Integrative Conflict Management System (ICMS)

An ICMS is an adaptive system with stable elements that can help the entire coffee shop navigate the inevitable conflicts that will come up between baristas, managers, and guests.

The society of professionals in dispute resolution (SPIDR) published a guide to help organizations understand what an ICMS is and how to develop it. Spidr (2001) suggests that any conflict management system must be customized to address the specific needs of the organization it is being designed for. A specialty coffee shop demands cooperation and collaboration in a team environment, and many of the team members may be from a younger generation than the coffee shop owners, managers, and guests. This can create misunderstandings based on the lived experience of each group that can contribute to the manifestation of intergroup conflict, a destructive work environment, negative meaning of work, amotivation, and an increased turnover rate.

Hetzler & Speth (2008) recognize that a failure to cooperate can lead to conflict, and the traditional way of resolving conflict is to focus on rightness and divert the decision-making process to an authority to decide who wins and who loses. This characteristic of workplace conflict management can take more time than necessary for many conflicts, and it can alienate certain members of the organization who do not want to follow traditional means for resolving their conflict, or who have less power in the situation. For younger workers, it may be easier to leave the company than to report or cope with extended conflict. Since baristas are typically younger workers, and their conflicts often start with tensions in the moment, it is important for them to have the capacity and authority to resolve as much conflict as possible in the moment the tensions arise, whether that be with management, each other, or guests.

To be effective, Spidr (2001) recommends that an ICMS welcomes conversation over workplace tensions and conflicts and encourages the resolution of these as soon as possible, whether or not an authority is present. However, without support from management or the organization, an ICMS will not be effective for all the internal stakeholders and will ultimately fail to emerge a collaborative conflict-culture. Further, if the internal stakeholders are unaware how to handle difficult conversations or aren’t comfortable with engaging conflict, the system could fail as well. An ICMS will be expensive and redundant without the support, training, and understanding of those who are expected to utilize and enforce it.

Three important skills for engaging conflict are, being aware of one’s own personal biases of the other, being aware of one’s own biases toward conflict itself, and looking at the situation from the other’s perspective as much as possible (Coleman, Deutsch, Marcus, 2014). In this way, the conversation can become a genuine negotiation of interests rather than a competition for rightness and power. When people are interdependently linked over time, such as in the workplace, it is easy to identify the other person as the problem, rather than recognizing the problem as an incongruence between the needs and interests of humans or their organization. This can lead a conflict from simple issues over task or process to more complicated issues between people over how they will continue relating. Fisher, Ury, and Patton (2011) explain that this can be avoided by understanding each other’s perceptions, speaking and listening clearly, avoiding blame while emotional, and having an outlook focused on how to move forward (p. 23). These skills will help individuals change how they treat each other when in the midst of conflict and are important skills to include in any training initiative to support an ICMS, or a specialty coffeeshop.

Training the entire coffee shop on the principles of interest-based negotiation will likely increase the competence everyone feels toward engaging conflicts and tensions in real time. This could decrease the time it takes for guests and baristas to receive a resolution, because the baristas can address their concerns and offer a suitable resolution before the guests (or their team members) leave the coffeeshop for good. Organization-wide support for immediate resolution typically increases the security people feel for engaging conflicts by providing autonomy to address the issue without manager involvement. This could reduce the anxiety associated with threat states that may come up when faced with managerial power, which is the type of anxiety most impactful on the cognitive processes necessary for emotional regulation (Robinson, Vytal, Cornwell, & Grillon, 2013). Lastly, when all the internal stakeholders follow the same, collaborative guidelines for engaging conflict, relatedness among the team could increase through the habit of taking each other’s perspective, being one group rather than several, and not allowing emotions to create blame. This relatedness could decrease the amount of person-related workplace conflict as well, because the baristas and managers will feel connected with each other and desire to communicate respectfully with each other when faced with task-related conflicts before they emerge into personal issues that are much harder to resolve.



Coleman, P. T., Deutsch, M., Marcus, E. C. eds. (2014). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice. San Francisco:

Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (2011) Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Hetzler, D. C. & Speth, A. N. (2008). Future dispute system design: Ethical imperatives, millennial and beyond. Ohio State
Journal on Dispute Resolution, 24

Robinson, O. J., Vytal, K., Cornwell, B. R., Grillon, C. (2013). The impact of anxiety upon cognition: perspectives from threat of
shock studies. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7(203). doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00203.

SPIDR. (2001). Guidelines for the design of integrated conflict management systems within organizations. Journal of
Alternative Dispute Resolution in Employment, 3
(1), 45–48.

Any Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.