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Prepared by: Engr.

Syed Saleem
Learning Objectives 3 Conflict Management 17

Contents Workplace Characteristics

What is Conflict? Workplace
4 Theory of conflict management
Views about conflict
Conflict? Dealing with conflict 20
Why Conflict arise? 6 Response Style 21
Elements of conflict 7 Typical Response to conflict 23
Important Initiators of Conflict 8 Conflict resolution behaviour 24
Managerial actions that cause Conflict management styles 25
workplace conflict Strategies of managing conflict 27
Causes of conflict 10 Ways to resolve conflict 29
Conditions creating conflict 11 Tools for conflict management 30
Advantages & Disadvantages of Effective Communication 35
conflict Effective Manager - Characteristics 37
Classification of conflict 13 Interpersonal Skills 39
Constructive and Destructive Emotional Intelligence - Use &
14 45
Conflict Tips
Effects of conflict 15 Summary 50
Conflict as a process 16 Reference 52
Learning Objectives

• Understand the fundamental concepts of conflict management

• Acquire specific tactical approaches to conflict situations
• Apply that understanding to more effectively assess and
manage two-party and multi-party conflicts
Workplace Characteristics
• Workplace are competitive, professional, people driven
• All focused on being noticed, performing well, achieving and
effectively competing with one another for results and
• It can be a very emotional place
• There are bound to be animosities and incidents between co-
• Some managers seem to feel that “management by conflict”
i.e. pitting colleagues against each other, is the way to get the
best performance from their team, and it’s no wonder that
relations at work are not always happy and trouble free.
What is Conflict?

• Conflict is a clash of interests, values, actions, views or directions (De Bono, 1985)
• Conflict refers to the existence of that clash
What is Workplace Conflict?
• Conflict at workplace is an outcome of organizational intricacies, interactions and
disagreements. It can be settled by identifying and neutralizing the etiological factors.
• Workplace conflict is disagreement or opposition between/among individuals, teams or
departments in an organization.
• Conflict is a natural phenomenon, neither inherently good or bad, but there may be
positive or negative outcomes.
• Conflict is inevitable and often good.
• Conflict is not the same as discomfort. The conflict isn't the problem - it is when
conflict is poorly managed that is the problem
Why Conflict arise?

• In most organizations, conflict increases as employees assert

their demands for increased share in organizational rewards,
such as position, acknowledgement, appreciation, monetary
benefits and independence.
• Even management faces conflicts with many forces from
outside the organization, such as government, unions and other
coercive groups which may impose restrictions on managerial
• Conflict emanate from more than one source. The true origin
may be hard to identify.
Elements of Conflict
Organizational conflicts usually involve three elements, which have to
appropriately matched through necessary organization arrangements in
order to resolve the conflict
1. Power: Capacities that people have at their disposal to get work done. Power
includes budgetary discretion, personal influence, information, time, space, staff
size and dependence on others. If used efficiently, power creates an atmosphere of
cooperation but can generate conflicts when misused.
2. Organizational Demands: People’s expectations regarding a person’s job
performance. Usually such expectations are high and making them rather
unrealistic. When not fulfilled, conflict situation arise.
3. Worth: Person’s self-esteem. People want to prove their worth in their
Generally conflict arises from mismatches between power, organizational
demands and feelings of personal worth.
Important initiators of conflict situations

1. People disagree: People disagree for number of reasons

a. Differences in understanding and viewpoint
b. Different styles, principles, values, beliefs and slogans
which determine their choices and objectives
c. People have different ideological and philosophical outlooks
(as in the case of different political parties)
d. Conflict situations can arise because people have different
e. People are supposed to disagree under particular
2. People are concerned with fear, force, fairness or funds
Managerial Actions that Cause Workplace Conflicts

• Poor communications
• The alignment or the amount of resources is insufficient.
• "Personal chemistry", including conflicting values or actions among
managers and employees.
• Leadership problems
• Passing the buck
Other Causes of Conflict:

• Misunderstandings
• Personality clashes
• Competition for resources
• Authority issues
• Lack of co-operation
• Differences of opinion
• Low performance
• Values or goal differences
Conditions creating conflict situations
1. According to Kirchoff and Adams (1982), there are four distinct conflict conditions;

• High Stress Environments

• Ambiguous Roles and Responsibilities
• Multiple Boss Situations
• Prevalence of Advanced Technology
2. Filey (1975) identified nine main conditions which could initiate conflict situations in
an organization;
1. Ambiguous Jurisdiction
2. Goal incompatibility and conflict of interest
3. Communication barriers
4. Dependence on one party by another group or individual
5. Differentiation in organization
6. Association of the parties and specialization
7. Behaviour regulation
8. Unresolved prior conflicts
Conflict – Advantages:

• Helps to raise and address problems.

