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Conflict Management

What is Conflict Management?

Conflict management is the use of the right skill, process, and technique to respond to a disagreement or dispute in a strategic manner. It is the art of creatively resolving a contentious situation through collaborative and effective communication skills, like active listening and articulate expressions.

Organizations today hire an eclectic mix of team members from diverse locations, ages, intellectual backgrounds, and viewpoints. As remote workplaces become more common, organizations are bound to have a diverse workforce. Subsequently, all geographical boundaries no longer hinder hiring the most talented people for the job.

In such a work environment, disagreements are bound to happen. After all, employees from diverse backgrounds may have differing viewpoints and opinions.

85% of employees at all levels experience conflict to some degree. It is important to accept that conflict is a part of an organizational life. Conflict Management, inevitably, becomes equally as important.

Now, employees spend approximately 8-9 hours at work. A negative or conflict-ridden work environment seriously impacts their productivity and well-being. Interestingly, 57% of employees have experienced confrontational workplace conflicts that have resulted in personal insult or injury.

Keeping this in mind, HRs become critical stakeholders in the conflict management process. HR can focus on creating a positive work environment by;

  • Building inclusive cultures based on the prevention of conflicts.
  • Emphasizing employee relation
  • Improving communication, mutual respect and productivity
  • Equipping managers with the right skills to help resolve conflicts efficiently.

What are the causes of Workplace Conflicts?

Workplace conflicts can arise due to various reasons. Some of the most common causes of conflict at the workplace are (N.S.B.A. 2007):

  1. Trust Issues: Perceived breaches of faith and trust lead to emotional conflict and disruption of workplace harmony.
  2. Unresolved Disagreements: Delayed resolution intensifies emotions when issues resurface. So, resolving disagreements sooner and not letting them continue is vital.
  3. Miscommunication: Errors and unclear messages can also cause frustration and conflict. Miscommunication is a common problem in most workplaces.
  4. Personality Clashes: Differences in personalities often create challenges. Experts say human personalities are genetically determined, resulting in different preferred behaviors.
  5. Differing Values: Varied life experiences result in conflicting beliefs and decisions. It can also boil down to personal beliefs, emotions, and ethics.
  6. Underlying Stress: Demands of modern hectic life contribute to stress-related conflicts.
  7. Ego Problems: Desire to be “right” fuels defensiveness. It can escalate disputes and fuel them.

What are the 5 conflict management styles?

conflict management models

The primary objective of managing team conflict is not to eliminate it but to handle it effectively. Poorly managed team conflict can lead to a decrease in employee morale, disruption of healthy relationships, and hindrance in achieving goals.

In order to avoid or resolve conflicts, reaching a consensus through collaboration is essential, as are controlling emotional outbursts, enhancing self-esteem, preserving individual dignity, listening carefully and with empathy, and being honest about concerns.

It is also crucial to avoid letting individual egos interfere with management style. Here are the top 5 conflict management styles for Individuals/HRs to use in distinct situations at different times.

1. Mary Follett, 1940 Model

In 1940, Mary Follett was the first to suggest three main styles of handling conflict: domination, compromise and integration. Later, she added two avoidance and suppression, making it a 5-model style. With Mary Parker Follett’s work, the organization theory of scientific management shifted to human relations and contingency theory.

2. Rahim and Bonoma, 1979 Model

With an eye toward the concepts already in place, Afzalur M. Rahim and Thomas V. Bonoma created a two-dimensional conflict management model predicated on concern for self and others. Concern for others refers to the extent to which an individual tries to address the wants or problems of others at the price of their concerns. In contrast, concern for self describes how an individual addresses their needs or concerns. The five scientific conflict management approaches the Rahim and Bonoma model created include: avoiding, obliging, integrating, dominating, and compromise.

  • Avoiding involves ignoring or withdrawing from the conflict situation.
  • Obliging involves accommodating the other party’s needs and concerns.
  • The Integrating approach involves finding a mutually beneficial solution that satisfies both parties’ needs.
  • The Dominating approach involves using power and authority to resolve the conflict.
  • Compromising involves finding a middle ground that partially satisfies both parties’ needs.

3. Thomas-Kilmann Model, 1974 Conflict Management Styles

The five conflict management styles of the Thomas-Kilmann Model comprise: Competing, Avoiding, Compromising, Accommodating, and Collaborating.

The horizontal axis represents assertiveness, while the vertical axis represents cooperativeness. The competing and avoiding styles are stationary on the horizontal axis. The intermediary stage of assertiveness and cooperativeness is where compromise lies. These conflict styles demonstrate the aggressive dimension—how people try to meet their own needs—and the cooperative dimension—how much they try to meet other’s needs.

