sentence “I told her that diet was important”. It has subtly different inferences depending upon where the emphasis is applied.

“I told her that the diet was important” vs “I told her that the diet was important”

If ‘told’ is emphasised, the speaker may be conveying their own feelings of frustration at their ignored advice, but emphasis placed on ‘I’ points to ownership of the action. Other languages may employ the use of repetition, extra words, or a change in the pace or pitch of their speaking, to convey their feelings or the relevance of something.

Intonation which can turn a phrase into a question without the need to restructure the sentence. This can be very confusing to someone who has been taught English as a second language in a more formal manner. A second-language speaker may also have a much greater range of tones with which they convey friendliness, respect or interest, and may be confused or offended by our limited tonal range, which they feel conveys lack of respect or boredom. Some languages, like Chinese dialects, place great importance on intonation, which is used to give a single word several different meanings. Speakers of such tonal languages may be perceived as angry or arrogant by Australian English speakers.

Listening which is shown through eye-contact, nodding, or encouraging noises, can easily be misunderstood by speakers of a second language, who may employ silence, stillness, and even looking away to demonstrate their attentiveness.

Silence usually conveys unease, but may indicate that a speaker of a second language is taking the topic of conversation very seriously.

Turn-taking where only one person at a time speaks, and interruptions are viewed as rude. A speaker may indicate that it is someone else’s turn to speak by lowering their voice, slowing down, becoming repetitive, or pausing. Even the length of pauses varies, with Australian English speakers employing relatively long pauses. In other languages, people may speak over each other to show that they are actively involved in the conversation. If someone is unaware of turn-taking conventions, they may feel frustrated or offended that it never seems to be their turn to speak.

Volume which is normally fairly low, with a noticeable increase used to gain attention and emphasise what is being said. It can also convey strong feelings, and so speakers of languages that are generally louder can come across as upset, threatening, or rude.

Non-verbal signals

Non-verbal behaviour is instilled in us and therefore difficult to manipulate. Cultural differences between the use of non-verbal signals can easily lead to confusion over intentions and reactions. If someone displays what we feel to be inappropriate nonverbal behaviour, we tend to simply label them as rude and not pursue the matter with them. Non-verbal signals include the following:

Eye contact, which Australian English speakers tend to use to indicate attentiveness or honesty, but when used too much, can make the recipient feel quite uncomfortable. However, in South Asia, eyes are lowered as a sign of respect, and too much eye contact indicates insolence or aggression. An Australian English speaker talking to someone from South Asia may feel that they do not know the answer to their question, do not understand, or are being dishonest, when they are simply being humble towards them.

Facial expressions, which can also be misleading. For example, the Japanese tend to be straight-faced when happy, and smile to mask unpleasant feelings such as anger or sadness.

Gestures, which may have totally opposite meanings, most notably the nodding / shaking of the head. In Islamic cultures, the left hand is considered unclean and it is offensive to use it to offer something to someone. A left-handed non-Islamic person may quite unwittingly cause offence by simply passing someone a pen or offering them a biscuit.

Personal space, which is an important aspect of feeling comfortable in the presence of others. Acceptable physical distance varies not only between cultures, but also within them according to relationships. If someone stands too close to another, that person may then step back to a distance with which they are comfortable, and this may well happen repeatedly.

Posture, is a further area where you may find that there are significant differences between cultures. You may not realise it, but sitting with your feet towards someone is offensive in many parts of Asia, whereas there are no significant problems here in Australia with it. Folded arms are a sign of relaxation in Asian countries and a sign of defensiveness in Western countries.

Touch, which is used relatively rarely in Australian culture, increasing only with more intimate relationships. The level of use varies between sexes, and even within families. Those from cultures that tend to employ more physical contact may cause great offence by simply acting naturally.


Politeness is a very important part of both written and verbal communication, and includes the following features:

Greetings, which are used at varying levels in different cultures. In Australian English, their use is relatively limited and this may cause offence to those from cultures where they are used as often as at the beginning and end of every encounter with someone. They include shaking hands, joining the palms of hands, smiling, and bowing.

