Conflict Management

Conflict Is Natural

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When two or more people deal with each other, work with each other and discuss with each other to find a common outcome (decision, solution, objective, aim, process, answer etc), do not be surprised if there is a conflict among the people concerned. Conflict is natural to start with as each individual is different and unique.

Each individual's character (values, knowledge base, paradigms and motivation level/will power) is different and therefore, when more people are involved in any activity and if those people are a bit involved in the activity, we are experiencing many values, knowledge bases, many paradigms and many different levels of motivation interacting with each other and trying to fight with each other to gain the ground and if process of sorting out the differences is not found and used, the conflict will sustain.

Conflict Spiral

Aggravation of conflict is a four stage process:

Since their values, knowledge levels, paradigms and motivation levels do not match with each other, they insist:

  • "mine is right".

  • Then they do not listen to each other.

  • They become rigid and start blaming.

  • They get angry and angrier and the above-mentioned three steps keep repeating and the solution is not reached.

Conflict Resolution Process

A process will have to be worked out among the participants of the conflict to resolve the conflict. Process will include sharing knowledge on the subject, listening, accepting the better outcome if convinced and thus coming to a consensus or agreement. The process will have to be allowed the time it may require.

This will mean:

1. Break conflict spiral by

- controlling who is speaking

- controlling what is being said

2. Gain cooperation

- explore a plan acceptable to both (or more) parties

3. Be creative

- reach a solution

Win-win approach is necessary.

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Five Conflict Handling Modes

1. Avoidance (unassertive and uncooperative)- Withdrawal or Denial

  • Avoid dealing with conflict.

  • Rationale: Disagreements are bad as they create tensions.

  • I am neutral on the issue. Let me not think about it; it's someone else's problem.

  • Outcome: The problems do not get resolved causing long term frustrations manifested in variety of ways.

2. Competing (assertive and uncooperative)- Forcing or Power

  • Get your way.

  • Rationale: It is preferable to risk causing a few hard feelings than to abandon the issue.

  • I know what is right and therefore, don't question my authority or judgment.

  • Outcome: you feel vindicated but the other party feels defeated and perhaps, humiliated.

3. Accommodating (unassertive and cooperative)- Smoothing or Suppression

  • Don't upset the other person.

  • Rationale: Maintaining harmonious relationships should be the priority.

  • How can I help you feel good about this? My position is not so important that it is worth risking bad feelings between us.

  • Outcome: The other party is likely to take advantage.

4. Compromising (intermediate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness)- Sharing or Negotiation

  • Reach agreement quickly.

  • Rationale: Prolonged conflicts distract from their work and cause bitter feelings.

  • Let us search for a solution we can both live with, so we can get on with work.

  • Outcome: The involved persons go for the expedient rather than effective solutions.

5. Collaborating (Assertive and cooperative)- Problem Solving or Collaboration

  • Solve the problem together.

  • Rationale: Each position is important though not necessarily valid. Emphasis should be placed on the outcome and the fairness of the decision making or problem solving process.

  • This is my position, what is yours? I am committed to finding the best possible solution. what do the facts suggest?

  • Outcome: The issue is most likely to be resolved. Both the parties will be committed to the solution. They will also be satisfied with the feeling that they have been treated fairly.

Collaboration (problem solving) is obviously the superior most mode of conflict handling.

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When Do People Use the Five Conflict Handing Modes?

While it is true that "collaborating" mode of conflict resolution is the ideal one, people do use other modes also to resolve the issues under various conditions. They may bring in, at least, the short term solutions.

The situations under which each of these five conflict resolution modes is used by many people are given below:

1. Avoidance

  • Trivial issues.

  • Cost of disruption outweighs the benefits of conflict resolution.

  • Concerned people need time to cool down.

  • Adequate or complete information for making a decision is not available right away.

  • The existing issue seems to be entangled with other issue(s).

  • Little probability of satisfying your own concern.

2. Competing

  • Quick decisions and subsequent actions are critical.

  • Unpopular issues are involved and they must be resolved and implemented.

  • Person in charge of conflict resolution (manager or leader) is aware of what is more appropriate or correct and must move quickly.

  • There is necessity to provide protection from the people who may hurt others in the organization or hurt the organization itself.

3. Accommodating

  • Your position is weak, less appropriate or correct or less useful as compared to that of the others.

  • Harmony and stability are comparatively more important.

  • The issue appears to be more importance to the other person as compared to you.

  • You are desirous of building up your emotional bank balance or emotional credits in others' emotional accounts for maintaining and further improving the relationships with them.

  • You wish to minimize the losses when you are outmatched.

  • You believe that other person(s) can learn by having his/their own way and then making mistakes and thereby learning from them.

4. Compromising

  • Collaboration and competing modes have been unsuccessful.

  • Time available at hand to resolve the issues ideally is less and expedient solutions are needed.

  • Temporary or short term solutions seem to be OK.

  • Individuals involved in the conflict have equal power and are committed to mutually exclusive goals.

  • Goals are important but not sufficiently enough to disrupt any action.

5. Collaborating

  • The parties involved in the conflict have concerns that are too important to be ignored.

  • Adequate time is available at hand to discuss the conflicting concerns or issues at length.

  • Commitments for successful implementation and follow up are critical and therefore, full participation of all the concerned in resolving the issues is necessary.

  • Highly creative and innovative solutions are needed.

  • Emotions have interfered with relationships.

  • One of the important objectives is also to learn from the conflict resolution episode.

Team Building

Conflict management is a pre-requisite for team building which is imperative in modern and competing organizations because only team building can generate the most sought after synergies.