• Energizes work to be on the most appropriate issues.
• Helps people "be real", for example, it motivates them to participate.
• Helps people learn how to recognize and benefit from their differences.
• Improves communication
Conflict – Disadvantages:

• Lost work time and productivity

• Lost employees / high turnover
• Damage to organization reputation
• Sabotage, theft, damage
• Lowered job motivation
• Health costs due to stress
• Legal costs due to litigation
Classification of conflict
Conflict can be classified as;
• Functional Conflict:
• It works towards the goals of an organization or group
• It is constructive, increase information and ideas
• Encourages innovative thinking
• Unshackles different points of view
• Reduce stagnation
• Dysfunctional Conflict:
• It blocks an organization or group from reaching its goals
• Drives out low conflict tolerant people
• Increase tension, anxiety and stress
• Reduce trust
• Poor decision because of withheld or distorted
• Reduce information
Constructive Conflict:
Conflict is constructive when it;
• Results in clarification of important problems and issues
• Results in solutions to problems
• Involves people in resolving issues important to them
• Causes authentic communication
• Helps release emotion, anxiety, and stress
• Builds cooperation among people through learning more about each other;
• Joining in resolving the conflict
• Helps individuals develop understanding and skills
Destructive Conflict:
• Takes attention away from other important activities
• Undermines morale or self-concept
• Polarizes people and groups, reducing cooperation
• Increases or sharpens difference
• Leads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting, name-calling
Effects of Conflict
1. Conflict situations should be either resolved or used beneficially
2. Conflicts can have positive or negative effects for the organization, depending
upon the environment created by the manager as she or he manages and
regulates the conflict situation
3. Positive effects of conflicts
1. Diffusion of more serious conflicts
2. Stimulation (search for new facts or resolutions)
3. Increase in group cohesion and performance
4. Assessment of power or ability
4. Negative effects of conflicts
a) Impediments to smooth working
b) Diminishing output
c) Obstructions in the decision making process
d) Formation of competing affiliations within the organization
Conflict as a process

Conflict is a dynamic process. In any organization a modest

amount of conflict can be useful in increasing organizational
effectiveness. The stages involved in the conflict process;