Please and thank you, which are widely used in Australian English, such that their absence tends to be taken as a sign of arrogance or ignorance, especially if the speakers do not have equal social status. In other cultures, their lack of use is not important because they are implied by the tone of voice or specific choice of verb or pronoun. Also, they may be regarded as superfluous in the context of someone’s job, by both the provider and user of the service. In some cultures, gratitude may be shown by a kind look or gesture, or the giving of gifts, possibly money. If someone is unable to accept a gift of thanks, the giver is likely to be offended.

Saying no, which in many cultures is considered to be rude, particularly to someone of a higher status. Alternative ways of refusing a request or showing disagreement include changing the subject, procrastinating, being non-committal, or using particular language that may cause great confusion when translated. Australian English speakers tend to avoid conflict and may try to make a joke or apologise rather than say ‘no’ directly. This behaviour could be interpreted as somewhat dishonest to those from cultures that use a more-direct approach.

Anger, which is something that Australian English speakers tend to avoid showing as far as possible; its effect therefore, has a greater impact when it is expressed. In other cultures, anger is less of an issue, and is often expressed, received, and forgotten as a matter of course.

Other Cultures

When trying to communicate with those from other cultures, it may be useful to:

• Be aware of the reasons (many of which are listed previously) why communication may fail, or not entirely succeed
• Try to become more aware of your own automatic responses so that you can learn to keep them in check
• Give the other person the benefit of the doubt and assume that they do not intend to be unkind.
• Try to gauge other people’s reactions to you and be prepared to adapt your approach.

Identify Issues, Problems and Conflict Encountered in the Workplace

Causes of Conflict

Although conflict is often viewed negatively, it can lead to enlightenment if solutions are reached. The first logical steps in resolving conflict is to identify the problem and then identify what caused the conflict. There are 8 major reasons for conflict in the workplace:

• Conflicting Needs

This is a major form of conflict in the workplace. I am sure you have experienced a time when 2 people have asked you to undertake quite different tasks and expected them to be done at the same time. Knowing how to deal with such conflicts is quite critical, as you do not want to upset either party, rather get everything done as required.

• Conflicting Styles

Different people have different ways of undertaking their work. In most cases there is no right or wrong answer to this, just differences. Conflict can arise when one individual is stuck in their ways and is not willing to change the way that they will undertake given pieces of work even if another person may have just as an effective way of dealing with the work.

• Conflicting Perceptions

You may find that 2 staff within your organisation tend to deal with things in quite different ways. They may perceive a problem differently, leading to very different ways of resolving the issue.

• Conflicting Goals

Different individuals within a workplace may be working towards very different goals, and may not take the time to consider how what they are doing is going to impact on what the others within the workplace are also doing.

• Conflicting Pressures

You may find that you are working to a tight deadline that is going to affect the way that another department is able to work – if you are not able to achieve what they need, it will affect your results as well as theirs, leading to conflict.

• Conflicting Roles

You may find that you have individuals who think they are doing the same thing as you need to do, but use different techniques to achieve them – leading to issues for you or vice versa.

• Different Personal Values

You may find that your values are quite different and so you perceive something someone else has done in the wrong way.

• Unpredictable Policies

Changing policies and procedures can lead to conflict, especially if you are not familiar with the changes being made.

“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.”

-Indira Gandhi


Seek Assistance from Workgroup Members When Issues, Problems and Conflict Arise and Suggest Possible Ways of Dealing with Them as Appropriate or Refer Them to the Appropriate Person

Strategies for Resolving Conflict

Once a conflict occurs, it needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. The most important ways of resolving conflict are listed below. It should be remembered that the style chosen will depend both on the conflict involved and the people trying to resolve it.

• Avoidance – Non-assertive, non-cooperative

Simply avoiding any form of conflict can be a good strategy. It allows you to eliminate the problem while at the same time avoiding the need to find a resolution. It is most useful if there is no real need to actually resolve the problem – perhaps because it is not overly important or pressing.

