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The overall result of such negative effects is to reduce employees' commitment to organizational goals and organizational efficiency Kirchoff and Adams, Elements of a conflict Organizational conflicts usually involve three elements, which have to be appropriately matched through necessary organizational arrangements in order to resolve the conflict Turner and Weed, Power includes budgetary discretion, personal influence, information, time, space, staff size and dependence on others.

If used efficiently, power creates an atmosphere of cooperation, but can generate conflicts when misused, withheld or amassed. Usually such expectations are high, and making them rather unrealistic. When these expectations are not fulfilled, people feel disheartened, angry, let down or cheated. Consequently, conflict situations can arise. People want to prove their worth in the organization. Superiors control employees' pay, performance rating, performance and appraisal, etc.

How much of these are received by a person reflects their worth. An individual may also feel loss of worth if some basic needs are not fulfilled. Generally, conflicts arise from mismatches between power, organizational demands and feelings of personal worth. Theory of conflict management Conflict is defined as disagreement between individuals.

It can vary from a mild disagreement to a win-or-lose, emotion-packed, confrontation Kirchoff and Adams, They emerge as a natural result of change and can be beneficial to the organization, if managed efficiently. Current theory Kirchoff and Adams, considers innovation as a mechanism for bringing together various ideas and viewpoints into a new and different fusion. An atmosphere of tension, and hence conflict, is thus essential in any organization committed to developing or working with new ideas.

Response styles People may appreciate the same situation in different ways, and so respond differently.

Session 5. Conflict management

It is therefore necessary to understand the response styles of the people involved so as to manage conflicts properly. Addressers can either be first-steppers or confronters: - First-steppers are those who believe that some trust has to be established to settle conflicts. They offer to make a gesture of affability, agreeableness or sympathy with the other person's views in exchange for a similar response. They might be confronting because they have authority and a safe position, which reduces their vulnerability to any loss.

They conceal their views and feelings.

Knowledge Bank

Concealers can be of three kinds: - Feeling-swallowers swallow their feelings. They smile even if the situation is causing them pain and distress. They behave thus because they consider the approval of other people important and feel that it would be dangerous to affront them by revealing their true feelings. They change the topic by finding something on which there can be some agreement with the conflicting party.

This response style usually does not solve the problem. Instead, it can create problems for the people who use this and for the organization in which such people are working. They are angry for one or another reason, even though it may not be anyone's fault. They express their feelings by attacking whatever they can even, though that may not be the cause of their distress.

Attackers may be up-front or behind-the-back: - Up-front attackers are the angry people who attack openly, they make work more pleasant for the person who is the target, since their attack usually generates sympathy, support and agreement for the target. Dealing with conflict Conflicts are inescapable in an organization. However, conflicts can be used as motivators for healthy change. In today's environment, several factors create competition; they may be differing departmental objectives, individual objectives, competition for use of resources or differing viewpoints.

These have to be integrated and exploited efficiently to achieve organizational objectives. A manager should be able to see emerging conflicts and take appropriate pre-emptive action. The manager should understand the causes creating conflict, the outcome of conflict, and various methods by which conflict can be managed in the organization. With this understanding, the manager should evolve an approach for resolving conflicts before their disruptive repercussions have an impact on productivity and creativity.

Therefore, a manager should possess special skills to react to conflict situations, and should create an open climate for communication between conflicting parties. Ways to resolve conflict When two groups or individuals face a conflict situation, they can react in four ways De Bono, Negotiations take place within the prevailing situation and do not involve problem solving or designing.

Third-party roles are very important in bringing the conflicting parties together on some common ground for negotiations. However, this may not be easy. It is also possible that the situation may not become normal even after removing the identified cause, because of its influence on the situation. It considers conflicts as situations rather than problems. Designing is not confined to what is already there, but attempts to reach what might be created given a proper understanding of the views and situations of the conflicting parties.

The proposed idea should be appropriate and acceptable to the parties in conflict. A third party participates actively in the design process rather than being just a an umpire. Conflict-resolution behaviour Depending on their intentions in a given situation, the behaviour of conflicting parties can range from full cooperation to complete confrontation. Two intentions determining the type of conflict-handling behaviour are assertion and cooperation: assertion refers to an attempt to confront the other party; and cooperation refers to an attempt to find an agreeable solution.