1. The conflict situation

2. Awareness of the situation
3. Realization
4. Manifestation of conflict
5. Resolution or suppression of conflict
6. After-effects of a conflict situation
Conflict Management
• Conflict management is the process of limiting the negative
aspects of conflict while increasing the positive aspects of
• The aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and
group outcomes, including effectiveness or performance in
organizational setting (Ra him, 2002, p.208).
• Properly managed conflict can improve group outcomes.
Theory of Conflict Management
• Conflict is defined as disagreement between individuals. It can
vary from a mild disagreement to a win-or-lose, emotion-packed,
confrontation (Kirchoff and Adams, 1982). The are two theories of
conflict management;
• The Traditional Theory: It is based on the assumption that conflicts
are bad, are caused by trouble makers and should be subdued.
• Contemporary Theory: It recognizes that conflicts between human
beings are unavoidable. They emerge as a natural result of change and
can be beneficial to the organization, if managed efficiently.
• Current Theory: It considers innovation as a mechanism for bringing
together various ideas and viewpoints into a new and different fusion.
An atmosphere of tension, and hence conflict, is thus essential in any
organization committed to developing or working with new ideas.
Views about conflict
o Traditional View:
• The approach assumes that all conflicts hamper performances
• Conflicts occur due to poor communication, lack of openness and trust between people and
the failure of managers to be open to their employees.
o Human Relations View:
• This approach assumes that conflicts occur naturally in all groups and organizations
• It is natural and cannot be avoided. Hence it should be accepted
• It cannot be removed and it may play a role in group performance
o Interactionist View:
• This approach encourages conflict because it believes that a peaceful and cooperative group
may become constant and may not respond to the need for change and innovation
• Group leaders should maintain sufficient conflict. So that the group remains creative and
Dealing with conflict
• Conflicts are inescapable in an organization. However,
conflicts can be used as motivators for healthy change. In
today’s environment, several factors create competition; they
may be differing departmental objectives, individual
objectives, competition for use of resources or differing
viewpoints. These have to be integrated and exploited
efficiently to achieve organizational objectives.
Dealing with conflict
• A manager should be able to see emerging conflicts and take
appropriate pre-emptive action. The manager should
understand the causes creating conflict, the outcome of conflict
and various methods by which conflict can be managed in the
• With this understanding, the manager should evolve an
approach for resolving conflicts before their disruptive
repercussions have an impact on productivity and creativity.
Therefore, a manager should possess special skills to react to
conflict situations and should create an open climate for
communication between conflicting parties.
Response Styles
• People may appreciate the same situation in different ways and so respond differently. It is
therefore necessary to understand the response styles of the people involved so as to manage
conflict properly.
• According to Turner and Weed (1983), responses can be classified as follows;
• Addressers – People who are willing to take initiatives and risk to resolve conflicts by getting their
opponents to agree with them on some issues. Addressers can either be;
• first-steppers – those who believe that some trust has to be est.
• confronters – those think that things are so bad that they have nothing to lose by a
• Concealers – They take no risk and so say nothing. They conceal their views and feelings. They can be of
three kinds;
• Feeling – Swallowers (Swallow their feelings)
• Subject - Changers (find the real issue too difficult to handle)
• Avoiders (often go out of their way to avoid conflicts)
• Attackers – People’s cannot keep their feelings to themselves.
• Up-front attackers – the angry people who attack openly (the target usually generates sympathy,
support and agreement for the target)
• Behind-the-back – they are difficult to handle because the target person is not sure of the source of
any criticism, nor even always sure that there is criticism
Typical Responses to Conflict
• Avoid the person
• Change the subject
• Try to understand the other person’s point of view
• Find a judge/arbitrator
• Play the martyr
• Give in
• Apologize
• Whine or complain
• Fight it out
• Pretend to agree
• Try to find common ground
• Admit that you are wrong
• Turn the conflict into a joke
• Work toward a mutually agreeable solution
Conflict-Resolution behaviour
• The behaviour of conflicting parties can range from full cooperation to
complete confrontation. Two intentions determining the type of conflict-
handling behaviour are;
• assertion – refers to an attempt to confront the other party
• Cooperation – refers to an attempt to find an agreeable solution.
• Depending upon the degree of each intention involved, there can be five
types of conflict handling behaviour (Thomas & Kilman, 1976). They are;
• Competition/Forcing – win or lose style of handling conflicts
• Collaboration – aims at finding solution that can satisfy both the parties
• Compromise – a common way, there are gains/losses for each party
• Avoidance – by avoiding direct confrontation, both parties get time to cool down.
• Accommodation – involves high cooperation and confrontation
Conflict Management Styles
Approach Objective Your Posture Supporting Likely Outcome

Forcing Get your way. “I know what’s right. It is better to risk You feel vindicated,
Don’t question my causing a few hard but other party feels
judgment or feelings than to defeated and possibly
authority.” abandon a position humiliated.
you are committed to.
Avoiding Avoid having to deal “I’m neutral on that Disagreements are Interpersonal
with conflict. issue. Let me think inherently bad because problems don’t get
about it.” they create tension. resolved, causing long-
term frustration
manifested in a variety
of ways.
Accommodating Don’t upset the other “How can I help you Maintaining Other person is likely
person. feel good about this harmonious to take advantage of
encounter? My relationships should be you.
position isn’t so our top priority.
important that it is
worth risking bad
feelings between us.”
Conflict Management Styles
Approach Objective Your Posture Supporting Rationale Likely
Compromising Reach an agreement “Let’s search for a Prolonged conflicts distract Participants
quickly. mutually agreeable people from their work and become
solution.” engender bitter feelings. conditioned to
seek an
expedient, rather
than effective
Collaborating Solve the problem “This is my position. The positions of both parties Participants find
together. What is yours? I’m are equally important (though an effective
committed to finding the not necessarily equally valid). solution.
best possible solution.” Equality emphasis should be
placed on the quality of the
outcome and the fairness of
the decision-making.
Strategies for managing conflicts
• Tosi, Rizzo and Carroll (1982) suggested four ways of managing
1. Styles – Conflict handling behaviour styles may be suitable
encouraged, depending upon the situation
2. Improving organizational practices – after identifying reason for
conflict, suitable organizational practices can be used to resolve
conflict including;
• establishing superordinate goals
• reducing vagueness
• minimizing authority and domain related disputes
• improving policies, procedures and rules
Strategies for managing conflicts
3. Special roles and structure – A manager has to
• Initiate structural changes needed, including re-location or
merging of specialized units
• Shoulder liaison functions and
• Act as an integrator to resolve conflicts
4. Confrontation techniques – Aims at finding a mutually acceptable and
enduring solution through collaboration and compromise. It involves a
process of defining the problem, searching for alternatives and their
evaluation and deciding by consensus.
Ways to resolve conflict
• When two groups or individuals face a conflict situation, they
can react in four ways (De Bono, 1985). They can;
• Fight (it can only be useful in courtroom situations, where winning and
losing becomes a by-product of judicial process)
• Negotiate (third party roles are important in bringing the conflicting
parties on some common ground for negotiations)
• Problem solve (which involves identifying and removing the cause of the
conflict so as to make the situation normal again)
• Design (an attempt towards creativity in making the conflict situation
normal. It considers conflict as situations rather than problems)
Tools for
Conflict Management
What doesn’t work