• Accommodation – Non-assertive, cooperative

Accommodation is a conflict management process whereby you allow the other party to get their way, while you lose out on what you need. There is often a need for some degree of accommodation, but it is not wise for it to occur in every conflict as it can lead to you being seen as a pushover.

• Compromise – Some assertiveness, some cooperation

Compromise begins the process of working towards a specific resolution that both parties are happy with. You use compromise to get some things at the expense of others. However you are not giving up everything in this case. It is useful if the resolution is needed quickly.

• Competition – Assertive, non-cooperative

Here you are looking at getting what you want at the expense of the other party. It is quite an aggressive conflict management tool and often will actually lead you to resolving things quickly but it may cause further problems later down the line.

• Collaboration – Assertive, cooperative

Finally, collaboration is a conflict management tool which is the most difficult but rewarding. It can be very time consuming, but if you get it right, it will lead to a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

Choose the Right Conflict Management Strategy

When deciding on a conflict management tool:

• Think about how assertive or aggressive you can be
• How important is the subject of the conflict to you
• What are you willing to give up
• What are you willing to cooperate on
• What are you willing to lose.

Required Knowledge

There are a number of things that you should have already learned to be able to use the information provided here. Knowing the specifics of the following topics is not the purpose of this unit, but they are useful to know nevertheless and you may investigate them further in your own time, if you wish.

Key Provisions of Legislation

• Anti-Discrimination Legislation

At the federal (Commonwealth) level there are 4 different Acts for different kinds of discrimination. These are the:

○ Age Discrimination Act 2004
○ Disability Discrimination Act 1992
○ Racial Discrimination Act 1975
○ Sex Discrimination Act 1984

Each state and territory has its own anti-discrimination legislation, which are:

○ Australian Capital Territory – Discrimination Act 1991
○ New South Wales – Anti-Discrimination Act 1977
○ Northern Territory – Anti-Discrimination Act 1996
○ Queensland – Anti-Discrimination Act 1991
○ South Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984
○ Tasmania – Anti-Discrimination Act 1998
○ Victoria – Equal Opportunity Act 2010
○ Western Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984

Racial discrimination, harassment, and defamation are all unlawful. People may not be treated unfairly because of their nationality, descent, race, religion, or colour. Any behaviour that is unwelcome and puts someone down, embarrasses them relating to any of the things listed earlier.

Anyone who believes they have been subjected to racial discrimination, harassment, or vilification may seek assistance from the relevant Anti-Discrimination Board and/or the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner who will advise them of their rights under the legislation.

Federal, State, and Territory laws: The laws protecting individuals from being treated unfairly because of their race, colour, nationality, descent, ethnicity, or ethno-religious background are the federal Racial Discrimination Act (1975), and the Racial Hatred Act (1995). Each state and territory has specific legislation cover in this area.

• Ethics

There is no current Federal legislation specifically targeting ethical behaviour. Queensland does have the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994.

To behave ethically means to be moral and right in our conduct. That includes adhering with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice.

Ethical principles are guidelines based on morality that determines the lengths or boundaries a person or business sets for itself.

Ethical principles are the positions from which guidance can be obtained when making a decision and are important to behave morally, fairly, and equitably.

• Codes of Practice   

Codes of Practice are sets of guidelines and regulations to be followed by members of some professions, trades, occupations, organisations etc. They are not usually covered by law, but rather by agreement of participants or members. Data in the Codes of Practice database consists of several different types – Codes of Practice (Australian & International), Standards (Australian & International), Australian Design Rules, and others.

• Privacy Laws                          

Privacy laws regulate the type of information which may be collected and how this information may be used and stored, and ensures information is not misused or abused.

Organisations must not involve unnecessary intrusion on an individual’s privacy. They must take reasonable steps to maintain data quality and consider the following when using information about others.
There are some things that an organisation can do to make it easier to comply. Firstly, transacting anonymously with individuals where it is lawful and practicable to do so, can reduce the amount of personal information that is collected. Secondly, limit the collection of personal information to the minimum necessary to complete a transaction. Thirdly, make it as easy as possible for individuals to access and correct their own information.

