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Conflicts are endemic to human society. Our workplace is so often infected by grudges, rumours, grumbling, criticism, sarcasm, unpleasant comments, gossips and politicking that it leads to an atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust and negativity. Sometimes, the circumstances become so difficult that employees do not even like to see each others face, leave aside work together. It spreads to the personal level leading to the mixing of personal and professional lives and annihilating the organizational harmony. Meanwhile, there are companies where employees love to work because they can express their feelings to their colleagues and trust their organization and its leadership. In such places, mutual help takes top priority among employees. The bonding becomes so strong the employees feel like a family. Such employees make a better team as they respect their organizations and take utmost interest in their tasks.

Coser 1956 Social conflict is a struggle between opponents over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources. Schelling 1960 Conflicts that are strategic are essentially bargaining situations in which the ability of one participant to gain his ends is dependent on the choices or decisions that the other participant will make.

Deutsch 1973 A conflict exists whenever incompatible activities occur . . . one party is interfering, disrupting, obstructing, or in some other way making another party's actions less effective. Wall 1985 Conflict is processes in which two or more parties attempt to frustrate the other's goal attainment . . . the factors underlying conflict are threefold: interdependence, differences in goals, and differences in perceptions. Pruitt and Rubin 1986 Conflict means perceived divergence of interest, or a belief that the parties' current aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously. Conrad 1990 Conflicts are communicative interactions among people who are interdependent and who perceive that their interests are incompatible, inconsistent, or in tension. Tjosvold and van de Vliert 1994 Conflict--incompatible activities-- occurs within cooperative as well as competitive contexts . . . conflict parties' can hold cooperative or competitive goals. Poole, and Stutman 1997 Conflict is the interaction of interdependent people who perceive incompatible goals and interference from each other in achieving those goals.


Listening, oral communication, interpersonal communication, and teamwork rank near the top of skills that employers seek in their new hires. When you learn to effectively manage and resolve conflicts with others, then more opportunities for successful team memberships are available to you. If we can learn to manage this highly probable event called conflict (we average five conflicts per day), then we are less apt to practice destructive behaviours that will negatively impact our team. Although conflict may be misunderstood and unappreciated, research shows that unresolved conflict can lead to aggression. Most of us use conflict skills that we observed growing up, unless we have made a conscious effort to change our conflict management style. Some of us observed good conflict management, while others observed faulty conflict management. Most of us have several reasons to improve our conflict-management skills. Faculty members should help students develop their conflict management skills. Most people do not resolve conflicts because they either have a faulty skill set and/or because they do not know the organizations policy on conflict management. All team members need to know their conflict styles, conflict intervention methods, and strategies for conflict skill improvement.


Physiologically we respond to conflict in one of two wayswe want to get away from the conflict or we are ready to take on anyone who comes our way. Think for a moment about when you are in conflict. Do you want to leave or do you want to fight when a conflict presents itself? Neither physiological response is good or badits personal response. What is important to learn, regardless of our initial physiological response to conflict, is that we should intentionally choose our response to conflict. Whether we feel like we want to fight or flee when a conflict arises, we can deliberately choose a conflict mode. By consciously choosing a conflict mode instead of to conflict, we are more likely to productively contribute to solving the problem at hand. Below are five conflict response modes that can be used in conflict.


All people can benefit, both personally and professionally, from learning conflict management skills. Typically we respond to conflict by using one of five modes: Competing Avoiding Accommodating Compromising Collaborating Each of these modes can be characterized by two scales: assertiveness and cooperation. None of these modes is wrong to use, but there are right and wrong times to use each. The following sections describe the five modes. The information may help each team member to characterize her/his model for conflict management.


The Thomas-Kidman Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)5 is a widely used assessment for determining conflict modes. The assessment takes less than fifteen minutes to complete and yields conflict scores in the areas of avoiding, competing, compromising, accommodating, and collaborating.

The compromising mode is moderate assertiveness and moderate cooperation. Some people define compromise as giving up more

than you want, while others see compromise as both parties winning. Times when the compromising mode is appropriate are when you are dealing with issues of moderate importance, when you have equal power status, or when you have a strong commitment for resolution. Compromising mode can also be used as a temporary solution when there are time constraints.

Negotiating Finding a middle ground Assessing value Making concessions

The accommodating mode is low assertiveness and high

cooperation. Times when the accommodating mode is appropriate are to show reasonableness, develop performance, create good will, or keep peace. Some people use the accommodating mode when the issue or outcome is of low importance to them. The accommodating mode can be problematic when one uses the mode to keep a tally or to be a martyr. For example, if you keep a list of the number of times you have accommodated someone and then you expect that person to realize, without your communicating to the person, that she/he should now accommodate you. ACCOMMODATING SKILLS Forgetting your desires Selflessness Ability to yield 6

Obeying orders

The competing conflict mode is high assertiveness and low cooperation. Times when the competing mode is appropriate are when quick action needs to be taken, when unpopular decisions need to be made, when vital issues must be handled, or when one is protecting self-interests.

Competing Skills
Arguing or debating Using rank or influence Asserting your opinions and feelings Standing your ground Stating your position clearly

The avoiding mode is low assertiveness and low cooperation. Many times people will avoid conflicts out of fear of engaging in a conflict or because they do not have confidence in their conflict management skills. Times when the avoiding mode is appropriate are when you have issues of low importance, to reduce tensions, to buy some time, or when you are in a position of lower power.

Avoiding Skills
Ability to withdraw Ability to sidestep issues Ability to leave things unresolved 7

COLLABORATING Collaboration Skills

Active listening No threatening confrontation Identifying Collaborating mode is high assertiveness and high cooperation. Collaboration has been described as putting an idea on top of an idea on top of an ideain order to achieve the best solution to a conflict. The best solution is defined as a creative solution to the conflict that would not have been generated by a single individual. With such a positive outcome for collaboration, some people will profess that the collaboration mode is always the best conflict mode to use. However, collaborating takes a great deal of time and energy. Therefore, the collaborating mode should be used when the conflict warrants the time and energy. For example, if your team is establishing initial parameters for how to work effectively together, then using the collaborating mode could be quite useful. On the other hand, if your team is in conflict about where to go to lunch today, the time and energy necessary to collaboratively resolve the conflict is probably not beneficial. Times when the collaborative mode is appropriate are when the conflict is important to the people who are constructing an integrative solution, when when the issues are too important to compromise, merging perspectives, when gaining

commitment, when improving relationships, or when learning.


Some factors that can impact how we respond to conflict are listed below with explanations of how these factors might affect us. Gender: Some of us were socialized to use particular conflict modes because of our gender. For example, some males, because they are male, were taught always stand up to someone, and, if you have to fight, then fight. If one was socialized this way he will be more likely to use assertive conflict modes versus using cooperative modes. Self-concept: How we think and feel about ourselves affect how we approach conflict. Do we think our thoughts, feelings, and opinions are worth being heard by the person with whom we are in conflict? Expectations: Do we believe the other person or our team wants to resolve the conflict? Situation: Where is the conflict occurring, do we know the person we are in conflict with, and is the conflict personal or professional? Position (Power): What is our power status relationship, (that is, equal, more, or less) with the person with whom we are in conflict? Practice: Practice involves being able to use all five conflict modes effectively, being able to determine what conflict mode would be most effective to resolve the conflict, and the ability to change modes as necessary while engaged in conflict.

Determining the best mode: Through knowledge about conflict and through practice we develop a conflict management understanding and can, with ease and limited energy, determine what conflict mode to use with the particular person with whom we are in conflict. Communication skills: The essence of conflict resolution and conflict management is the ability to communicate effectively. People who have and use effective communication will resolve their conflicts with greater ease and success. Life-experiences: Our life experiences, both personal and

professional, have taught us to frame conflict as either something positive that can be worked through or something negative to be avoided and ignored at all costs.

According to Oxford English Dictionary, conflict refers to a series of disagreement or argument, incompatibility between opinions, principles, etc. for example, he had a dispute with his brother, the differences between political parties like the familiar conflict between the Congress and the BJP. Use of words like dispute, disagreement, incompatibility, and difference of opinion helps us to understand that there is conflict. The core conflict lies in the opposite interests of the involved parties. It is a state of disharmony between incompatible persons, ideas or interests. Conflicts are complex processes. There are three factors that influence conflict. They are attitudes, behaviours and structures. Each factor influences and is influenced by the others. Attitudes include the parties perceptions and misperceptions of each other and of themselves. These can be positive or negative. Behaviours 10

can include co operation or coercion, gestures signifying conciliation or hostility. Violent conflict behaviour is characterized by threats, coercion and destructive attacks. Structures refer to the organizational mechanisms, processes and groups and influence recognition and identify needs. Conflict is a dynamic process in which structure, behaviour and attitudes are constantly changing and influencing each other. A conflict exists when two people wish to carry out acts that are mutually inconsistent. They may both want to do the same thing, such as eat the same mango, or they may want to do different things where the different things are mutually incompatible, such as they both want to stay together but while one wants to go to the cinema hall the other wants to go to the library.

Types of conflict are described as following: 1) GOAL CONFLICT Conflict arises when an individual selects or is assigned goals that are incompatible with each other. Goal incompatibility refers to the extent to which an individuals or groups goals are at odds with one another. For example, a student may set goals of earning Rs. 500 a week and achieving an 8-grade point average (on a ten point system) while being enrolled full time during the coming semester. A month into the semester, the student may realize that there arent enough hours in the week to achieve both the goals. The student may then face a conflict because of difficulty in achieving both the goals.


