Conflict Management


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Conflict can be defined as a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, and external or internal demands. Where there are people, there is conflict.

They are usually taken in a negative association. However, this is inaccurate as conflicts are necessary for healthy relationships. It all depends on the approach we use to resolve the conflict.

Classification of Conflict

When we think of the different types of conflict, we might instantly think of the ones referred to in literature, especially in fiction. They can be applied to real life, of course. However, in contemporary times, types of conflict which are easily identifiable are classified into four different types −

  • Intrapersonal
  • Intragroup
  • Interpersonal
  • Intergroup

Intrapersonal Conflict

Intrapersonal conflict takes place within an individual. The person experiences it in his own mind. Thus, it is a type of conflict that is psychological involving the individual’s thoughts, values, principles and emotions. Intrapersonal conflict may come in different forms, from the simple mundane ones like deciding whether or not to go vegan for lunch to ones that can affect major decisions such as choosing a career path.

However, this type of conflict can be quite difficult to handle, if you find it hard to decipher your inner struggles. It results in restlessness and uneasiness, or can even cause depression. On such occasions, it is advised to seek a way to let go of the anxiety by communicating with other people. Eventually, when the person finds himself/herself out of the situation, he/she can become more empowered as a person. Thus, the experience invokes a positive change which helps in personal growth.

Intragroup Conflict

Intragroup conflict occurs among individuals within a team. The incompatibilities and misunderstandings between team members leads to intragroup conflict. It starts from interpersonal disagreements like team members have different personalities which may lead to tension or differences in views and ideas. Say for example, during a presentation, members of the team might find the notions presented by the one presiding to be erroneous due to their differences in opinion.

Within a team, conflict can be helpful in coming up with decisions, which will eventually allow them to achieve their objectives as a team. But, if the degree of conflict disrupts harmony among the members, then some serious guidance from a different party will be needed for it to be settled.

Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict means a conflict between two individuals. Basically, this occurs because of some differences in people. We have varied personalities which usually lead to incompatible choices and opinions. So, it is a natural occurrence which can eventually help in personal growth or developing our relationships with others.

In addition, adjustments are necessary for managing this type of conflict. However, when interpersonal conflict becomes too destructive, calling in a mediator helps so as to have the issue resolved.

Intergroup Conflict

Intergroup conflict occurs when a misunderstanding arises among different teams within an organization. For example, the marketing department of an organization can come in conflict with the customer support department. This is because of the varied sets of goals and interests of these different groups. In addition to this, competition also contributes to intergroup conflict. There are other factors which increase this type of conflict. Some of these factors may include a rivalry in resources or the boundaries set by a group to others which forms their own identity as a team.

Conflict should not always be perceived as a problem rather at times it is a chance for growth and can be an effective means of opening up among groups or individuals. However, when conflict begins to suppress or disrupt productivity and gives way to more conflicts, then conflict management is what is needed for problem resolution.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is a method by which two or more parties find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them. The disagreement can be personal, financial, political, or emotional. When a disagreement arises, often the best course of action is negotiation to resolve the disagreement. We all know that when people gather for a discussion, it is not necessary that what one thinks is right the other thinks the same way, this difference in thinking or mentality leads to conflict.

"I’m doing my best at work and you expect me to do more! Why don’t you ask the other team members?" This is the start of a conflict! Let us know about some of the conflict management techniques.

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.

Example − Rahul and Rohit had a fight, their mother came and punished both of them.



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