Conflict & Negotiations

Conflict Management Techniques

We get into a conflict when the person opposite to us has a different mindset. It is very common in a workplace to get into differences of opinion. Sometimes there is a conflict between two or more employees, sometimes employees have a conflict with their managers and so on. Now the question is, how can we manage disagreements in ways that build personal and collegial relationships?

Here are five strategies from conflict management theory for managing stressful situations. None of them is a “one-size-fits-all” answer. Which one is the best in a given situation depends on variety of factors, including an appraisal of the levels of conflict.

  • Collaborating − win/win
  • Compromising − win some/lose some
  • Accommodating − lose/win
  • Competing − win/lose
  • Avoiding − no winners/no losers

Collaborating

This technique follows the rule “I win, you win”. Collaborating means working together by integrating ideas set out by multiple people. The objective here is to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone. It calls for a significant time commitment but is not appropriate for all conflicts.

This technique is used in situations where −

  • There is a high level of trust
  • We don’t want to take complete responsibility
  • We want others to also have “ownership” of solutions
  • People involved are willing to change their thinking
  • We need to work through animosity and hard feelings

However, this process takes a lot of time and energy and some may take advantage of other people’s trust and openness.

Example − A businessman should work collaboratively with the manager to establish policies, but collaborative decision-making regarding office supplies wastes time better spent on other activities.

Compromising

This technique follows the rule “You bend, I bend”. Compromising means adjusting with each other’s opinions and ideas, and thinking of a solution where some points of both the parties can be entertained. Similarly, both the parties need to give up on some of their ideas and should agree with the other.

This technique can be used in situations where −

  • People of equal levels are equally committed to goals
  • Time can be saved by reaching intermediate settlements on individual parts of complex matters
  • Goals are moderately important

Important values and long-term objectives can be derailed using this technique. This process may not work if initial demands are high and mainly if there’s no commitment to honor the compromise solutions.

Example − Two friends had a fight and they decide to compromise with each other through mutual understanding.

Accommodating

This technique follows the rule “I lose, you win”. Accommodating means giving up of ideas and thoughts so that the other party wins and the conflict ends. This technique can be used when −

  • An issue is not that important to us as it is to the other person
  • We realize we are wrong
  • We are willing to let others learn by mistake
  • We know we cannot win
  • It is not the right time and we would prefer to simply build credit for the future
  • Harmony is extremely important
  • What the parties have in common is a good deal more important than their differences

However, using this technique, one’s own ideas don’t get attention and credibility, and influence can be lost.

Example − When we fight with someone we love we choose to let them win.

Competing

This technique follows the rule “I win, you lose”. Competing means when there is a dispute a person or a group is not willing to collaborate or adjust but it simply wants the opposite party to lose. This technique can be used when −

  • We know you are right.
  • Time is short and a quick decision is to be made.
  • A strong personality is trying to steamroll us and we don’t want to be taken advantage of.
  • We need to stand up for our rights.

This technique can further escalate conflict or losers may retaliate. Example − When in a debate the party with more facts wins.

Avoiding

This technique follows the rule “No winners, no losers”. Avoiding means the ideas suggested by both the parties are rejected and a third person is involved who takes a decision without favoring any of the parties. This technique can be used when −

         • The conflict is small and relationships are at stake

•  We are counting to ten to cool off

• More important issues are pressing and we feel we don’t have time to deal with this particular one

•  We have no power and we see no chance of getting our concerns met

•  We are too emotionally involved and others around us can solve the conflict more successfully

Using this technique may lead to postponing the conflict, that may make matters worse. Inter-group Conflict

Many times, groups inter-relate to accomplish the organization’s goals and objectives, and conflict can occur. Some conflict, called functional conflict, is considered positive, because it enhances performance and identifies weaknesses. Dysfunctional conflict, however, is confrontation or interaction between groups that harms the organization or hinders attainment of goals or objectives.

Causes of Intergroup Conflict

One of the most prominent reasons for intergroup conflict is simply the nature of the group. Other reasons may be work interdependence, goal variances, differences in perceptions, and the increased demand for specialists. Also, individual members of a group often play a role in the initiation of group conflict. Any given group embodies various qualities, values, or unique traits that are created, followed, and even defended. These clans can then distinguish “us” from “them.” Members who violate important aspects of the group, and especially outsiders, who offend these ideals in some way, normally receive some type of corrective or defensive response. Relationships between groups often reflect the opinions they hold of each other’s characteristics. When groups share some interests and their directions seem parallel, each group may view the other positively; however, if the activities and goals of groups differ, they may view each other in a negative manner. When trying to prevent or correct intergroup conflict, it is important to consider the history of relations between the groups in conflict. History will repeat itself if left to its own devices.

Limited resources and reward structures can foster intergroup conflict by making the differences in group goals more apparent. Differences in perceptions among groups regarding time and status, when coupled with different group goals, can also create conflict. Reorganization of the workplace and integration of services and facilities can be stressful to some and create negative conflict. Some individuals within the group have inherent traits or social histories that impact intergroup conflict, but problems within intergroup relations are not usually caused by the deviate behavior of a few individuals.

Conflicts within or between groups can be destructive or constructive, depending on how the conflict is handled.

When an organization is creating a dispute resolution process, there are key factors to success:

  • – A critical mass of individuals who are committed to the process;
  • – A leadership group who perceive it in their best interest and the best interests of the people they serve;
  • – Strategic cooperation among historical enemies;
  • – Realistic and satisfactory outcomes;
  • – A moratorium on hostilities or conflict-seeking
  • – There also are barriers to success:
  • – Fear of losing power;
  • – Unwillingness to negotiate;
  • – No perceived benefit;
  • – Corporate philosophy;
  • – Top leadership reluctance;
  • – Lack of success

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Organizational Behavior by Icfai Business School is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.