2) AFFECTIVE CONFLICT It can be explained as the incompatible feelings and emotions within the individual or between individuals. Interpersonal conflicts as well as antagonism between groups are examples of affective conflict. Most affective conflict is focussed on personalized anger or resentment. The causes of affective conflict may be- equity (fairness), dissatisfaction of social needs such as inclusion, control and affection, emotional states and perceptions. Low performing teams are often crippled by affective conflict. It lowers team effectiveness. 3) COGNITIVE CONFLICT It occurs when ideas and thoughts within an individual or between individuals are incompatible. The effects of cognitive conflict are mainly positive, like better higher productivity and more creativity. Successful teams use a variety of techniques that help them keep ideas separated from people. A hallmark of high performing teams is their ability to critically consider and evaluate ideas. 4) PROCEDURAL CONFLICT Procedural conflict exists when group members disagree about the procedures to be followed in accomplishing the group goal. Unionmanagement negotiations often involve procedural conflicts before the negotiations actually begin. The parties may have procedural conflicts over who will be involved in the negotiations, where will they take place, and when will the sessions be held. After negotiations have been concluded, different interpretations about 12

how a grievance system is to operate provide another example of procedural conflict.

5) Relationship Conflicts Relationship conflicts occur because of the presence of strong negative emotions, or misperceptions miscommunication, or or stereotypes, repetitive poor communication negative

behaviors. Relationship problems often fuel disputes and lead to an unnecessary escalating spiral of destructive conflict. Supporting the safe and balanced expression of perspectives and emotions for acknowledgment (not agreement) is one effective approach to managing relational conflict. 6) Data Conflicts Data conflicts occur when people lack information necessary to make wise decisions, are misinformed, disagree on which data is relevant, interpret information differently, or have competing assessment procedures. Some data conflicts may be unnecessary since they are caused by poor communication between the people in conflict. Other data conflicts may be genuine incompatibilities associated with data collection, interpretation or communication. Most data conflicts will have "data solutions." 7) Interest Conflicts Interest conflicts are caused by competition over perceived

incompatible needs. Conflicts of interest result when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her needs, the needs and interests of an opponent must be sacrificed. Interestbased conflict will commonly be expressed in positional terms. A variety of interests and intentions underlie and motivate positions in 13

negotiation and must be addressed for maximized resolution. Interest-based conflicts may occur over-substantive issues (such as money, physical resources, time, etc.); procedural issues (the way the dispute is to be resolved); and psychological issues (perceptions of trust, fairness, desire for participation, respect, etc.). For an interest-based dispute to be resolved, parties must be assisted to define and express their individual interests so that all of these interests may be jointly addressed. Interest-based conflict is best resolved outcomes. 8) Structural Conflicts Structural conflicts are caused by forces external to the people in dispute. Limited physical resources or authority, geographic constraints (distance or proximity), time (too little or too much), organizational changes, and so forth can make structural conflict seem like a crisis. It can be helpful to assist parties in conflict to appreciate the external forces and constraints bearing upon them. Structural conflicts will often have structural solutions. Parties' appreciation that a conflict has an external source can have the effect of them coming to jointly address the imposed difficulties. 9) Value Conflicts Value conflicts are caused by perceived or actual incompatible belief systems. Values are beliefs that people use to give meaning to their lives. Values explain what is good" or "bad," "right" or "wrong," "just" or "unjust." Differing values need not cause conflict. People can live together in harmony with different value systems. Value disputes arise only when people attempt to force one set of values on others or lay claim to exclusive value systems that do not allow for divergent beliefs. It is of no use to try to change value and belief 14 through the maximizing integration of the parties' respective interests, positive intentions and desired experiential


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10) Conflict between individual People have differing styles of communication, ambitions, political or religious views and different cultural backgrounds. In our diverse society, the possibility of these differences leading to conflict between individuals is always there, and we must be alert to preventing and resolving situations where conflict arises. 11) Conflict between groups of people Whenever people form groups, they tend to emphasise the things that make their group "better than" or "different from" other groups. This happens in the fields of sport, culture, religion and the workplace and can sometimes change from healthy competition to destructive conflict. 12) Conflict within a group of people Even within one organisation or team, conflict can arise from the individual differences or ambitions mentioned earlier; or from rivalry between sub-groups or factions. All leaders and members of the organisation need to be alert to group dynamics that can spill over into conflict.


What do organizations use conflict management for?

For any organisation to be effective and efficient in achieving its goals, the people in the organisation need to have a shared vision of what they are striving to achieve, as well as clear objectives for each team / department and individual. You also need ways of recognising and resolving conflict amongst people, so that conflict does not become so serious that co-operation is impossible. All members of any organisation need to have ways of keeping conflict to a minimum - and of solving problems caused by conflict, before conflict becomes a major obstacle to your work. This could happen to any organisation, whether it is an NGO, a CBO, a political party, a business or a government. Conflict management is the process of planning to avoid conflict where possible and organising to resolve conflict where it does happen, as rapidly and smoothly as possible. Important things to know about "conflict" and "conflict

management": The differences between "competition" and "conflict"


"Competition" usually brings out the best in people, as they strive to be top in their field, whether in sport, community affairs, politics or work. In fact, fair and friendly competition often leads to new sporting achievements, scientific inventions or outstanding effort in solving a community problem. When competition becomes unfriendly or bitter, though, conflict can begin - and this can bring out the worst in people.

Models of conflict help us to understand the processes and factors involved in conflict episode. Researches on conflict highlight two models- the process model and the structural model.

The process model views conflict between two or more parties in terms of the internal dynamics of conflict episodes. Conflict process follows five stages occurring sequentially one after other. They are as follows1. FRUSTRATION This emotion arises when one party perceives the other party as interfering with the satisfaction of his own needs, wants, objectives, etc. There are three factors precipitating the condition for conflict in the frustration stage. They area) Poor communication that arises from semantic difficulties, misunderstandings and noise in the communication channels. 17

b) the structure that includes variables like size, degree of specialization in the task assigned to group members, member-goal systems, etc. c) Personal variables that include individual value systems and the personality characteristics that account for individuals differences. compatibility, leadership styles, reward

2. CONCEPTUALIZATION This stage focuses on the way each party understands and perceives the situation. The parties involved define the conflict situation and the salient alternatives available, which, in turn, affect the behaviour of the other party. 3. BEHAVIOUR Here one can observe the actions that result from the perception of conflict that influences the behaviour of each party. These influences affect the results in three areas- the orientation in handling conflicts, the strategic objectives which match with orientation and the tactical behaviour to achieve the objectives set. 4. INTERACTION The interaction between the two parties either escalates or de escalates the conflict.



The structural model identifies the parameters that shape the conflict episode. There are four such parameters described below1. BEHAVIOURAL PREDISPOSITION This includes one partys motives, abilities and personality. 2. SOCIAL PRESSURE The pressure arising from cultural values, organizational work group norms, interest, etc 3. INCENTIVE STRUCTURE The objective reality which gives rise to conflict viz., conflict of interests in competitive issues and common problems. 4. RULES AND PROCEDURE This parameter includes the decision making machinery, i.e. decision rules, negotiation, and arbitration procedures, which constrain and shape the behaviour of those conflicting parties. The above models suggest that conflict can be defined as an interpersonal dynamic which is shaped by the internal and external environments of the parties involved and this dynamic is manifested in a process which affects group performance either functionally or dysfunctionally.



Functional conflict is understood as the creation or resolution of the conflict that often leads to constructive problem solving, improving the quality of decisions, stimulating involvement in the discussion and building group cohesion. This will result in clarification of important problems and defining and sharpening of the issues as well. Of course, introduction of conflict motivates individual to perform better and work harder. It satisfies certain psychological needs like dominance, aggression, esteem and ego, thereby, providing an opportunity for constructive use and release of aggressive urges. In some cases, it facilitates an understanding of the problem, people and inters relationship that exists within them. Within a group, conflict may define, maintain and strengthen group boundaries, contributing to the groups distinctiveness and increasing group solidarity and cohesion. Many a time, it leads to alliances with other groups, creating bonds between loosely structured groups or bringing together different individuals and groups in a community to fight a common threat. DYSFUNCTIONAL CONFLICT Dysfunctional conflict can be understood as an undesirable

experience that is avoided. It has serious negative effects. It creates difficulties in communication between individuals, breaks personal and professional relationships and reduces effectiveness by causing tension, anxiety and stress. Intense conflict over a prolonged period affects individuals

emotionally and physically and this gives rise to psychosomatic disorders and in some cases and a total breakdown of rules, undermining morale or self concept of human existence. The various responses to conflict are shown as below20

In an organizational set up, it is observed that conflict may lead to work sabotage, lower employee morale and decline in the market share of product/ services and consequent loss of productivity. Besides, lack of trust and withholding of information lead to communication gap and reduction of job performance in case the parties in conflict are interdependent in completing their jobs. Conflict based on competition among the co workers becomes harmful when the goal of the organization is higher product quality. Deep and lasting conflicts that are not addressed may even trigger violence among employees or between employees and others.


As conflict intensity increases, so does the level of performance. This, however, has a limit. After a certain point, increment in conflict intensity badly affects performance. The graph can be divided into three zones on the basis of level of conflict- Zone 1 (low level of conflict), Zone 2 (optimum level of conflict), and Zone 3 (high level of conflict). They are characterized as low motivational, effective, and psychosomatic zones. 1. LOW LEVEL OF CONFLICT (ZONE 1): When the conflict level is low, the behaviour of the employees is observed to be apathetic, stagnant and non-responsive. An extremely low level of conflict can result in complacency and poor performance due to lack of innovation. It may be due to low motivation. If the group is in the low motivational zone then there is the necessity of stimulating conflict in order to help the individual/ group move towards the effective zone. 21

2. OPTIMAL LEVEL OF CONFLICT (ZONE 2): The behaviour of the employee is observed to be viable, self critical and innovative. It is the effective zone leading to high productivity outcome. Proper care should be taken to ensure that the level of intensity does not cross the upper limit of the effective zone. The upper limit of the effective zone varies from person to person. It depends on the tolerance level of an individual and it is determined by job compatibility, job experience, attitudinal framework, personality framework, risk taking, optimism, etc. 3. HIGH LEVEL OF CONFLICT (ZONE 3): It is expressed in terms of disruptive, chaotic and uncooperative behaviour. It can be described as the psychosomatic zone. The performance of the employee in this zone is badly affected and once an employee reaches this stage, it is extremely difficult to retrieve him back to the effective zone. A manager needs a degree of creativity to determine strategies and tactics for reducing or, if necessary, increasing the level of conflict.