That’s true but…

What does work

That’s true and…

What doesn’t work

What does work

The “third story”
What doesn’t work
You get the picture…

What does work

match & lower,
match & raise….
Steps an employer can take
To ensure disputes and conflicts are minimised and to enable
them to be dealt with when they do, an employer can take;
• Training managers to handle difficult conversations with
• Having clear discipline, grievance and dispute procedures in
place for dealing with conflict
• Having an employment manual in place, available to everyone,
clearly laying down rights and responsibilities.
• Recognise and encourage the importance of feelings, and open
expression of opinions
• Listen to what people have to say
Effective Communication
• Managers also need to appreciate the importance that effective
communication plays in maintaining good interpersonal
relationships. The ability to communicate effectively can be a key
skill in advancing a career.
• Interacting well with colleagues and managers will enable you to
make good decisions, solve problems and achieve company targets.
• In today’s world an effective manager is expected to anticipate and
solve problems, and avoid, rather than react, to conflict in the
• So skills that will enable you to minimise conflict, foster a positive
atmosphere, and facilitate teamwork will make a valuable
contribution to the business, as well as producing a better work
experience for everyone.
Effective Communication
• Employees are more effective if their interactions with
colleagues and manager are conflict free, productive and team
oriented, producing a pleasant work atmosphere where
everyone is treated with respect.
Characteristics of Effective Manager
• We need to consider different characters, those who have a
need to lead and those who prefer to follow, people who
respond differently in situations of stress.
• Effective manager needs to be able to see, discuss and resolve
difficult interactions in the workplace. These may be between
employees, colleagues, managers and employees, or customers and
• Effective manager needs tools and techniques to help them
notice conflicts developing, decide which situations are worth
resolving, determine the source of a problem, discuss emotions
that difficult interactions can raise, seek and implement a
resolution and overcome potential barriers to action to resolve
Characteristics of Effective Manager
• Managers are often confronted with inappropriate and
challenging behaviour, which demands a response from them.
We will define inappropriate behaviour and develop skills to
enable the manager to respond in a way which reduces the risk
of further conflict.
Interpersonal Skills – How to make sure you fit in
without causing conflict
• Good manners and politeness are really all you need here.
• People will respond better if they are treated with respect
• Be aware of the impact you are having on others
• Deliver your message appropriately – that is, have regard to
how you ask for things or issue instructions
• Phrase requests politely
• Put yourself in their place when you ask or suggest something
“how would I feel I was asked to do that?”
• Use “Please” and “ Thank you” as a matter of course when you
are asking for things to be done.
Interpersonal Skills – How to make sure you fit in
without causing conflict
• Be aware of your body language.
• Use open posture, smile and make eye contact.
• Avoid closed body language (such as crossed arms) and other
negative body language
• Be aware of the body language of people you are speaking to, to
ensure that you are interacting with them, rather than issuing
orders. What can you tell about their attitude from their
• Avoid using confrontational, offensive or derogatory language.
Interpersonal Skills – How to make sure you fit in
without causing conflict
• Be extremely careful of what you put in writing. Once issued
in a memo or email, it can’t be unsaid.
• Keep written material professional at all times
• Listen and respond to ideas put forward to you
• Try to promote a spirit of cooperation and teamwork rather
than of destructive competition.
• Competitive instincts need to be channelled into positive
results for the team, rather than an individual winner
emerging to the detriment of others and the team.
Interpersonal Skills – How to make sure you fit in
without causing conflict
• If you detect a conflict, take action to resolve it before it
escalates. Sometimes just acknowledging and discussing a
potential problem can defuse it.
Interact appropriately at different levels
• Depending on the culture of workplace, it may be deemed
appropriate to address managers as Mr or Mrs and accept
orders without discussion.
• In other cultures, everyone may be on first name terms and it
may be usual to interact and offer suggestions to management
about improving practices.
• It is important to “read” the culture and interact appropriately.