• Work Health and Safety (WHS)

Governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the harmonisation of Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws is part of the Council of Australian Governments’ National Reform Agenda aimed at reducing the regulatory burden and creating a seamless national economy. The objects of harmonising WHS laws through a model framework are to protect the health and safety of workers, improve safety outcomes in workplaces, reduce compliance costs for business, and improve efficiency for health and safety regulators.

WHS Regulation

WHS is regulated by Commonwealth, State, and Territory government bodies. General information on their roles and responsibilities can be found at the following website:

• Environmentally Sustainable Work Practices

Environmentally sustainable work practices are those which reduce harm on the environment and reduce wastage of resources. All employees can help protect the environment by following the guidelines below:

○ Reduce

  • Use goods which stop waste being generated
  • Reduce waste by choosing products that have minimal packaging and can be
    used productively and then recycled.

○ Re-Use

  • Re-use containers, packaging, or waste products wherever possible.

○ Recycle

  • Recycle waste material into useable products wherever possible.

For Waste that Can’t Be Avoided, Reused or Recycled

  • Treat the waste to make it less harmful or reduce the volume of the harmful
    Dispose of the waste safely.

○ Strategies to Be Implemented by the Manager and Supervisors

  • Consider sustainability issues when making planning and managing
  • Promote and encourage environmental awareness to ensure employees
    are aware of their environmental responsibilities
  • Aim to continually improve environmental performance by identifying and
    addressing environmental risk
  • Make resources available to implement environmental risk management

○ Employees’ Responsibilities

  • Identify and manage environmental risks associated with work activities to
    minimise their impact on the environment
  • Make suggestions to your Managers when you have an idea.

○ Managing Safety Risks

  • Be aware of workplace health and safety policies and ensure procedures
    are followed
  • Notify the Workplace Health and Safety Officer (WHSO) of specific risks
    or hazards by completing an Employee Feedback Form.

A safety risk assessment must be undertaken by the WHSO Officer at least once a year using the Workplace Safety Checklist.

○ Environmental Purchasing Guidelines

  • Become informed about the environmental impacts of products purchased
  • Search for environmentally-friendly products
  • Choose products with less packaging
  • Choose products with recyclable or reusable packaging
  • Re-use plastic bags and all types of containers if possible
  • Buy quality goods that will last
  • Buy recycled goods which have already saved resources and raw materials,
    and help reduce the overall quantity of waste.

○ Paper Wastage

  • Buy and use recycled paper where possible
  • Make double-sided copies when printing and photocopying, wherever
  • Use the blank side of used paper for notepaper before recycling
  • Re-use envelopes for internal mail.

○ Disposal of Waste
› Place the following in recycle bins, depending on recycling facilities
available in your community:

  • Paper
  • Aluminium
  • Glass
  • Steel.

› Follow the guidelines for the disposal of these materials to minimise the
impact on the environment.

○ Energy
› Use these strategies to minimise energy wastage:

  • Maintain air-conditioning at a constant temperature of 23-24ºC
  • Close blinds or curtains to minimise heat build-up
  • Maintain only security lighting after business hours
  • Switch off equipment overnight wherever possible
  • Repair malfunctioning utilities (e.g. leaking taps) as soon as possible.

Key Points

• People from different cultures send and receive messages differently. These differences may increase the chances that one or the other party may misunderstand the message being sent.

• Differences may arise in:

○ Language

○ Paralinguistic techniques

○ Politeness.

• Conflict can arise due to:

○ Conflicting needs

○ Conflicting styles

○ Conflicting perceptions

○ Conflicting goals

○ Conflicting pressures

○ Conflicting roles

○ Different personal values

○ Unpredictable policies.

• Conflict can be resolved by:

○ Avoidance

○ Accommodation

○ Compromise

○ Competition

○ Collaboration.