A series of experiments have been conducted to examine the relationship between the levels of different levels of conflict and team performance, both in terms of the task and individual attitudes. It was observed that the types of conflict determine the nature of relationship with performance. Types of conflict can be affective conflict, task conflict, process conflict. 22

1. Relationship between affective conflict and performance: Affective conflict focuses on interpersonal differences. It is a perception of incompatibility that other members are preventing the accomplishment of a goal. It is manifested by tension, argument and withdrawal. The effects of this conflict include behaviours like distraction in the members attention, reduction in their ability to think clearly and encouragement of perceptions of hostile intentions in others actions. It generally has a negative effect on team performance, as the team members spend their time and energy focusing on each other rather than on the task and therefore the information processing ability is limited. 2. Relationship between process conflict and performance: Process conflict exists when team members disagree about the procedures to be followed in accomplishing the team goal. As the intensity of conflict increases, the performance of the team is adversely affected. 3. Relationship between task conflict and performance: Task conflict has generally been found to have a positive effect on task performance, provided that the level of conflict is appropriate to the complexity and uncertainty of the teams work. Task conflict may cause unease among individuals and weaken their commitment towards the team. Team members have an opportunity to express their own voice, opinions and perspectives. Extremely high conflict may lead to member dissatisfaction and low commitment to the team. Researches have shown that task conflict


was effective where decisions were made quickly but not when the decisions were decided slowly.

A common form of intra-personal conflict in everyday life involves choices between mutually exclusive goals or incompatible goals. Women entrepreneurs may face the dilemma of being successful in business as well as taking care of their families. While looking for the success of their own business venture and balancing their family lives, they often face this kind of conflict. An individual may experience internal conflict due to the presence of: A number of competing needs and roles. A variety of different drives that compel the individual to act in a certain way. Barriers that may come in between the drive and the goal achievement. Both positive and negative aspects attached to desired goals. Not having a clear understanding of what is expected from the job role.


1. Conflict due to frustration:


Frustration occurs when a motivated drive is blocked before a person reaches a desired goal. The barrier can be overt (physical) or covert (mental-social-psychological). For example, consider an intelligent but poor student who got selected in one of the top universities in the US to pursue his Ph.D. degree. He can pursue his studies if he gets scholarship. Financial help, if not received in time, can be major hindrance in achieving his goal. If he cannot get the scholarship, then it becomes a powerful barrier towards attaining the goal. This creates a conflict within the individual leading to frustration. His inner conflict can be expressed in different types of behaviour such as aggression, withdrawal, displacement, compromise and regression. The reactions or the behavioural patterns of the employees when faced with a barrier are described in the figure below: 2. Conflict due to goal: Conflict occurs when an individual has to select one option from among many alternatives. It can be selecting a job offer against continuing research. Selection of one option eliminates other alternatives. Intra-individual goal conflict can be identified depending on the nature of the choices. It can be approachapproach, avoidance-avoidance, or approach-avoidance. A. approach-approach conflict: It arises when an individual has to choose between two attractive alternatives. It is a conflict between two positive goals. For example, an employer faces an approach-approach conflict when he/she must choose between two highly qualified applicants for a single position. Similarly, a job seeker must cope with an approach-approach conflict while deciding which of two outstanding but equally 25

appealing jobs offers to accept. In social context, a conflict may arise when a person wants to go to a friends house as well as to watch movie, both scheduled for the same evening. Diagrammatically, it can be represented as: G1------------------------------INDIVIDUAL--------------------------G2 (+VALENCE) (+ VALENCE)

Here, G1 and G2 stand for Goal 1 and Goal 2 respectively. Here two attractive goals are before the individual and both have positive valence for him. The person is initially caught between the two alternatives. It is because the strength of each motive to approach a desired goal is strong. This causes conflict within the individual as to which one to go for i.e. G1 or G2. B. avoidance-avoidance conflict: It involves a choice between two equally unattractive options. This is the case where two goals have negative valence and the person has to decide on one of them. Consider these three cases- a person has a physical illness that is very uncomfortable, such as ulcers, but he is scared of getting operated, a woman has to decide between the task she intensely dislikes or she loses her job, a student who is vegetarian has to eat either chicken or fish during ragging period. The result in all the three cases is that the person is caught between two unattractive options. G1------------------------INDIVIDUAL---------------------------G2 (-VE VALENCE) VALENCE) G1 and G2 stand for Goal 1 and Goal 2 respectively. Two kinds of behaviour are likely to be conspicuous in avoidanceavoidance conflicts. As one of the negative goals is approached, the person finds it increasingly repellent and consequently retreats or withdraws from it. After withdrawing from this goal, this person 26 (-VE

comes closer to the other negative goal but finds out that this too is unbearably repelling.

C. approach-avoidance conflict: In certain situations, the individual faces conflict when he has to decide whether to approach or avoid a particular goal that has both positive as well as negative qualities. INDIVIDUAL----------------VALENCE) This is not an uncommon situation in organizational settings where many goals have mixed outcomes for an individual. A student may face it while choosing a course that gives job assurance after the course completion but involves uninteresting syllabus, or when an employee is offered a promotion. G ------------------(+ve & -ve


The sources of intra-personal conflict discussed here are cognitive dissonance and neurotic tendencies within the individual. 1. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: Cognitive dissonance is an unpleasant state that occurs when an individual discovers inconsistencies between two of their attitudes or their behaviour. For example, I am against prejudice but I dont want people of other religion living in my neighbourhood.


Sometimes, our attitudes and behaviour are inconsistent, I am on diet but I am having an ice-cream To resolve the inconsistencies and discomfort, individual either has to Change his thoughts or behaviours. Obtain more information about the issue.

2. NEUROTIC TENDENCIES: Neurotic tendencies are irrational personality mechanisms that an individual uses, often unconsciously, that create inner conflict. In turn, inner conflict often results in behaviours that lead to conflict with other people. Managers having neurotic personality use excessively tight organizational controls like budgets, rules and regulations, monitoring systems etc. because they distrust people. They are often fearful of uncertainty and risk, not just distrustful of others. They rely on hunches and impressions rather than available facts and advices. Such managers usually dont use participation and consultation in their decision-making unless asked to do so by some higher authority. Individuals with strong neurotic tendencies struggle unsuccessfully with intra-personal conflict. They are unable to resolve their conflicts. Their excessive distrust and urge to control triggers and conflict with others, especially with subordinates who feel micromanaged and distrusted. Subordinates, in turn, often try to even secure and protect themselves from further abuse. These reactions of the subordinates give the manager a stronger sense of 28

employee worthlessness. It convinces him to intensify his attempt to control and punish subordinates.

It can be between co-workers, team members or room mates. The nature of interpersonal conflict in organizations can be of two types: substantive (content based) and emotional (emotion based) conflict. Substantive conflicts arise due to work-related matters. For example, differences in viewpoints and opinions pertaining to a group task. Emotional conflicts tend to evolve when people do not constructively deal with their frustration, anger, fear, distress or resentment. It is otherwise called relationship conflict or affective conflict. Managers should be able to identify whether a conflict between two individuals has been helpful or harmful. It is beneficial if the aftermath of the conflict reveals that(a) Both individuals are able to work better together. (b) They feel better about each other and their own jobs. (c) Both express satisfaction about the way the conflict was resolved. (d) They consider their abilities to handle future conflicts improved.


There are three stages of interpersonal conflict. The managers goal is to identify and manage conflict before it escalates to physical aggression. Developing conflict stage In initial stage of conflict there are three levels. They are latent conflict, conflict awareness 29

and frustration in employees. Latent conflict is indicated by characteristic behaviour changes such as isolation, self centred behaviour, avoidance and denial. Conflict awareness stage can be recognised by behaviour like complaints, gestures, stress and difference stage. RECOGNISABLE CONFLICT STAGE The recognisable behaviour that are generally observed are tension, friction and frequent disagreement. Tension can be recognised by distrust, anxiety, silence, poor communication and unpredictable behaviour. Friction is one of the clear expression of inter personal conflict that can be recognised by uncooperative, nervous, anger , no communication and passive behaviour. Frequent disagreement is expressed in behaviours like being negative, arguments and blaming and resorting to use of power. AGGRESSIVE CONFLICT STAGE A manager would not like the conflict in his team to reach this stage. Once it reaches this stage, it is almost difficult to handle the conflict. Highest priority has to be applied to resolve the matter, but could prove tuff. This stage is expressed in three sub stages like verbal abuse, sarcasm, physical assault and threat. Verbal abuse is identified in behaviours such as name calling, taunting, interrupting and shouting. Physical threats can be observable in behaviours as interfering into others space, physical posturing, clenching fist etc. physical assault is expressed in behaviours like physical contact, intense feelings, intention to harm and aggression. of opinions. Tonality, physical signs, negativism, withdrawal and over SENSITIVITY ARE THE symptoms of frustration



Body language Surprises Withholding bad news Open disagreement Fighting for certain specific goals Strong public statements Increasing lack of respect No discussion of progress


RELATIONSHIP RULES Our relationships are governed by a set of informal rules, the behaviour most people thinks is appropriate or inappropriate in a particular context. Four different types of relations rules have being identified. Rules of support: this includes offering practical help on a work related task, standing in for colleagues in their absence, giving advice, encouraging or guiding subordinates or clients so on. Rules of intimacy: this can be understood as respecting the other persons privacy and refraining from engaging in sexual activity with subordinates or within professional relationship.


Rules of relating to third parties: others not involved in our day to day interactions can have a major effect on our immediate relationships. One should not criticise others in public, nor should one discuss with others what has being told to him or her in confidence. Task related Rules: all professional relationships, whether teacher -student or doctor-patient, are largely governed by rules which relate to the completion of specific task. For example a teacher is expected to prepare the lessons, plan and assigned work; a doctor is expected to advice and treats the patient. In general, an understanding of the rules is shared by both the parties or is clarified by the professional concerned. The working relationships between employees are affected when relationship rules are broken. Sometimes misperception, misunderstanding or disagreements about the way the work should be conducted becomes potential source of conflict.