Depending upon the degree of each intention involved, there can be five types of conflict handling behaviour Thomas and Kilman, It is asserting one's one viewpoint at the potential expense of another. Competing or forcing has high concern for personal goals and low concern for relationships. It is appropriate in dealing with conflicts which have no disagreements.

It is also useful when unpopular but necessary decisions are to be made. It is based on a willingness to accept as valid the interests of the other party whilst protecting one's own interests. Disagreement is addressed openly and alternatives are discussed to arrive at the best solution.

Use 'conflict management' in a Sentence

This method therefore involves high cooperation and low confrontation. Collaboration is applicable when both parties desire to solve the problem and are willing to work together toward a mutually acceptable solution. Collaboration is the best method of handling conflicts, as it strives to satisfy the needs of both parties.

It is integrative and has high concern for personal goals as well as relationship. It is based on the belief that a middle route should be found to resolve the conflict situation, with concern for personal goals as well as relationships. In the process of compromise, there are gains and losses for each conflicting party. It should be delayed or ignored. Avoidance strategy has low cooperation and low confrontation. It is useful either when conflicts are insignificant or when the other party is unyielding because of rigid attitudes. By avoiding direct confrontation, parties in conflict get time to cool down.

It plays down differences and stresses commonalities. Accommodating can be a good strategy when one party accepts that it is wrong and has a lot to lose and little to gain. Consequently, they are willing to accommodate the wishes of the other party. Conflict handling behaviour styles such as competition, collaboration, compromise, avoidance or accommodation may be suitably encouraged, depending upon the situation. After identifying the reason for the conflict situation, suitable organizational practices can be used to resolve conflicts, including: - establishing superordinate goals, - reducing vagueness, - minimizing authority- and domain-related disputes, - improving policies, procedures and rules, - re-apportioning existing resources or adding new, - altering communications, - movement of personnel, and - changing reward systems.


  • On Manners (Thinking in Action).
  • Strategy Two: Avoiding.
  • How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace;
  • Council Post: Five Conflict Management Strategies?

A manager has to - initiate structural changes needed, including re-location or merging of specialized units, - shoulder liaison functions, and - act as an integrator to resolve conflicts. A person with problem-solving skills and respected by the conflicting parties can be designated to de-fuse conflicts. Confrontation techniques aim at finding a mutually acceptable and enduring solution through collaboration and compromise.

It is done in the hope that conflicting parties are ready to face each other amicably, and entails intercession, bargaining, negotiation, mediation, attribution and application of the integrative decision method, which is a collaborative style based on the premise that there is a solution which can be accepted by both parties. It involves a process of defining the problem, searching for alternatives and their evaluation, and deciding by consensus. Such conflicts get intensified because of the contradictory nature of personnel, dispersion of authority, deficient communication, and varying perceptions.

The more the uncertainty in any task, the greater is the need for further information. If information is withheld or controlled by one of the parties in an interacting group, suspicion is created and conflict generated. Allocation of limited resources often generates conflict since one group is likely to feel that it is not receiving a fair share of organizational resources in comparison with other groups. Conflicts also arise over composition and staffing of research teams, particularly when personnel from other areas are to be included.

Sometimes conflicts can arise over competing claims for use of land for experiments. Disagreements over the timing, sequence and scheduling of project-related tasks and overall management of research are usual in research organizations. When one group fails to fulfil the expectations of the other group, or acts improperly, a conflict situation may arise. Summing up Conflicts are inevitable in any organization. A modest level of conflict can be useful in generating better ideas and methods, inspiring concern and ingenuity, and stimulating the emergence of long-suppressed problems.

Conflict management strategies should aim at keeping conflict at a level at which different ideas and viewpoints are fully voiced but unproductive conflicts are deterred. Stimulation of conflict situations is appropriate if the research manager identifies conditions of 'group-think. Group-think prevails when there are lot of 'yes men' in a group, with the result that there is no serious appraisal of the situation and new ideas are not suggested. Group members attach greater importance to popularity, tranquillity and peace in the group rather than to technical ability and proficiency.

Members are disinclined to verbalize their unbiased views in order to avoid hurting the feelings of other members of the group. Decisions are accepted as they are, adversely affecting organizational productivity. A manager can choose several remedies to avoid group-think Irving, A conflict situation can be induced by supporting individualistic thinking or favouring individual competition.

Individualistic thinking can be initiated in the group by including some group members who can freely express their views, which can encourage and prod others to do the same. Competition between individuals can be enhanced by acknowledging and rewarding the better performers. Conflict situations can also be introduced by making some organizational changes, such as transferring some group members, redefining roles, and helping the emergence of new leadership. A manager can also create a conflict situation by delivering shocks, such as by reducing some existing perks of the members of the organization.