• Personnel can be given guidance at induction to avoid
Interact appropriately at different levels
For eg;
• In a traditional manufacturing environment, where an old
fashioned hierarchical culture is likely to prevail
• A knowledge based internet business, perhaps will have a more
modern, less hierarchical culture, respecting knowledge rather than
• The culture in a fast moving sales environment will differ from
that of a Barristers Chambers or Doctors Surgery.
• So consider the environment you are operating in, remember that
the most effective way to avoid conflict is for everyone to respect
one another and to communicate effectively by both listening and
delivering messages effectively.
Use Emotional Intelligence
• Emotional Intelligence has an impact on your behaviour and
the way you interact with colleagues, family and friends.
• It’s the ability to identify and manage emotions, your own and
others in positive ways.
• This enables effective communication and facilitates empathy
with others.
• People who have high emotional intelligence use their
understanding of emotions to relate better to other people
• Emotional Intelligence help to overcome challenges, anticipate
and defuse conflict from healthy relationships, achieve
business success and lead a more fulfilling life.
Emotional Intelligence Tips
Emotional Intelligence tips that may be helpful for dealing with
difficult people in your workplace;
• It is difficult to control other people’s behaviour, so instead
change your behaviour in relation to them. Find the most
productive means of interaction.
• Listen actively and with empathy to gain understanding of
their viewpoint
• Try to understand, acknowledge and sympathise with the
other’s feelings.
• Be aware of each other’s perceptions, look for opportunities to
challenge and alter those perceptions for the better.
Emotional Intelligence Tips
• Seek common ground, reconcile interests.
• Focus on the other persons needs desires and concerns. Work
towards resolution.
• Focus on the problem, not the person. Try to understand what
the actual problem is. Then seek ways to resolve it.
• Don’t make assumptions about others behaviour or reasons for
it. Open and maintain a dialogue.
• Be polite and respectful. Control your temper and your
• Identify both of your needs
Emotional Intelligence Tips
• Use “I” statements and be clear about points of agreement
• Use appropriate body language to show support and attention
• Ask powerful problem-solving questions
• Be polite and civil
• If someone is making life difficult for you, try to be friendly
but distant and not to rise to the bait in the heat of the
moment. This may only encourage their behaviour to
deteriorate. But it may be that if you don’t give them the
emotional reaction they’re seeking, they’ll decide it’s a waste of
time trying to get arise out of you and leave you alone.
Emotional Intelligence Tips
• Sometimes people are jealous of your ability and that’s why
they react badly to you. If you can let them know you don’t
intend to challenge them they may feel motivated to treat you
better. Try to strike up a casual conversation, about a non-
confrontational topic.
Summing Up
• Conflicts are inevitable in any organization
• A modest level of conflict can be useful in generating better ideas
and methods, inspiring concern and ingenuity and stimulating the
emergence of long-suppressed problems
• Conflict management strategies should aim at keeping conflict at a
level at which different ideas and viewpoints are fully voiced but
unproductive conflicts are deterred.
• A conflict situation can be induced by supporting individualistic
thinking or favouring individual competition.
• A manager should manage conflicts effectively rather than suppress
or avoid them. To manage them, a manager needs to ask What? and
Why? – and not Who? to get at the root of a problem.
Summing Up
• Basic problems in inter-group behaviour are conflict of goals and
communication failures.
• A basic tactic in resolving conflicts, therefore, is to find goals upon
which individual or group can agree, and to ensure proper
communication and interaction.
• In the process of resolving conflicts, many problems can be
identified and solved by removing obstacles and creating a new
environment of individual growth.
• Some conflicts arise because of simple misconceptions, which can
be overcome by improved communication.
• If conflicts are not managed properly, they can be damaging, as
they waste a lot of energy and time and invoke tension, which
reduces the productivity and creativity of those involved.
• De Bono, E. 1985. Conflicts: A Better Way to Resolve Them.
• Filley, A.C. 1975. Interpersonal Conflict Resolution.
• Kirchoff, N., & Adams, J.R. 1982 Conflict Management for
Project Managers.
• Thomas, K.W., & Kilman, R. H. 1974. Conflict Mode Instrument
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