PERSONALITY, GENDER AND AGE RELATED ISSUESPersonality Clash Interpersonal conflict may occur when two or more persons come from different backgrounds, share different experiences (upbringing, family traditions and socialisation process) and hence may interpret the same facts differently. It may also be due to difference in cultures or because of different values and beliefs they hold. For example, someone who is very rigid in his way of working would find It difficult to work with someone who is very flexible, someone who is conscientious would find it difficult to work with a person who is rather laid back in his approach.



Group conflicts, also called group intrigues, is where social behavior causes groups of individuals to conflict with each other. It can also refer to a conflict within these groups. This conflict is often caused by differences in social norms, values, and religion. Both constructive and destructive conflict occurs in most small groups. It is very important to accentuate the constructive conflict and minimize the destructive conflict. Conflict is bound to happen, but if we use it constructively then it need not be a bad thing. When destructive conflict is used in small groups, it is

counterproductive to the long term goal. It is much like poisoning the goose that lays the golden eggs. In the case of small group communication, destructive conflict creates hostility between the members. This poisons group synergy and the results, the golden eggs if you will, either cease being produced or are at least inferior in quality. Using constructive conflict within small groups has the opposite effect. It is much like nourishing the goose so that it continues to produce the golden eggs, golden eggs which may be even better than what the unnourished goose could have produced. In this sense, bringing up problems and alternative solutions while still valuing others in small groups allows the group to work forward. Conflicts between people in work groups, committees, task forces, and other organizational forms of face-to-face groups are inevitable. As we have mentioned, these conflicts may be destructive as well as constructive. Conflict arises in groups because of the scarcity of freedom, position, and resources. People who value independence tend to resist the need for interdependence and, to some extent, conformity within a group. People who seek power therefore struggle with others for position or status within the group. Rewards and 33

recognition are often perceived as insufficient and improperly distributed, and members are inclined to compete with each other for these prizes. In western culture, winning is more acceptable than losing, and competition is more prevalent than cooperation, all of which tends to intensify intra-group conflict. Group meetings are often conducted in a win-lose climate that is, individual or subgroup interaction is conducted for the purpose of determining a winner and a loser rather than for achieving mutual problem solving.


Conflicts happen in groups for many reasons. Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb identify these sources of conflict:

Miscommunication and misinformation Real or perceived differences in needs and priorities Real or perceived differences in values, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and culture Structural conditions

Each of these sources of conflict can be approached with specific strategies. In general, conflicts arising from miscommunication and misinformation are easier to resolve than those arising from differences in needs and priorities. ETHNIC GROUP CONFLICT Ethnic group conflicts are very real concerns that many

governments try to always deal with through peaceful means. The loyalty to your ethnic heritage can be quite powerful to the point that it can drive some people to doing things that may seem pointless and senseless. At the core of every conflict is a


fundamental misunderstanding on how things are to be done in society. For so long, the British territory of Northern Ireland has had to contend with the warring factions of the Catholics and Protestants in the area. Protestants have always been used to having better jobs and a better state in life while the Catholics were usually relegated to menial jobs. This has made the relationship of the two ethnic groups very contentious but through the efforts of many groups from inside and outside Great Britain, the armed uprising has been stemmed in recent years. While the conditions still remain tense and there is still gross inequality in the amount of opportunities that are available for different people in society, this episode in history proves that despite the statistical data that one might have, it's still possible to resolve misunderstandings through a good conversation and a well moderated dialogue between involved parties. Africa has gotten the brunt of recent ethnic group violence. The country of Sudan has been in the spotlight in recent years due to the ongoing genocide that has been responsible for displacing millions of Darfurians as well as the death of an untold number. The conflict has been due to the inherent differences between the more Arabic Sudanese from the north of the country to the more Sub-Saharan African cultures to the south of the Khartoum - the Sudanese capital. There are also other parts of Africa that are in current unrest. The so-called "blood diamonds" - already a topic of critically-acclaimed films, such as the one starring Leonardo di Caprio - are the gems that have fueled the wars in the country of Liberia. While the rest of the world gets something that could be used for a nice piece of jewelry, many people in Liberia literally toil


with blood, sweat and tears for these embellishments to our jewelry pieces. What makes Africa ground zero for ethnic conflict is the fact that the Europeans arbitrarily divided the continent without really paying attention to the various tribes that existed within the artificial subdivisions that they've made. Now that most of the countries are already starting to break away from the clutches of the colonizers, they are left in a daze with a highly fragmented nation. It's almost like they have nothing much in common. Even their appreciations for silver jewelry or their cooking technique are not alike - and believe it or not, these mundane things can even lead to entire villages being razed. The Rwandan genocide of the last decade went on largely ignored by the international community and its basis was purely ethnic. Ethnic conflicts are a fact of life and they've been going on and on for thousands of years. The challenge for the new generation is to rise over the differences and make the world a more peaceful place.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF GROUP CONFLICTS The win-lose conflict in groups may have some of the following negative effects Divert time and energy from the main issues Delay decisions Create deadlocks 36

Drive unaggressive committee members to the sidelines Interfere with listening Obstruct exploration of more alternatives Decrease or destroy sensitivity Cause members to drop out or resign from committees Arouse anger that disrupts a meeting Interfere with empathy Leave losers resentful Incline underdogs to sabotage Provoke personal abuse Cause defensiveness

Results of group conflicts

Conflict in the group need not lead to negative results, however. The presence of a dissenting member or subgroup often results in more penetration of the group's problem and more creative solutions. This is because disagreement forces the members to think harder in an attempt to cope with what may be valid objections to general group opinion. But the group must know how to deal with differences that may arise.

Conflict between groups is a sometimes necessary, sometimes destructive, event that occurs at all levels and across all functions in organizations. Intergroup conflict may help generate creative tensions leading to more effective contributions to the organization's goals, such as competition between sales districts for 37

the highest sales.


Intergroup conflict is destructive when it

alienates groups that should be working together, when it results in win-lose competition, and when it leads to compromises that represent less-than-optimum outcomes. Intergroup conflict occurs in two general forms. Horizontal strain involves competition between functions: for example, sales versus production, strain research and development between versus engineering, levels: for purchasing versus legal, line versus staff, and so on. Vertical involves competition hierarchical example, union versus management, foremen versus middle management, shop workers versus foremen. A struggle between a group of employees and management is an example of vertical strain or conflict. A clash between a sales department and production over inventory policy would be an example of horizontal strain. Certain activities and attitudes are typical in groups involved in a win-lose conflict. Each side closes ranks and prepares itself for battle. Members show increased loyalty and support for their own groups. Minor differences between group members tend to be smoothed over, and deviants are dealt with harshly. The level of morale in the groups increases and infuses everyone with competitive spirit. The power structure becomes better defined, as the "real" leaders come to the surface and members rally around the "best" thinkers and talkers. In addition, each group tends to distort both its own views and those of the competing group. What is perceived as "good" in one's own position is emphasized, what is "bad" is ignored; the position of the other group is assessed as uniformly "bad," with little "good" to be acknowledged or accepted. Thus, the judgment and objectivity of both groups are


impaired. When such groups meet to "discuss" their differences, constructive, rational behavior is severely inhibited. Each side phrases its questions and answers in a way that strengthens its own position and disparages the other's. Hostility between the two groups increases; mutual understandings are buried in negative stereotypes. It is easy to see that under the conditions described above, mutual solutions to problems cannot be achieved. As a result, the side having the greater power wins; the other side loses. Or the conflict may go unresolved, and undesirable conditions or circumstances continue. Or the conflict may be settled by a higher authority. None of these outcomes is a happy one. Disputes settled on the basis of power, such as through a strike or a lockout in a labor-management dispute, are often deeply resented by the loser. Such settlements may be resisted and the winner defeated in underground ways that are difficult to detect and to counter. When this happens, neither side wins; both are losers.

Strategies for Managing Group Conflicts

Avoidance - a management strategy which includes no attention or creating a total separation of the combatants or a partial separation that allows limited interaction


- technique

which stresses the achievement of

harmony between disputants Dominance or Power Intervention - the imposition of a solution by higher management, other than the level at which the conflict exists


Compromise - strategy that seeks a resolution which satisfies at least part of the each party's position Confrontation - strategy featuring a thorough and frank discussion of the sources and types of conflict and achieving a resolution that is in the best interest of the group, but that may be at the expense of one or all of the conflicting parties A trained conflict resolver can begin with an economical

intervention, such as getting group members to clarify and reaffirm shared goals. If necessary, he or she moves through a systematic series of interventions, such as testing the members' ability and willingness to compromise; resorting to confrontation, enforced counseling, and/or termination as last resorts.


Those who study people and conflict have developed theories about how we, as individuals and as members of groups, respond to conflict. In general, we tend to get comfortable with one set of responses, even though we can learn skills allowing us to respond to each situation differently. Five common responses are listed below. Do you recognize yourself in this list? I avoid conflict. I accommodate others to keep the peace. I compromise; find middle ground. I compete; try to win with my own solution. I collaborate; seek a better solution.


In truth, all of these conflict response styles work in some situations and not so well in others. The choice for the individual and for the group is what style best matches the situation and the desired outcome.

Personal and group skills for dealing with conflict

The basic skills for dealing with conflict have to do with describing the conflict in such a way that people dont feel personally attacked. You can do this by asking questions to determine the sources of the conflict and offering a description, testing it to see if others also see things as you do. By continuing to question and test, the group will come to understand what the conflict is about. In order to do this work, the bedrock skill is listeninglistening for facts as well as feelings. You convey that you are listening through the language of your body (by making eye contact, by smiling, by leaning forward, by nodding) and by restating and summarizing what someone have said. This kind of acknowledgement of another person is often a powerful way to defuse situations that have become tense or disruptive. You also convey that you are listening fully by asking questions that allow speakers to open up, allowing them to focus on what they are feeling, thinking and wanting to happen. If you have listened well, and have found agreement with your framing of the conflict, you may be able to suggest a group process for finding a solution.



