Conflict management is a set of strategies used to mitigate or prevent issues in a workplace or any organization. Conflict arises when an party is made to be dissatisfied with the conduct, attitude or needs of another party. While there are several means to achieve redress, conflict management strategies aim not to resolve these disputes amicably, but to reduce the amount of conflict and the damaging collateral affects of conflict on the rest of the organization or workplace. This differs from conflict resolution, which aims to end the conflict and suggest a solution to prevent the conflict from arising again.
What is the contemporary way to engage in conflict management?
Modern conflict management schemes have five styles of handling conflict. Professor Afzalur Rahim of Western Kentucky University indentified the styles as follows:
Integrating – this process is used when there is a complex problem that requires both parties to work together and there is time to find common ground for problem solving
Obliging – this a process used when one party has a noticeably weaker position and needs to cultivate advantage for a later issue. The weaker party must make concessions to the stronger party, especially with the issue is not important to the weaker party. This approach is necessary to preserve the relationship, although the weaker party must be responsible and oppose actions that are wrong or unethical.
Dominating – this process is used to avoid drawn out processes over trivial issues with poorly trained subordinates. A dominating approach may be necessary in situations that the issue is trivial but needs to be acted on swiftly and there is a strong risk that the wrong decision will be made. This is not a style to used when subordinates are competent, there is ample time to discuss a solution or both parties are equally powerful.
Avoiding – this style put off trivial issues to avoid conflict. In this case, confronting the opposing party would be unproductive and more time is needed in order to resolve the conflict amicably. This style is not to be used if the issue requires immediate attention or one party has a responsibility to make a decision
Compromising – This style is used when integrating and dominating does not work , the parties have equal power and a solution however temporary is necessary to move forward. This is not an option for complex issues but rather issues where goals are mutually exclusive.
Rahim also makes a distinction between “affective” or emotional conflict and “substantive” conflict, which keeps a working environment or organization effective. A third party or an alternative dispute resolution may be necessary to resolve situations where the conflict has left the two parties unable to come to a resolution due to either entrenchment in positions or a breakdown in communication.
An effective leader can anticipate conflict, accommodate the concerns of subordinates, but also make difficult decisions that would have otherwise led to drawn out conflict.