Here is a brief synopsis of the Thomas-Kilmann Model, 1974 Conflict Management Styles conflict management styles:

  • Competing: It is characterized by a high degree of assertiveness and a low degree of cooperativeness. Often used when one party tries to win the conflict at the other party’s expense.
  • Avoiding: It is the vice versa of competing. Avoiding is characterized by low assertiveness and low cooperativeness when one party avoids conflict.
  • Accommodating: Accommodating is characterized by low assertiveness and high cooperativeness. It is used when one party tries to fulfill the other party’s crises at their own expense.
  • Collaborating: This style is characterized by a high degree of assertiveness and a high degree of cooperativeness. A collaborating technique is applied when both parties find a mutually beneficial solution to the conflict.
  • Compromising: An intermediate degree of assertiveness and a medium degree of cooperativeness define a compromising style. It is used when both parties agree to satisfy each other on common ground.

As the styles are discussed, it becomes clear that the avoidance style exhibits low levels of cooperativeness and assertiveness. It’s been said that choosing not to make a decision is a lose-lose scenario.

4. Linda Putman and Charmaine Wilson model, 1982.

Linda Putman and Charmaine Wilson introduced the three-conflict management styles model: non-confrontation (obliging), solution-oriented (integrating) and Control (dominating).

  • The non-confrontation or obliging style of conflict management involves minimizing or avoiding disagreements.
  • The solution-oriented or integration style is employed while looking for original, imaginative, and integrative solutions. This can also be used in situations involving compromise.
  • The dominating or control style is linked to a constant demand for one’s stance using powerful nonverbal cues or arguments.

5. Suping and Jing, 2006 Model

Suping and Jing’s Model (2006) claims that it is arguably the most extensively utilized strategy in both the applied and academic fields. The model consists of cooperativeness (i.e., attempting to address others’ concerns) and assertiveness (i.e., trying to manage one’s own concerns). This model introduces 5 distinct conflict-handling philosophies, which people can utilize to handle disputes in their daily lives.

Conflict Management vs Conflict Resolution

Conflict management and conflict resolution are two different processes that can shape the way conflict is dealt with. Conflict resolution is a process of solving, settling, or finalizing a conflict, while conflict management is a process of mediating, handling, and coping with a conflict.

Moreover, conflict resolution is often used to solve short-term disagreements that are relatively easy to resolve if the parties are willing to work together. But conflict management addresses persistent issues in a relationship.

How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace

tips to resolve conflicts

Unresolved workplace conflicts can lead to various negative consequences. Furthermore, purposefully ignoring or not escalating situations of verbal abuse, harassment, or resentment eventually disrupts the organizational culture and, later, its success.

According to the Diagnosis and Intervention Model of conflict resolution in workplaces, conflicts should be systematically addressed by first diagnosing root causes. Then, analyze communication breakdowns, interpersonal dynamics, and organizational structures. Subsequently, tailored interventions such as targeted training or improved communication protocols must be implemented to resolve issues and foster a positive workplace culture.

Well, using the correct measures, conflicts can be resolved anyway. And some of the common ways are:

  1. Clear communication: Promote open and honest communication between parties involved in the friction.
  2. Active Listening: Assure that all parties feel heard and understood by practicing active listening, allowing each person to express their perspectives.
  3. Mediation: Assess the involvement of a neutral third party, such as a mediator, to facilitate communication and guide the resolution process.
  4. Identifying the issue: Recognize and define the issues causing the conflict to ensure a focused and targeted solution.
  5. Relinquishing and evaluating: Specify areas of agreement or shared interests to build a foundation for finding mutually beneficial resolutions.
  6. Empathy: Foster feelings of empathy among teams.
  7. Compromise: Cultivate a spirit of compromise where all parties are willing to give and take to reach a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
  8. Policies and programs: Implement and communicate clear workplace policies and guidelines that address potential sources of conflict.
  9. Training: Offer training programs on conflict resolution and interpersonal communication to manage conflicts effectively.
  10. Scope out: Monitor the resolution over time and schedule follow-up meetings to guarantee the effectiveness of the solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who discovered conflict response styles?

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode; Instrument was developed to evaluate people’s conflict styles. The model called the “Thomas-Kilmann model” was designed by two psychologists, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann.

2. What are the common types of conflicts in the workplace?

There are many types of conflict in the workplace. Some of the major conflicts in the workplace are:

  • Leadership conflict
  • Workstyle conflict
  • Creative conflict
  • Personality conflict
  • Task-based conflict
  • Employee -to-employee conflict

3. How can I choose the right conflict management style for a particular situation?

If maintaining the connection is necessary, consider adopting a non-aggressive or accommodating dispute resolution approach. Consider employing a compromise or competing conflict management technique if practicality is the top concern.

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