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Lecture 12

Conflicts and cultural differences

The nature of conflict

• Definition: A conflict appears when people with differing needs or
goals are prevented – or perceive that they are being prevented – by
others in achieving these needs or goals
• Realistic group conflict theory: source of inter-group conflict is struggle
over (limited) structural resources, not personal characteristics
• Social identity theory: conflict between groups is seen to be the result
of perceived identities

Conflict and (cultural) groups • Ting-Toomey (1999): (cross-cultural) conflict involves: – (cultural) groups protecting their own self-image – intercultural perceptions coloured by ethnocentrism and stereotypes – not just the situation but also communicative behaviours. which are profoundly shaped by the way individuals in a culture conceptualize the sense of self .

Concept of ‘self-construal’ • How people perceive themselves • Ting-Toomey distinguishes between – Those with an independent sense of self welcome communication in the conflict process. if both parties are open: this may bring tangible. creative solutions – Those with an interdependent sense of self see conflict as negative and unproductive. interdependent self-concepts more prevalent in collectivistic cultures . particularly if the other party is assertive/not properly address relational feelings – Independent self-concepts found more often in individualist cultures.

A model of conflict styles • A person’s conflict style: ‘patterned responses or clusters of behavior that people use in conflict’ • Thomas and Kilmann model (1974) based on two factors in a person’s conflict style: – assertiveness: the degree to which a person is concerned with his or her own interests – cooperativeness: the degree to which a person is concerned with the interests of others .

11 (adapted) . p.Conflict handling modes H I G H Collaborating Competing Compromising Concern for self Assertiveness Avoiding Accommodating L O W LOW HIGH Concern for other Co-operativeness Two-dimensional taxonomy of conflict handling modes Source: Thomas and Kilman (1974).

A model for intercultural conflict management : Why the need? • Can such a dual concern model handle the increasing complexity of modern-day disputes? .

and one associated with collectivistic cultures – can cause equal harm in a more subtle manner: replacing genuine problem-solving with superficial harmony . et al. (2002) propose the introduction of harmony into the model: concerns itself with the relationship between the self and the other • Harmony: focus on using a conflict-free relationship to achieve a goal • Reason to include this aspect is made in the light of their investigation into conflict avoidance which is: – a feature common in East Asia. K.Relationship • Leung.

He distinguishes between: –‘Ego-focused’ emotions such as anger. ego-focused emotions can cause individuals to try harder to reach their goals • Collectivist. linked to the non-fulfilment of individual goals –‘Other-focused’ emotions such as shame. anxiety and fear. related to the (in-)ability to promote the interdependent self • Individualist. pride and guilt.Emotions • Kumar (2004) uses the individualist/collectivist cultural dimension. other-focused emotions can cause individuals to repair the damage done to relations .

with one side attempting to force a resolution and the other withdrawing from any interaction • Emotions can exacerbate the in-group/out-group distinction and make any resolution of the conflict even more difficult .Emotions • In negotiation conflict: • those with negative ego-focused feelings will put pressure on their opponents to make concessions • those experiencing other-focused may adjust their expectations to get an agreement • Emotions could drive them even further apart.

(2000) advocate the inclusion of emotional expression in Thomas-Kilmann’s model to account for the many subtleties in conflict management .Intercultural approach to conflict • Ting-Toomey et al.

p. 160 .Intercultural approach to conflict Dominating S e l f f a c e c o n c e r n Integrating Neglect (PassiveAggressive) H I G H Responses that side-step conflict and cause indirect reaction from the other party Emotional expression Third-Party Help L O W Use an outsider who is acceptable to both sides to act as mediator Compromising Avoiding Obliging LOW HIGH Other face concern An eight-style conflict grid: An intercultural approach Source: Ting-Toomey and Oetzel (2002).

. (2010) Cultural variance in the interpersonal effects of anger in negotiations. A. H. 21. particularly between Europeans/Americans and (American) Asians – Showing anger produced larger concessions from European/American negotiators but smaller concessions from Asian and Asian American negotiators Adam. Shirako.Emotional expression: A study • Adam et al (2010): – How the emotions of anger affect negotiations across cultures. 882-889 .W. and Maddux. W. Psychological Science.

personal characteristics • In West: the mediator’s task is tightly focused: authority defined more in terms of their expertise and experience • The mediator can: – reframe the content and process issues of both parties – transform the whole conflict in terms of the attitudes and behaviour of those involved . legitimacy rests on – their social status within the group – their knowledge of traditions.Mediation • In Asia-Pacific: the mediator deals with concerns of group as a whole.

Management of conflict • The way conflicts are addressed can vary considerably from culture to culture. These differences relate to: – the degree to which disagreement is acceptable and therefore the extent to which conflict is tolerated – the strategies to be adopted when dealing with conflicts – when the manager needs to intervene and the way s/he intervenes .

C (1998) Models of conflict resolution in Japanese. 316-323 . Journal of Applied Psychology.Management of conflict • Tinsley (1998): – Japanese managers: status power model where conflict are resolved by higher authority – German managers: regulations model where conflict are resolved using pre-existing procedures or rules – US managers: interest model where conflicts are resolved by resolving underlying concerns of the other party to make it worthwhile to reach an agreement Tinsley. German and American cultures. 83(2).

face issues .Mindfulness Ting-Toomey (1999) suggests that skills to do with mindfulness can enhance conflict management: • mindful reframing – ‘translate’ (non-)verbal messages from the context of the other’s cultural viewpoint – re-set priorities after mindfully observing and listening to the viewpoints and expectations of their opponents • collaborative dialogue – grasp the cultural and personal elements involved – get the others to talk about expectations.

1998) – Thailand (Roongrengsuke & Chansuthus. 1998) – Korea (Cho & Park.Examples • Managing conflict in the Asia-Pacific region – Malaysia (Mansor. 1998) .

will be uncooperative and eventually resign themselves to the way their boss behaves . honesty and sincerity.Managing conflict in Malaysia • Core values: durability of personal relations. being upright and caring • respect for seniority: in some conflicts a third person. respect. a ‘neutral senior’ clarifies key issues • subordinates will never confront their superior. even if a strong divergence of opinion results in conflict • concern for face : across all ethnic groups • concern for others: generosity.

but Thais are more ‘relationshiporiented’ than ‘results-oriented’ • Conflict is rarely regarded as either positive or negative: if a conflict arises.Managing conflict in Thailand • The name Thailand – ‘The Land of Smiles’ – reflects the social harmony in this country. A Thai smiles in pleasant and stress-filled situations • Smile hides feelings in public: self-discipline to maintain status. a third party (traditionally a respected elder) is called upon to mediate . prestige and face: concept of ‘jai yen’ (‘cool heart’) derived from Buddhism • Individualism quite predominant.

by a work slowdown and a spate of resignations of key personnel. until the offending manager left. . the Thais remained silent. however. Unwilling to dignify the insulting behaviour with a response. upset about the continued unauthorised borrowing of equipment between departments. The incident was followed. smiling grimly. burst in on a meeting being held by his Thai subordinates and loudly berated the responsible person in front of his peers.Case example: A Grim Silence A British manager.

strategy is comparable to Western competitive approach .Managing conflict in (South) Korea • Korea reflects in a way the differences and similarities between western and eastern attitudes to conflict • Koreans prefer a non-competitive (or non-dominating) strategy in face-to-face conflict situation • Prefer to use a superior or authoritarian personality to resolve conflict • Differentiate between in-group and out-group situations: when dealing with out-groups.