Conflict Management

Conflict Management

 “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” – Dalai Lama
Conflict is an inevitable part of any organization. We all have seen situations where people with different goals and needs have clashed, and ended up into intense personal animosity. When a conflict arises it does not consider position, experience etc of the employees. Conflict management is the ability to be able to identify and handle conflicts sensibly, fairly, and efficiently. It has been observed in many organizations that all the employees at some point of time in their career have ended up in conflicts with their colleagues, seniors or even juniors. It is necessary for all of us to come out of conventional books of HRM and think about the concept of conflict management.
In the world of psychology, it is said that no two people are same. The rule applies to conflict management also. There are few employees in the organization who get embroiled into conflict more often than other employees. There are too many reasons for the employees to end up into conflicts. The issues might be simple or complex. But the question I want to raise is “Is conflict good or bad?” in the organization. To answer this question I would say no conflict is good or bad unless and until the leader knows how to manage the conflict that has arise in the organization. In other words, if the leader is not able to handle the conflict then it may result into attrition which is not at all a good sign for the organization.
There is an interesting survey done by E&Y where they quote that more than 70% of the conflicts in the organization are manifested due to strained interpersonal relationships of the employees. The leader spends more than 20% of his time in resolving these conflicts. The most important thing that needs to be taken care in conflict is no conflict should remain unsolved. These unsolved conflicts may lead to serious issues in the organization.
The leader should keep following things in mind for he starts handling conflicts in the organization.
1.    Forcing aka competing
An individual firmly pursues his or her own concerns despite the resistance of the other person. This may involve pushing one viewpoint at the expense of another or maintaining firm resistance to another person’s actions.
Examples of when forcing may be appropriate
•    In certain situations when all other, less forceful methods, don’t work or are ineffective
•    When you need to stand up for your own rights, resist aggression and pressure
•    When a quick resolution is required and using force is justified (e.g. in a life-threatening situation, to stop an aggression)
•    As a last resort to resolve a long-lasting conflict
Possible advantages of forcing:
•    May provide a quick resolution to a conflict
•    Increases self-esteem and draws respect when firm resistance or actions were a response to an aggression or hostility
Some caveats of forcing:
•    May negatively affect your relationship with the opponent in the long run
•    May cause the opponent to react in the same way, even if the opponent did not intend to be forceful originally
•    Cannot take advantage of the strong sides of the other side’s position
•    Taking this approach may require a lot of energy and be exhausting to some individuals
2.    Win-Win aka Problem Confronting
Collaboration involves an attempt to work with the other person to find a win-win solution to the problem in hand – the one that most satisfies the concerns of both parties. The win-win approach sees conflict resolution as an opportunity to come to a mutually beneficial result. It includes identifying the underlying concerns of the opponents and finding an alternative which meets each party’s concerns.
Examples of when collaborating may be appropriate:
•    When consensus and commitment of other parties is important
•    In a collaborative environment
•    When it is required to address the interests of multiple stakeholders
•    When a high level of trust is present
•    When a long-term relationship is important
•    When you need to work through hard feelings, animosity, etc
•    When you don’t want to have full responsibility
Possible advantages of collaborating:
•    Leads to solving the actual problem
•    Leads to a win-win outcome
•    Reinforces mutual trust and respect
•    Builds a foundation for effective collaboration in the future
•    Shared responsibility of the outcome
•    You earn the reputation of a good negotiator
•    For parties involved, the outcome of the conflict resolution is less stressful (however, the process of finding and establishing a win-win solution may be very involed – see the caveats below)
Some caveats of collaborating:
•    Requires a commitment from all parties to look for a mutually acceptable solution
•    May require more effort and more time than some other methods. A win-win solution may not be evident
•    For the same reason, collaborating may not be practical when timing is crucial and a quick solution or fast response is required
•    Once one or more parties lose their trust in an opponent, the relationship falls back to other methods of conflict resolution. Therefore, all involved parties must continue collaborative efforts to maintain a collaborative relationship
3.    Compromising
Compromising looks for an expedient and mutually acceptable solution which partially satisfies both parties.
Examples of when compromise may be appropriate:
•    When the goals are moderately important and not worth the use of more assertive or more involving approaches, such as forcing or collaborating
•    To reach temporary settlement on complex issues
•    To reach expedient solutions on important issues
•    As a first step when the involved parties do not know each other well or haven’t yet developed a high level of mutual trust
•    When collaboration or forcing do not work
Possible advantages of compromise:
•    Faster issue resolution. Compromising may be more practical when time is a factor
•    Can provide a temporary solution while still looking for a win-win solution
•    Lowers the levels of tension and stress resulting from the conflict
Some caveats of using compromise:
•    May result in a situation when both parties are not satisfied with the outcome (a lose-lose situation)
•    Does not contribute to building trust in the long run
•    May require close monitoring and control to ensure the agreements are met
4.    Withdrawing aka Avoiding
This is when a person does not pursue his own concerns or those of the opponent. He does not address the conflict, sidesteps, postpones or simply withdraws.

Examples of when withdrawing may be appropriate:
•    When the issue is trivial and not worth the effort
•    When more important issues are pressing, and you don’t have time to deal with it
•    In situations where postponing the response is beneficial to you, for example –
•    When it is not the right time or place to confront the issue
•    When you need time to think and collect information before you act (e.g. if you are unprepared or taken by surprise)
When you see no chance of getting your concerns met or you would have to put forth unreasonable efforts
When you would have to deal with ostility
When you are unable to handle the conflict (e.g. if you are too emotionally involved or others can handle it better)
Possible advantages of withdrawing:
•    When the opponent is forcing / attempts aggression, you may choose to withdraw and postpone your response until you are in a more favourable circumstance for you to push back
•    Withdrawing is a low stress approach when the conflict is short
•    Gives the ability/time to focus on more important or more urgent issues instead
•    Gives you time to better prepare and collect information before you act
Some caveats of withdrawing:
•    May lead to weakening or losing your position; not acting may be interpreted as an agreement. Using withdrawing strategies without negatively affecting your own position requires certain skill and experience
•    When multiple parties are involved, withdrawing may negatively affect your relationship with a party that expects your action
5.    Smoothing aka Accommodating
Smoothing is accommodating the concerns of other people first of all, rather than one’s own concerns.
Examples of when smoothing may be appropriate:
•    When it is important to provide a temporary relief from the conflict or buy time until you are in a better position to respond/push back
•    When the issue is not as important to you as it is to the other person
•    When you accept that you are wrong
•    When you have no choice or when continued competition would be detrimental
Possible advantages of smoothing:
•    In some cases smoothing will help to protect more important interests while giving up on some less important ones
•    Gives an opportunity to reassess the situation from a different angle
Some caveats of smoothing:
•    There is a risk to be abused, i.e. the opponent may constantly try to take advantage of your tendency toward smoothing/accommodating. Therefore it is important to keep the right balance and this requires some skill.
•    May negatively affect your confidence in your ability to respond to an aggressive opponent
•    It makes it more difficult to transition to a win-win solution in the future
•    Some of your supporters may not like your smoothing response and be turned off
It depends on the leader as how he manages the conflict arise in the team. To avoid conflict great leaders imbibe universal principles and ideas in the team.

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