A facilitator in group conflict situations creates safe space for all participants to feel fully heard, respected and supported. Safe space can become creative space for finding solutions. Facilitators can help the group establish ground rules and procedures that lead to conflict resolution. Facilitators do not have a vested interest in a particular solution; they do not take sides in a conflict. Facilitators act in service to the group, helping the group be more effective, accomplish its work and maintain relationships. In addition to the skills of listening and questioning already noted, a facilitator needs to develop skills to call the groups attention to how it is doing its work or how individual members are behaving, either to move the group forward or to hold it back. These skills are like holding up a mirror so that the group can observe itself and make changes. Several experts have described the process of holding up the mirror to the group, or intervening: Notice what is going on, both behaviour and its impact on the group. Decide whether what is going on needs to be mirrored to the group. If you decide it does, describe what you have noticed in a non-blaming way. Test the impact you sense the behaviour is having on the group. Ask if the group wants to do anything differently, or suggest new behaviour. Remind the group members that they can also hold the mirror. This publication wont make you an expert at dealing with and resolving conflict in groups. However, it has provided some ideas 42

about where conflict comes from, ways that we tend to deal with conflict, and a process for a group to use in conflict situations. If you are interested in learning more and improving your skills as a facilitator, check out the other publications in this series.

Organizational conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between people working together. Conflict takes many forms in organizations. There is the inevitable clash between formal authority and power and those individuals and groups affected. There are disputes over how revenues should be divided, how the work should be done and how long and hard people should work. There are jurisdictional disagreements among individuals,

departments, and between unions and management. There are subtler forms of conflict involving rivalries, jealousies, personality clashes, role definitions, and struggles for power and favor. There is also conflict within individuals between competing needs and demands to which individuals respond in different ways. Top Ten reasons of organizational conflicts 1. Divisions and departments often have different objectives. If their members cannot find common values and goals, they will not cooperate. 2. Employees are more knowledgeable and comfortable being solo contributors than being thorough members of a team, despite the need for interdependency in most work. This is exaggerated when, through their reward systems, organizations encourage employees to compete with one 43

another. Teamwork is a concept that must be learned and applied throughout the organization. 3. Employees are neither trained nor prepared to negotiate shared areas of responsibility and productivity gaps comfortably. 4. Supervisors may state their expectations of employee job performance, but they usually do not know how to do so in a way that can be heard and understood effectively. 5. Organizational problems and responsibilities are analyzed from individual or departmental viewpoints, rather than from that of the organization as a whole. Good decisions are further undermined by a short-term, crisis approach to problemsolving. 6. Managers would rather do the work themselves than take responsibility for motivating others to do their best work. To motivate each employee to contribute maximum productivity, managers must demonstrate insight, dedication and flexibility. 7. Executives need significant information from front-line

employees to make good decisions. Yet they seldom know how to ask for meaningful information, input or feedback from employees. 8. Differences in personality, approach to tasks and individual values create even more friction and tension than that caused by racial or cultural background differences. 9. Good communication requires trust, a suspension of

assumptions and hard work, which most organizations do not demonstrate well from executive level downward to front line employees.










organizations, but the emotions these changes generate are seldom addressed. The effective management of workplace conflict requires an understanding of the nature and sources of conflict in the workplace. Conflict occurs when there is a perception of incompatible interests between workplace participants. This should be distinguished from disputes. Disputes are merely a by-product of conflict. They are the outward articulation of conflict. Typical disputes come in the form of formal court cases, grievances, arguments, threats and counter threats etc. Conflict can exist without disputes, but disputes do not exist without conflict. Conflict, however, might not be so easily noticed. Much conflict exists in every workplace without turning into disputes. The first step in uncovering workplace conflict is to consider the typical sources of conflict. There are a variety of sources of workplace conflict including interpersonal, organizational, change related, and external factors.

Interpersonal conflict is the most apparent form of conflict for workplace participants. It is easy enough to observe the results of office politics, gossip, and rumours. Also language and personality styles often clash, creating a great deal of conflict in the workplace. In many workplaces there are strong ethno-cultural and racial sources of conflict as well as gender conflict. This may lead to charges of harassment and discrimination or at least the feeling that such things exist. People often bring their stresses from home into the office leading to further conflict. An


additional source of workplace conflict can be found in varying ideas about personal success.

There are a number of organizational sources of conflict. Those relating to hierarchy and the inability to resolve conflicting interests are quite predominant in most workplaces. Labour/management and supervisor/employee tensions are heightened by power differences. Differences in supervisory styles between departments can be a cause of conflict. Also there can be work style clashes, seniority/juniority and pay equity conflict. Conflict can arise over resource allocation, the distribution of duties, workload and benefits, different levels of tolerance for risk taking, and varying views on accountability. In addition, conflict can arise where there are perceived or actual differences in treatment between departments or groups of employees. A thorough review of the workplace is suggested for such sources of conflict. Again surveys, interviews and focus groups can help reveal these sources of conflict. Additionally, organizational sources of conflict can be predicted based upon best practices from similar organizations. All organizations experience such conflict. Much can be learned from the lessons of similar organizations that have made a study of this source of conflict.

The modern workplace has significant levels of stress and conflict related to change-management and downsizing. Technological change can cause conflict, as can change work methodologies. Many workplaces suffer from constant reorganization, leading to further stress and conflict.


In line with reorganization, many public and non-profit organizations suffer from downloading of responsibilities from other organizations. Workplace analysts should review the history of the particular organization, reaching back as far as 10 years to determine the level of churn that has taken place. Generally speaking, the more change and the more recent the change, the more likely there will be significant conflict.

External Factors
External factors can also lead to conflict in the workplace. Economic pressures are caused by recession, changing markets, domestic and foreign competition, and the effects of Free Trade between countries. Conflict arises with clients and suppliers effecting customer service and delivery of goods. Also public and non-profit workplaces in particular can face political pressures and demands from special interest groups. A change in government can have a tremendous impact, especially on public and non-profit organizations. Funding levels for workplaces dependent upon government funding can change dramatically. Public ideologies can have an impact on the way employees are treated and viewed in such organizations. To look for external factors of conflict, have a review of the relationships between the subject organization and other organizations. Companies or government departments that have constant

relationships with outside organizations will find this to be a major source of conflict for workplace participants.



Conflict can occur in any situation where one persons concerns are different from another persons. As a result, conflict includes both heated arguments and simple differences of opinion. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing in the workplace; in fact, conflict can often lead to increased effectiveness. Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann have defined five different modes of dealing with conflict and identified the situations in which each mode is most effective. Most people have one or two conflict modes that come naturally to them and are easy to use. For certain types of conflicts, their natural approach may not be the most appropriate. The five conflict handling modes are listed below along with the types of conflict for which they are most effective.


1. COMPETING My way or the highway The competing mode is characterized by high assertiveness and low cooperativeness, where the goal is to win. Some appropriate uses for the competing mode are taking quick action, making unpopular decisions, and discussing issues of critical importance when you know for certain that your position is correct. 2. COLLABORATING Two heads are better than one The collaborating mode is characterized by high assertiveness and high cooperativeness, where the goal is to work with other people to find a win-win solution. Some appropriate uses for the collaborating mode are integrating solutions, learning, merging perspectives, gaining commitment, and improving relationships.


3. COMPROMISING Lets make a deal The compromising mode is characterized by moderate assertiveness and moderate cooperativeness, and involves negotiating or splitting the difference in opinion. The goal is to find the middle ground. Some appropriate uses for the compromising mode include issues of moderate importance, developing temporary solutions, or when you are under time constraints. 4. AVOIDING Ill think about it tomorrow The avoiding mode is characterized by low assertiveness and low cooperativeness, and means that neither parties concern is satisfied. The goal is to delay. Appropriate uses of the avoiding mode include dealing with issues of little importance, reducing tensions, and buying time. 5. ACCOMMODATING It would be my pleasure The

accommodating mode is characterized by low assertiveness and high cooperativeness, and can be acts of selfless generosity or obeying orders. The goal is to yield. The accommodating mode is useful for showing reasonableness, developing performance, creating good will, and dealing with issues of low importance. As mentioned earlier, each of these five modes of handling conflict have strengths and weaknesses, making them more or less appropriate depending on the situation. One of the most important steps in being able to recognize and apply the most effective conflict mode is to be aware of what comes most naturally for yourself. The Thomas- Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument can help people come to that understanding.

Maturity-immaturity theory According to Maslow, Argyris, McGregor, Rogers, and other writers of the so-called growth schools, there is a basic tendency in the 50

development of the human personality toward self-fulfillment, or self-actualization. This implies that as an individual matures, he wants to be given more responsibility, broader horizons, and the opportunity to develop his personal potential. This process is interrupted whenever a person's environment fails to encourage and nurture these desires. Formal organizations are rational structures that, based on their assumption of emotions, feelings, and irrationality as human weaknesses, try to replace individual control with institutional control. Thus the principle of task specialization is seen as a device that simplifies tasks for the sake of efficiency. As a consequence, however, it uses only a fraction of a person's capacity and ability. The principle of chain of command centralizes authority but makes the individual more dependent on his superiors. The principle of normal span of control, which assigns a maximum of six or seven subordinates to report to the chief executive, reduces the number of individuals reporting to the head of the organization or to the manager of any subunit. Although this simplifies the job of control for the manager, it also creates more intensive surveillance of the subordinate, and therefore permits him less freedom to control himself. Under such conditions, subordinates are bound to find themselves in conflict with the formal organization, and sometimes with each other. They advance up the narrowing hierarchy where jobs get fewer, and "fewer" implies competing with others for the decreasing number of openings. Task specialization tends to focus the subordinate's attention on his own narrow function and divert him from thinking about the organization as a whole. This effect increases the need for coordination and leads to a circular process of increasing the dependence on the leader. They 51

may respond to organizational pressures and threats by defensive reactions such as aggression against their supervisors and coworkers, fixated behavior or apathy, compromise and gamesmanship, or psychological withdrawal and daydreaming. All of these defense mechanisms reduce a person's potential for creative, constructive activity on the job. Finally, employees may organize unions or unsanctioned informal groups whose norms of behavior are opposed to many of the organization's goals. As a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, all of these reactions to the constraints of the formal organization merely serve to reinforce and strengthen them. The conflict between the formal organization and the individual will continue to exist wherever managers become remain ignorant with of its causes legitimate or wherever needs of the the organizational structure and the leadership style are allowed to inconsistent the psychologically healthy individual. Everyone recognizes the necessity for order and control in organizations. Those of us who enter management, however, must learn to recognize in addition that order and control can be achieved only at the expense of individual freedom.

