Conflict Management: Overview

Conflicts occur when people (or other parties) perceive that, as a consequence of a disagreement, there is a threat to their needs, interests or concerns. Although conflict is a normal part of organization life, providing numerous opportunities for growth through improved understanding and insight, there is a tendency to view conflict as a negative experience caused by abnormally difficult circumstances. Disputants tend to perceive limited options and finite resources available in seeking solutions, rather than multiple possibilities that may exist ‘outside the box’ in which we are problem-solving.
1. CONFLICT
Conflicts are natural and inevitable results when individuals work together, share diverse thoughts, concerns, perspective and goals. But what exactly is a conflict?

Basically, conflict is “The clashing of opposed principles”. That’s the easiest way to say it. Some of researchers define confict as “process in which one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party”. Generally it is a clash of values, believes, ideas or goals.
There are three main types of conflict:
Relationship Conflict is strictly a personal perspective and can arise when one person behaves in a negative manner or another person has skewed perception due to things like stereotypes and rumors. The relationship between people is affected negatively, and in the workplace, performance is eroded due to poor team cohesion. Value Conflict arises when two people or groups have dissenting views on moral values– that basic understanding of what is naturally right or wrong.
Relationship and value conflicts are the most subjective conflict types, because they are based totally on what someone “feels” about a person or situation. Interest Conflict arises when one person’s desired outcome is in conflict with another person or group’s interests. Typically, this occurs when one person believes that another person’s desires, if enacted, will prevent his or her own interests from being met. This type of conflict can be experienced when two people who have relationship conflict are required by a team manager to work as a part of a team.
2. CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
The practice of recognizing and dealing with disputes in a rational, balanced and effective way. Conflict management implemented within a business environment usually involves effective communication, problem resolving abilities and good negotiating skills to restore the focus to the company’s overall goals.
3. METHODS
In the 1970s Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann identified five main styles of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. They argued that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style. However they also noted that different styles were most useful in different situations. They developed the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) which helps you to identify which style you tend towards when conflict arises.
4. TABLE
1) AVOIDANCE The avoiding style is uncooperative and unassertive. People exhibiting this style seek to avoid conflict altogether by denying that it is there. They are prone to postponing any decisions in which a conflict may arise. People using this style may say things such as, “I don’t really care if we work this out,” or “I don’t think there’s any problem. I feel fine about how things are.” Conflict avoidance may be habitual to some people because of personality traits such as the need for affiliation. While conflict avoidance may not be a significant problem if the issue at hand is trivial, it becomes a problem when individuals avoid confronting important issues because of a dislike for conflict or a perceived inability to handle the other party’s reactions.
2)COMPETING People exhibiting a competing style want to reach their goal or get their solution adopted regardless of what others say or how they feel. They are more interested in getting the outcome they want as opposed to keeping the other party happy, and they push for the deal they are interested in making. Competition may lead to poor relationships with others if one is always seeking to maximize their own outcomes at the expense of others’ well-being. This approach may be effective if one has strong moral objections to the alternatives or if the alternatives one is opposing are unethical or harmful.
People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position, rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an emergency and a decision needs to be made fast; when the decision is unpopular; or when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly. However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in less urgent situations.
3) Accommodating: This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the person’s own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or when you want to be in a position to collect on this “favor” you gave. However people may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes. Accomodating individuals never meet their needs.
4) Collaborative: People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful when you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution; when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too important for a simple trade-off. Requires trust and communication and is time consuming.
5) Compromising: People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something, and the compromiser him- or herself also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.

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