What is Conflict Management? (Types, Theories, And Strategies)


Conflict management is the approach and strategies geared towards achieving a positive outcome and resolution amongst the parties involved in matters relating to conflicts. These strategies and approaches are dependent on the type of conflict that exist, organizations, or institutions involved. It could be a systematic or unordered method that is task-specific, research-oriented, and requires proper attention. A conflict could be an outcome of Workplace Incivility. We wrote in details in our article,” What Causes Incivility In The workplace? (Consequences, Preventative Measures, And Management Responsibilities)Opens in a new tab..”

Every technique applied to manage conflict is aimed at resolution with fair judgment, but it’s worthy of note that it is not all approaches to solving disputes that lead to a decision or positive outcomes.

Some findings have been carried out over the years to identify and even classified the approaches to managing conflicts. For instance, Rahim (2002) was able to identify five different management approaches to combating conflicts. These are;

1. Avoiding
2. Accommodating
3. Compromising
4. Collaborating
5. Competing

 

I have observed that the more the people involved in any situation or matter, the more likely conflict arise. This is not far-fetched as we humans have a different philosophy, culture, educational background, and conflicting goals. Proper understanding of the five strategies to conflict managementOpens in a new tab. will go a long way to minimize rifts among members of an organization, business, and institutions. Read more on How to deal with a negative coworker.Opens in a new tab.

Let’s briefly discuss these five approaches as identified by Rahim (2002)

1. Avoiding

This is a type of conflict management strategy where there is an existence of avoidance such that the avoiders ignore the conflict. It is a conscious effort to delay with the hope that the issue(s) would be resolved over time. This can assume any sides of the coin in the sense that, the problem can be solved as time passes or the longer the time to resolve the issue, the more the conflict escalates. It has been observed that some with power to pull the dispute will not want to adopt this strategy, but someone with low esteem and no capacity will avoid problems hoping that someday he/she will be capable enough.

2. Accommodation

This kind of conflict management requires that the parties involved accept the views of one another. Both or one is ready to give the other party/side what is needed. For instance, in a business environment where employees are required to dress formal throughout the working days of the week. An employee can approach the organization to allow the wearing of casuals on Fridays. This can cause conflicts between the companyOpens in a new tab. and the employee because that may be a core organizational principle. But the company can apply an accommodation strategy by allowing the employees to wear casuals on Fridays. People are happy and feel among when this strategy is employed.

3. Compromising

This management strategy is such that parties have almost the same if not equal capacity to pull issues further that will result in conflict. But both decided to give in by accepting and agreeing to see how resolution can be established. Most businesses would embrace this strategy to resolve a dispute when parties observe that there is a risk at the end, as any of them could lose something of value in matters that caused the conflict. Contract negotiation, customer service, and big investors are aspects you will see businesses compromising their standard to work with the other party.

4. Collaborating

In conflict resolution and management, sometimes because of the differences in ideology and knowledge that usually cause a rift in business, parties integrate ideas to find a common ground of acceptance for everyone involved. Companies can always consult with employees to formulate policies and work collaboratively during the decision process on some specific issues in the organization.

5. Competing

This type of conflict management strategy often involves individuals who are assertive and have the will power to fight till they achieve their goal and the other losing. For instance, a company might hold on to this competitive strategy by conflicting and holding on until they win on issues that will damage the organization reputation based on an employee trying to defraud the company.

Irrespective of the impacts of all the strategies discussed above, once there are people from different groups and ideology coming together, conflict is likely to occur.

This will lead us to discuss the characteristics of conflict as follows;

1. Conflict involves opposition
2. Conflict has come to stay among humans
3. There are processes involved that usually result in conflicts
4. Conflict is not to be avoided
5. Conflict takes different shapes and form

 

1. Conflict involves opposition

Conflict exists if a party is in disagreement will another (it could be internal or external) because one does not accept or agree with the other. Therefore, there is a level of interaction or point of contact for conflict to take its course.

2. Conflict has come to stay among humans

Since there will always be differences between human based on incompatibility, the battle has become the usual thing in life for everyone. There is an adage that says, ‘if you always see two friends smiling all the time, it shows that they haven’t been telling each other the truth.’ Funnily, conflict is not a problem if attention is given amongst parties to adopt some of the conflict management strategies.

3. There are processes involved that usually result in conflicts

Many times it will start with a misunderstanding; one party with a standpoint wants the other to see from his viewpoint. No company wants her interest to be jeopardized and treated as a second-level issue with no dignity.

4. Conflict is not to be avoided

It is worthy of note that no two persons are the same even twins. So, a dispute will always exist. Once there are two people or more involved in a matter, because of the differences in self-concept, educational level, background, organizational training, and a host of others, conflicts can’t be avoided. Nonetheless, this non-avoidance nature of the battle is useful sometimes as the end goal can make parties evolve stronger and better.

5. Conflict takes different shapes and form

Battle sometimes can be unidimensional, can be inflicted and perceptional. Interaction will always occur between an individual and a group of people, organization, institutions, and these activities result in interdependence. This comes in various degrees under the groups involved. Conflict can be similar so, almost the same conflict management strategy or combinations of approaches can be applied to achieve resolution or minimize the negative impact.

Concept of Conflict Management

Managing conflict is an area of human that is necessary because we constitute and manage an organization. This may sometimes require training in different skills that can be adopted in different situations of life. For instance, we have seen people going to take an advanced course in conflict management, and this is broad. Members of an organization should go through either a long or short training on this subject matter as it’s capable of minimizing unnecessary issues that lead to conflict.

Conflict Based on the Results

There is always an end goal for every conflict. This could be positive or negative, destructive or constructive, and restrictive or creative. One can say conflict is constructive when it produces solutions to problems from the understanding that exists between parties involved. The other side of the coin is destructive in that parties fail to achieve the end goal(s)

Conflict Based on Sharing by Groups

When conflict results from sharing resources with one party winning and the other losing, it is termed as distributive. The opposite of it is integrative which involve the parties accommodating one another’s viewpoints by compromising, and this usually results in a better outcome.

Conflict Based on the Scope

This can be seen from the angle of being substantive or affective. Substantive, in the sense that it does not involve individual but associated with jobs and enhanced by collaborative decision. Affective conflict, on the other hand, is based on the interpersonal relationship that centers on emotion. This can be highly destructive to an organization if a proactive measure is not put in place to resolve it as quickly as possible. Substantive conflict can be observed when there is a confusion with the group on a task being performed.

Conflict Based on Strategy

Base on a strategic approach, conflict can be seen to be cooperative or competitive. Cooperative in the sense that the benefits of interest among parties seek a win-win solution. Before this will occur, there is always a kind of relationship to resolve by negotiating for mutual benefits. When there is a will power to fight without bilateral cooperation among parties involved, this is called competitive. Many times low esteem usually plays in this kind of concept of conflict, and it is accumulated over time. It typically results in conclusions that are not of sound judgment because issues that the conflict emanates from tend to be irrelevant to the point on ground.

Conflict Based on Interests and Rights

People sometimes are granted specific right by law based on initial agreement, and this is known as conflict of rights. This kind of conflict has been sealed and approved by law, and when an individual or group is denied of their rights, it will always want to result in a dispute. Sometimes the interest of a group of people or an individual due to certain privileges he/she is entitled to is not backed up by law; this is called conflict of interest. Conflict of interest will only come out positively when parties involve decide to accommodate, cooperate, and negotiate so that it does not attract unusual and baseless situation.

 

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