Theories on Conflict Management

There are perhaps as many theories for managing conflict as there are types of conflict. Ranging from formal models to more simple problem-solving techniques, these theories offer many creative approaches to resolving conflict in various settings. Possibly the most important part of the conflict resolution process is using the most appropriate resolution for the conflict at hand. To be sure, using the wrong antidote to attempt to cure an ailment is a waste of time and resources. The following overview


of some conflict management theories may aid in selection of the most effective management tool(s).

The Circle of Conflict

Author Gary T. Furlong provides one of the most comprehensive sources for conflict resolution models in his book The Conflict Resolution Toolbox: Models & Maps for Analyzing, Diagnosing, and Resolving Conflict. The Circle of Conflict is a model offered by Furlong and focuses on the various causes, or drivers, of conflict. According to this model, the six most common drivers of conflict are: Valuesones belief systems, ideas of right versus Relationshipsstereotypes, poor or failed

wrong, etc. communications, repetitive negative behaviours, etc. Externals/Moodsfactors unrelated to the conflict, Datalack of information, misinformation, too much Interestseach partys wants, needs, desires, fears, Structurelimitations on resources like time and psychological or physiological issues of parties in conflict information, data collection problems or concerns money, geographical constraints, organizational structure, authority issues Furlongs Circle of Conflict resembles a pie graph divided into six equal parts in which values, relationships, and externals/moods drivers appear in the top half and data, interests, and structure drivers appear in the bottom half of the graph (see figure below). The main premise of this model is that conflict can be more easily resolved if discussions are focused on drivers in the bottom half of the circle (data, interests, and structure). According to 53

Furlong, concentrating on these driversthings over which parties have some controloffers a more direct path toward managing the dispute. Furlong contends that when conflicting parties allow their discussion to stray into drivers in the top half of the circle (values, relationships, and externals/moods), conflict will likely escalate. Because these drivers represent areas that are not generally within a partys control, it is best to avoid them. external issues would make any disagreement Changing worsen. anothers perceptions of perceived past wrongs or dealing with Conversely, individuals in conflict can work together to change data problems, allay anothers fears, and overcome geographical constraints. These drivers are in the bottom portion of the circle of conflict, where, according to Furlong, most of the real resolution work should focus.


The Conflict Resolution Model In his book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni presents another conflict resolution model. Lencionis model is a series of concentric circles cantered on a point of conflict (see figure below).


This model proposes four different types of obstacles that prevent issues from being resolved. According to Lencioni, the obstacles closest to the centre of the modeli.e., the issueare the easiest barriers to overcome, with obstacles becoming increasingly more difficult to overcome as one moves outward from the centre of the model. These barriers include:


Informational obstacles (circle closest to the issue or

conflict)the easiest issues for most people to discuss; individuals must exchange information, facts, opinions, and perspectives if they want to move toward resolution. Environmental obstacles (the next circle out)the politics, individual moods, and atmosphere in which the conflict is taking place; the physical space, office process. Relationship obstacles (the next circle out)issues the people involved in the conflict; prior between company culture can all have an effect on the resolution

unresolved legacies or events among the parties, their reputation, or even position in the organization may affect how people work through conflict. Individual obstacles (the outermost circle)issues that are specific to each person in the conflict; individual experiences, IQ, EQ, knowledge, self-esteem, and even values and motives all play a part in causing and eventually resolving conflict. Lencioni explains that the key to this model is to understand that these obstacles exist during discussions. When a conflict arises because of a particular obstacle, the group should consider the model to decide whether to address the issue. Lencioni contends that if parties choose not to address and resolve an issue, they should agree not to let it affect their ability to resolve the larger conflict. Lencioni also states that obstacles at the outside of the circle are more difficult to resolve, largely because they involve personalities and other issues that are not easy to change. In this way, this conflict resolution model resembles Furlongs Circle of Conflict model as they both reveal hot-button issues managers should avoid when attempting to resolve conflict. Certainly, the 57

issues toward the outside of the circle in Lencionis model and those in the top half of Furlongs model are the most challenging. Parties that are able to talk about these types of issues must trust each other because doing so involves some type of personal risk. Clearly, the methods available to resolve conflicts are numerous. There is certainly no right or wrong way to solve a problem. What is right for one conflict may be wrong for another; it all depends on the situation and variables involved. The two conflict resolution models presented here illustrate that conflict most often happens when the emphasis is on differences between people. In their book Dealing With People You Cant Stand, authors Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner cleverly describe it this way, United we stand, divided we cant stand each other. In short, when people concentrate on what they have in common with one another instead of their differences, relationships run smoothly and conflict is significantly minimized.

Managed Conflict
Strengthens relationships and builds teamwork Encourages open communication and cooperative problem-solving Resolves disagreements quickly and increases productivity Deals with real issues and concentrates on win-win resolution Makes allies and diffuses anger Airs all sides of an issue in a positive, supportive environment Calms and focuses toward results

Out of Control Conflict

Damages relationships and discourages cooperation Results in defensiveness and hidden agendas Wastes time, money and human resources Focuses on fault-finding and blaming Creates enemies and hard feelings Is frustrating, stress producing and energy draining Is often loud, hostile and chaotic



Looking at conflict to gain perspective, understanding, insight and clarity.

The origins of the conflict

Who are the parties who is the conflict between (individuals, groups, within a group)

cultures of the parties (race, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, occupation, age)

Conflict sources/triggers

How can conflict be described, how do you know this is a source of the conflict? relationship, value, data, interests, structure

Type of conflict

Based solely on mix- perception or (communication) Does it exist in fixed conditions (i.e. in order for resolution there has to be some change in external conditions)

Is the conflict dependent on conditions that can be easily 59

changed Is the expressed conflict really the central conflict Is the conflict being expressed between the right people Is the real conflict submerged not yet occurring

Achieving a satisfying resolution

are the parties identifying their interests are the parties acknowledging their needs interests are stated not assumed everyones interests are explored positions are distinguished from interests interests not positions are the focus of the conversation

This will not be part of your final analysis, but are important questions for you to consider as you decide how you will manage this conflict differently and the tools that you will use

Conflict Management Styles

The Competing Shark
Sharks use a forcing or competing conflict management style sharks are highly goal-oriented Relationships take on a lower priority Sharks do not hesitate to use aggressive behaviour to resolve conflicts 60

Sharks can be autocratic, authoritative, and uncooperative; threatening and intimidating

Sharks have a need to win; therefore others must lose, creating win-lose situations

Advantage: If the shark's decision is correct, a better decision without compromise can result

Disadvantage: May breed hostility and resentment toward the person using it

Appropriate times to use a Shark style

when conflict involves personal differences that are difficult to change when fostering intimate or supportive relationships is not critical when others are likely to take advantage of non-competitive behaviour when conflict resolution is urgent; when decision is vital in crisis when unpopular decisions need to be implemented

The Avoiding Turtle

Turtles adopt an avoiding or withdrawing conflict management style Turtles would rather hide and ignore conflict than resolve it; this leads them uncooperative and unassertive Turtles tend to give up personal goals and display passive behaviour creating lose-lose situations 61

Advantage: may help to maintain relationships that would be hurt by conflict resolution

Disadvantage: Conflicts remain unresolved, overuse of the style leads to others walking over them

Appropriate times to use a Turtle Style:

when the stakes are not high or issue is trivial when confrontation will hurt a working relationship when there is little chance of satisfying your wants when disruption outweighs benefit of conflict resolution when gathering information is more important than an immediate decision when others can more effectively resolve the conflict when time constraints demand a delay

The Accommodating Teddy Bear

Teddy bears use a smoothing or accommodating conflict management style with emphasis on human relationships Teddy bears ignore their own goals and resolve conflict by giving into others; unassertive and cooperative creating a winlose (bear is loser) situation Advantage: Accommodating maintains relationships Disadvantage: Giving in may not be productive, bear may be taken advantage of

Appropriate times to use a Teddy Bear Style


when maintaining the relationship outweighs other considerations

when suggestions/changes are not important to the accommodator

when minimizing losses in situations where outmatched or losing

when time is limited or when harmony and stability are valued

The Compromising Fox

Foxes use a compromising conflict management style; concern is for goals and relationships Foxes are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up part of theirs Compromise is assertive and cooperative-result is either winlose or lose-lose Advantage: relationships are maintained and conflicts are removed Disadvantage: compromise may create less than ideal outcome and game playing can result

Appropriate times to use a Fox Style

when important/complex issues leave no clear or simple solutions


when all conflicting people are equal in power and have strong interests in different solutions

when their are no time restraints

The Collaborating Owl

Owls use a collaborating or problem confronting conflict management style valuing their goals and relationships Owls view conflicts as problems to be solved finding solutions agreeable to all sides (win-win) Advantage: both sides get what they want and negative feelings eliminated Disadvantage: takes a great deal of time and effort

Appropriate times to use an Owl Style

when maintaining relationships is important when time is not a concern when peer conflict is involved when trying to gain commitment through consensus building when learning and trying to merge differing perspectives



Get used to it! Conflict is everywhere. It is natural to disagree, and conflict often results from the interaction of people and groups with different values, perspectives and beliefs. It can be rooted in factions or rivalries or in the polarized approaches of strong personalities. Sometimes it can come from the frustration of trying to discuss or resolve an issue before the time is right. Whatever the source of your particular conflict, you cannot know how to handle these confrontations without understanding their roots. Lets break it down:

We all have needs, and when someone ignores our needs, we feel frustrated and argumentative. On the other hand, we may withdraw, and try to undermine the process without confrontation. what you may want. Nourishment is a basic need. I would argue that point. Dont confuse needs with Without food, we cannot They are two different things.

survive for long. However, if you said you needed chocolate,

Reality is a strange thing!