Basic problems in inter-group behaviour are conflict of goals and communication failures, A basic tactic in resolving conflicts, therefore, is to find goals upon which scientists or groups can agree, and to ensure proper communication and interaction. Some conflicts arise because of simple misconceptions, which can be overcome by improved communication. A manager should manage conflicts effectively rather than suppress or avoid them.

To manage them, a manager needs to ask 'What? In the process of resolving conflicts, many problems can be identified and solved by removing obstacles and creating a new environment of individual growth. If conflicts are not managed properly, they can be damaging, as they waste a lot of energy and time, and invoke tension, which reduces the productivity and creativity of those involved.

Four Tips for Managing Conflict

References De Bono, E. London: Harrap. Filley, A. Interpersonal Conflict Resolution. Glenview IL: Scott, Foresman. House, R. Conflict and ambiguity as critical variables in a model of organizational behaviour. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 7: Irving, J. Group think.

Psychology Today, November. Ivancevich, J.

Five Conflict Management Strategies

Organizational Behavior and Performance. California, CA: Goodyear Publishing. Kirchoff, N. Conflict Management for Project Managers. Drexel Hill: Project Management Institute. Thomas, K. Conflict Mode Instrument. Tosi, H. Organizational Behaviour. New York, NY: Pitman. Turner, S. Be sure to focus on work issues, and leave personalities out of the discussion. You should also encourage everyone to:. Once you've listened to everyone's needs and concerns, outline the behaviors and actions that you will or won't tolerate, and gain the opposing parties' agreement to change.

Finding This Article Useful? You can learn another team management skills, like this, by joining the Mind Tools Club. In our example, Juanita and Roger were both keen to get their opinions across, so they didn't listen to what the other had to say. Once they did listen, they began to understand the situation more clearly. This sounds like an obvious step, but different underlying needs, interests and goals can often cause people to perceive problems differently. You'll need to agree the problem that you are trying to solve before you can find a mutually acceptable solution, and you should agree the facts that are relevant to the situation.

Sometimes, people will see different but interlocking problems. So, if you can't reach an agreement, you should aim to understand the other person's perception of the problem. In our example, the "facts" are that a new machine would improve the production department's output, meet customer demand, and increase sales.

But it would cost so much that it would impact the company's profitability. By this stage, you may have resolved the conflict. Each side will likely understand the other's position better, and the most appropriate solution might be obvious. However, you may also have uncovered some serious differences.

Putting the IBR Approach Into Practice

Or, you might need to take action to change the fundamental circumstances that have caused the conflict. By asking each team member to help generate solutions, you ensure that everyone feels included and that they're more likely to be satisfied with the outcome. Brainstorm ideas and be open to all suggestions, including ones you might not have considered before. Conflict in the workplace can destroy good teamwork. When you don't manage it effectively, real and legitimate differences between people can quickly get out of control, which can result in an irretrievable breakdown in communication.

Use the Interest-Based Relational approach to resolve difficult conflict situations, by being courteous and non-confrontational, focusing on issues rather than individuals, and listening carefully to each person's point of view. You'll find that when people listen and explore the facts, issues and possible solutions carefully, you can resolve conflict effectively. Are you trying to resolve a conflict between your team members? Have you found it difficult to get everyone to agree?

Try using the IBR approach:. This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter , or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career! Expert Interviews Audio Forums Infographics. Quizzes Templates and Worksheets Videos. For Your Organization. By the Mind Tools Content Team. Note: When you use the IBR approach, it's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with other models for resolving conflict, so that you can adjust your actions as appropriate.

Tip: If the conversation becomes heated or your team members aren't listening to one another, remind them sensitively that it's important to work together and to stay calm. Get the Free Newsletter! Read our Privacy Policy. Key Points Conflict in the workplace can destroy good teamwork. Add this article to My Learning Plan. Mark article as Complete. Show Ratings Hide Ratings. Rate this resource. Find Out More. Comments 52 Over a month ago BillT wrote. Hi jinglee, Thank you for your question.

The solutions offered include negotiation skills, managing cultural conflict, and more. Over a month ago jinglee wrote. Besides the Thomas Kilman model for conflict resolving, what other models are available? Over a month ago BillT wrote. Hi JamesDavis, Thank you for the positive feedback.