Ideally, it is the same for

everyone, but that is rarely the case. If you put a group of 10 people together, and asked them about the weather, you would get differing opinions on the severity, the temperature, the wind, the humidity. We all perceive things different and to the extent that we think something is important or trivial, there is the potential for conflict. 65

Each person has their own paradigm a set of beliefs or principles we hold as truth. When we talk about an issue with someone who has incompatible or shifting values, there is the potential for conflict, especially if we insist that ours is the only correct opinion.

Just such a trigger has started many religious and political wars! Human beings are emotional creatures. We depend on our feelings to tell us what our gut reaction is and sometimes we let them loose under the wrong circumstances, when cooler heads should prevail.

How one defines and uses power is important in conflict. Some people feel that they must always come out on top in order to prove their superiority or just because they are always right, while others do not take confrontation well and they will give the power away to the one who cries the loudest, without agreeing with their position. These more passive people may still create problems but quietly trying to undermine the solution that the stronger person pushed through. So, be careful not to discount the quiet ones. This power struggle scenario has a definite affect on how conflict is managed. Conflicts arise when one or more people try to make others change their mind and vote a certain way or when the stronger party tries to take unfair advantage of the weaker party.

However, conflict is not always negative. healthy if it is managed effectively.

It can be

Putting people with This well-

diverse opinions in the same room will bring forth a richer solution, but only if the conflict is managed. facilitated conflict can result in unexpected growth, ingenious 66

solutions to problems, new angles on solutions and many more options from which to choose.

When a group gets together, the first thing you need to think about is whether you have the right people in the room to solve a problem. There is nothing worse than being stuck in conflict that the group cannot resolve because decision-makers are missing from the room during the discussion.

Write your ground rules on a board and refer to them if people violate them. Everyones opinion counts. There are no stupid ideas. We will hear and explore every idea that is presented. We will not judge others or their opinions in We will consider all ideas advance based on what we think we know of them, even if we work with them every day. objectively and in a non-judgmental manner. We will not engage in bullying behaviour, or create or encourage factions within the group. You get the idea. Come up with your own ground rules and make it abundantly clear that this group will play by the rules with NO exceptions. When conflict does arise, you can use the following steps to manage the issue:

Analyze the nature and type of conflict. Ask questions to better understand the positions and give everyone a chance to talk. Write the FACTS on a blackboard or flip chart and stay away from emotional, subjective statements or inflammatory remarks. Just the facts! 67

Select a strategy to deal with the conflict. If you cant resolve it by taking it apart and carefully drawing conclusions, then consider involving a neutral facilitator to get the group moving toward consensus. If the group members are too familiar with each other and know how to push the buttons an outside may be the best medicine and can provide a firm hand.

Reinforce the collaborative approach and strive for a win-win result. Use objective criteria for ranking ideas. Dont just throw out an idea because someone says, That is stupid.

Keep your common interests in mind not the methods by which you will achieve the interests, but the vision or goal itself. Dont let the group be caught up in a power struggle over how. Identify options so that everyone is involved and then let the group discuss and recommend the best approach. You may be able to make some trade-offs, or

combine aspects from various options to come up with something that everyone likes.

Look for ways to compromise. Not everything is critical. Encourage the team to give and take. Ill accept this if you give me that. Remember to focus on the result and the 68

outcome. The group is trying to accomplish a task or come up with a solution to a problem. Dont get so caught up in your conflict that the team produces a poor solution or no solution at all!

Be sure that the entire group signs up for the solution you choose. You may even want to have every group member sign a commitment document.

Finally, monitor your team to ensure you are moving in the right direction and keep an eye open for the following dynamic combinations. Any of these can bring your team to its knees:

Win/Lose one person or group is determined to win, and does not care about the input or concerns of the other person or group. This happens when basic rights or values are at stake and it can result in retaliation by the losers, and endless cycle of one-upsmanship. Youll never get anything done!

Lose/Win when an issue is more important to one group than to another group or individual, the apathetic person or group may give in just as a gesture of good will, thinking that the issue doesnt matter all that much anyway. If the topic is on the table for debate and it is important to the business, then everyone HAS to care, whether they want to, or not!

Lose/Lose if the issue is not important to anyone or there are more critical things to think about, a person or group may 69

make a decision without any thought or focus. This scenario can also occur when a confrontation could have devastating results or when the group is making a decision without enough information or without involving the right people. No one wins


This advice is aimed primarily at resolving differences between individuals, small groups and organisations, but many of the same principles apply to the resolution of conflict between communities and even nations. Although the principles are listed separately, it is possible to use one followed by another or to use two or more at the same time. Regard this advice as a tool box - use whatever seems appropriate to your situation and, if one technique does not work, try another. Be calm: Conflict usually engenders strong emotions and even anger but, in such a state, you are unlikely to be particularly rational or in the mood for compromise. Always show respect: However much you disagree with someone, attack the argument, not the person. To use a sporting metaphor: play the ball, not the man. As Nelson Mandela explained in his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom": "I defeated my opponents without dishonouring them". Be magnanimous: In truth, most conflict is over matters of little substance and often it is mostly pride or status that is at stake. Consider conceding the point to your opponent. This will save you time and energy and you can concentrate on the important issues of difference rather than the smaller ones. Also, if your concession is 70

done with good grace and even some humour, it will disarm your opponent and make him/her look small-minded by comparison. Discuss or debate: So often, conflict is created and/or maintained because there is no real discussion or debate. We make assumptions about the other person's point of view and willingness to compromise which might be quite wrong. We avoid discussion or debate either because we fear conflict (the situation will rarely be as bad as you fear) or we worry about 'losing' (in which case, you've already 'lost'). Apply rationality: Much conflict is not about substance but perception. Try to clear through the perception to discover and agree on how things really are. You won't manage this without discussion and you may need to research the facts and seek evidence. What is really worrying the other person? Has another person or company had a similar experience which might prove revealing and helpful? Acknowledge emotions: Facts alone - however rational - cannot resolve much conflict because how people perceive those facts is coloured by their emotions. It's no good denying those emotions, so make an effort to see the situation the way the other person does and to acknowledge their emotions before endeavouring to move beyond them. One way of doing this is to use phrases such as "Let me try to explain how I see things" or "Please allow me to explain why this is so important to me". Then reverse these points: "I would like to understand better how you see this situation" and "Please explain to me what is important to you in this problem". Be aware of displacement: Especially where anger is concerned, sometimes the source of a conflict is not what it appears to be, as anger is displaced. In the domestic context, for instance, an argument about the washing up could in fact be an argument about 71

lack of affection. It's not easy to spot displacement, but a warning sign is when matters that does not normally because conflict now appears to do so. Be precise: Someone might propose that something be done "sooner rather than later". His colleague might react against this assuming that we are talking of matter of weeks. When asked what exactly is meant, it might be that the first person explains that he had in mind a programme of several months - so, no argument. It might be necessary to make savings in the family budget. Instead of throwing everything into doubt and caused unnecessary upset, be focused. Perhaps it will be necessary to cancel some subscriptions or to postpone a planned holiday for a year. Think creatively: Try presenting different types of solution from those so far rejected by one of the parties. For example, in the Sunning dale talks on the future of Northern Ireland in 1973, the British and Irish Governments both wanted their view on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland to be stated first in the agreement; the solution was to divide the page in two and present the two statements side by side, so that they both had equal status. In a particularly tough set of negotiations that I led as a national trade union official, I would not accept certain words in the proposed agreement but I allowed them to be used in the covering letter to the agreement. Change the wording: It's amazing how often we disagree about words and how a change of words can change how people view a situation. Instead of criticising a work colleague for "a mistake", perhaps you could invite him to discuss "a learning opportunity". If two parties to a dispute don't like their eventual agreement to be called an agreement, try calling it a settlement or a resolution or a concordat.


Change the environment: It's no coincidence that some of the toughest political negotiations of all times - for instance those between the Israelis and the Palestinians - often take place in locations like Camp David in the USA or a wood in Scandinavia. I was a professional trade union official for 24 years and many of the most productive negotiations between management and union took place in a neutral venue like a hotel. Sometimes even simply moving from an office to a coffee bar or from a house to a restaurant can make all the difference. Compromise: This is an obvious point but frequently neglected. If you can't agree on whether to see a romantic comedy or an action thriller at the cinema, see one film this weekend and the other the next weekend. If you can't agree on whether to have a city holiday or a beach holiday, try a two-centre break. Consider staging: Much conflict is about change. Introducing change in stages often makes it more palatable to the person uncomfortable about it (and can make it more manageable for the person promoting it). Consider sequencing: Much conflict is created and/or aggravated by lack of trust. Building trust takes time and proof of goodwill. So consider introducing an agreement in stages whereby each action is dependent on another action. Experiment or test: Too often we argue in ignorance, convinced that our prescription or proposal is the best with no real evidence. Have a trial and review how things go or try two or three ways of doing something and have an honest appraisal of what works best. Seek mediation: This is a process whereby a neutral third party consults with those involved in a conflict to see if the problem can be presented in a way which facilitates a resolution. The mediator may simply listen and ask questions or he/she may suggest other 73

ways of looking at the problem or even possible solutions. Classically this is approach used in most relationship counselling. Seek conciliation: This is a similar process to mediation but a little more activist on the part of the third party who will normally attempt to find a solution by proposing a 'third way'. Seek arbitration: This is a process involving a third party who, from the beginning, is invited by the conflicting parties to propose a solution. The two parties may have originally agreed merely to consider the proposed solution (non-binding arbitration) or they may have agreed in advance to accept the decision of the arbitrator (binding arbitration). This approach is often used in industrial disputes. If absolutely necessary, apply authority or force. If mediation, conciliation and arbitration do not work or the parties are not willing to try them, conflict can be resolved in a fashion by one party imposing his/her solution through authority (she is the parent or he is the line manager) or through force (calling in the police or obtaining a legal injunction). Such a 'settlement' will cause resentment in the party at the receiving end, but sometimes this is the only way to resolve a conflict and move on. I can tell you - as a former trade union negotiator - that sometimes people in conflict want someone to impose a solution, not because they themselves oppose the solution but because they do not want to lose 'face' or be seen by their constituents to have 'given in'. If all else fails, wait. Most problems change over time. Either the problem solves itself because circumstances change or one's attitude to the problem changes as the heat dies down and other matters assume more prominence. Therefore, if one cannot solve a dispute and its resolution can wait, maybe the best approach is to leave things alone for a while. 74

Accept the situation: Conflict is not like mathematics. There is not always a solution waiting to be found and, if there is a solution, it is unlikely to be the only one. The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung once wrote that "The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown." Finally, although this advice is about resolving conflict, be aware that conflict cannot always be avoided (especially when fundamental differences, as opposed to perceived differences, are involved) and not all conflict is negative (sometimes it 'clears the air'). The important thing is to keep wasteful and damaging conflict to a minimum and, when it does occur, use the relevant techniques to resolve or at least ease it.

Resolving conflict rationally and effectively

In many cases, conflict in the workplace just seems to be a fact of life. We've all seen situations where different people with different goals and needs have come into conflict. And we've all seen the often-intense personal animosity that can result. The fact that conflict exists, however, is not necessarily a bad thing: As long as it is resolved effectively, it can lead to personal and professional growth. In many cases, effective conflict resolution skills can make the difference between positive and negative outcomes. The good news is that by resolving conflict successfully, you can solve many of the problems that it has brought to the surface, as well as getting benefits that you might not at first expect:

Increased understanding: The discussion needed to resolve conflict expands people's awareness of the situation, giving


them an insight into how they can achieve their own goals without undermining those of other people;








effectively, team members can develop stronger mutual respect, and a renewed faith in their ability to work together; and







examine their goals in close detail, helping them understand the things that are most important to them, sharpening their focus, and enhancing their effectiveness. However, if conflict is not handled effectively, the results can be damaging. Conflicting goals can quickly turn into personal dislike. Teamwork breaks down. Talent is wasted as people disengage from their work. And it's easy to end up in a vicious downward spiral of negativity and recrimination. If you're to keep your team or organization working effectively, you need to stop this downward spiral as soon as you can. To do this, it helps to understand two of the theories that lie behind effective conflict resolution techniques:

Understanding the Theory: The "InterestBased Relational Approach"

The second theory is commonly referred to as the "Interest-Based Relational (IBR) Approach". This conflict resolution strategy respects individual differences while helping people avoid becoming too entrenched in a fixed position. In resolving conflict using this approach, you follow these rules:

Make sure that good relationships are the first priority: As far as possible, make sure that you treat the other calmly 76

and that you try to build mutual respect. Do your best to be courteous to one-another and remain constructive under pressure;

Keep people and problems separate: Recognize that in many cases the other person is not just "being difficult" real and valid differences can lie behind conflictive positions. By separating the problem from the person, real issues can be debated without damaging working relationships;


attention By



interests carefully

that you'll






understand why the person is adopting his or her position; Listen first; talk second: To solve a problem effectively you have to understand where the other person is coming from before defending your own position;

Set out the Facts: Agree and establish the objective, observable elements that will have an impact on the decision; and

Using the Tool: A Conflict Resolution Process

Based on these approaches, a starting point for dealing with conflict is to identify the overriding conflict style employed by yourself, your team or your organization. Over time, people's conflict management styles tend to mesh, and a right way to solve conflict emerges. It's good to recognize when this style can be used effectively, however make sure that people understand that different styles may suit different situations. Look at the circumstances, and think about the style that may be appropriate. Then use the process below to resolve conflict. 77


If appropriate to the situation, agree the rules of the IBR Approach (or at least consider using the approach yourself.) Make sure that people understand that the conflict may be a mutual problem, which may be best resolved through discussion and negotiation rather than through raw aggression. If you are involved in the conflict, emphasize the fact that you are presenting your perception of the problem. Use active listening skills to ensure you hear and understand others positions and perceptions.

Restate Paraphrase Summarize

And make sure that when you talk, you're using an adult, assertive approach rather than a submissive or aggressive style.


Here you are trying to get to the underlying interests, needs, and concerns. Ask for the other persons viewpoint and confirm that you respect his or her opinion and need his or her cooperation to solve the problem Try to understand his or her motivations and goals, and see how your actions may be affecting these. Also, try to understand the conflict in objective terms: Is it affecting work performance? Damaging the delivery to the client? Disrupting team work? Hampering decision-making? or so on. Be sure to focus on work issues and leave personalities out of the discussion.


Listen with empathy and see the conflict from the other persons point of view Identify issues clearly and concisely Use I statements Remain flexible Clarify feelings


This sounds like an obvious step, but often different underlying needs, interests and goals can cause people to perceive problems very differently. You'll need to agree the problems that you are trying to solve before you'll find a mutually acceptable solution. Sometimes different people will see different but interlocking problems - if you can't reach a common perception of the problem, then at the very least, you need to understand what the other person sees as the problem.


If everyone is going to feel satisfied with the resolution, it will help if everyone has had fair input in generating solutions. Brainstorm possible solutions, and be open to all ideas, including ones you never considered before.


By this stage, the conflict may be resolved: Both sides may better understand the position of the other, and a mutually satisfactory solution may be clear to all. However you may also have uncovered real differences between your positions. This is where a technique like win-win negotiation can be useful to find a solution that, at least to some extent, satisfies everyone. There are three guiding principles here: Be Calm, Be Patient, Have Respect 79

Key Points
Conflict in the workplace can be incredibly destructive to good teamwork. Managed in the wrong way, real and legitimate differences between people can quickly spiral out of control, resulting in situations where co-operation breaks down and the team's mission is threatened. This is particularly the case where the wrong approaches to conflict resolution are used.


Avoidance is characterized by behaviour where one party may recognise that a conflict exists but chooses to withdraw from it or to suppress it. This style therefore involves ignoring conflicts in the hope that they will go away; putting problems on hold, invoking slow procedures to stifle contact, using secrecy to avoid confrontation and appealing to bureaucratic rules to resolve conflict. It is the desire to evade the overt demonstration of the

disagreement or indifference that can result in withdrawal. If withdrawal is not possible or desirable, the individual may suppress it without airing their differences. Avoidance can be considered as a powerful tool in conflict resolution. At a superficial level it may appear that in seeking to avoid contact with the perceived opposition/ situation pertaining to the conflict, we are behaving in a non-assertive/ passive manner giving control to the opposition and that we have essentially given up responsibility for ourselves and our actions.


A more in-depth analysis reveals that some forms of avoidance behaviour are distinctively active. Through avoidance one may actively achieve ones goals- although they may be distinct from the goals of the organization/ individual one is opposing. RICHARDSON has discussed a case to highlight that avoidance is an active mode of conflict resolution. The case is follows: The study was conducted in the Stapleton Educational Institute (SEI), Singapore to understand avoidance as a mode of conflict resolution and its effect on group dynamics. The organization discussed here, offered degree courses on management and economics to both full and part-time students. The teacher-student ratio was unbalanced in the sense that the stag was less compared to the large number of students. It resulted heavy work load for lecturers and administrative staff. Since both, full and part-time courses were offered (evenings and weekends), hours were long and the majority of staffs worked six day a week. To add to this, there were several intakes for courses, which resulted in no clear terms or holiday periods- this was very different from other educational institutions. The holiday issue was a source of much contention between staff and management- the former having been accustomed to the usual fixed holiday structure of academic employment. Also, there was a cultural dimension to add to the existing difficulties. The majority of the academic staff was expatriates recruited on the ;principle that an expatriate lecturing team would be an excellent marketing tool, which market research had proved correct. This, however, brought with it specific difficulties, such as, cultural adaptation to students and management strategy, higher salaries


commanded by expatriate staff. It led to heavy teaching loads/ limited vacation time. Clearly there were a number of potential areas for conflict, such as desire to earn more, heavy teaching loads and limited vacation time. It was observed that lack of trust from management, administration/ faculty relations, general style of management were other issues leading to a great deal of conflict within the organization. The staff avoided overt demonstration of disagreement but

expressed in terms of appeals regarding time-off and lecturing hours were done by making specific reference to bureaucratic rulers rather than by open discussion. Closed discussions were held among staff about management strategies and employee frustrations. Secrecy was maintained where applications for posts elsewhere were made and academic staff using the companys facilities provided extra tuition, but income was not declared. Informal staff gatherings frequently resulted in airing grievances and complaints among themselves rather than confronting management, which in some way served as a release. Senior academic staff adopted a different method of avoidance for being apathetic and reluctant to be involved in new projects. If required to do so as a result of contractual duties, they did so with minimal interest. All staff demonstrated general characteristics of avoidance as a means of resolving the conflict they experienced both as a group and as individuals. In this case, it was observed that the staffs were avoiding conflict but their avoidance had positive outcomes for themselves as individuals and for uniting them as a team. It gave them a common 82

identity and sense of unity. Collective avoidance, because of its positive outcomes, became the impetus for increasing and maintaining group relations. But avoidance as a method of conflict resolution is not recommended for the development of a healthy organization. In the case of SEI, staffs were avoiding and as a result, cohesion and solidarity were increasing, but the avoidance and resultant team building were detrimental to the well-being of the organization as a whole. Ina positive sense, the group dynamic was becoming stronger- the individual differences had been reconciled and replaced by a common aim to help one another in terms of support for the present and future-but the strengths and bonds created were then being used against the well-being of the organization.

The classic view on conflict has always been that conflict in any form is harmful and should be avoided at all cost. However, modern scholars and the corporate world at large are fast realizing that conflict is not as lethal as considered to be and if maintained within certain parameters, it can actually boost a companys growth. This project tells exactly how and when a conflict can be translated into a successful process and when it should be checked before it spells trouble for the company. It covers cases from all the essential areas of conflict and analytically discusses every aspect while striking a clear balance between theory, concept and application.


This project is an attempt to expose varied perspectives, to challenge their individual positions and ideologies, and to inspire, inform and train them in the field.