Conflict is an inevitable part of work. In any situation involving more than one person, conflict is likely to arise. It exists when disagreements lead to arguments and struggles between people with competing ideas and/or personal interests.
The causes of conflict may range from differences of opinion, dissatisfaction with working conditions or remuneration, excessive workloads, lack of recognition or promotion, perceptions of discriminatory or unfair treatment, feelings of insecurity, fear of redundancy, clashes of personality, misunderstandings or breakdowns in communication and differing expectations of what constitutes appropriate behavior .
Conflict is neither good nor bad, proper management of conflict is therefore vital. Unmanaged or poorly managed conflicts generate a breakdown in trust and loss in productivity. For a business to thrive, there needs to be a cohesive and trusting environment among people. Without this, a business is likely to fail.
With a basic understanding of the five conflict management strategies, one can know how to react when conflict arises in the workplace.
This strategy essentially entails giving the opposing side what he/she wants. The use of accommodation often occurs when one of the parties wishes to keep the peace or perceives the issue as minor. For example, a business that requires formal dress may institute a “Friday wear” policy as a low-stakes means of keeping the peace with the rank and file. Another example is an abusive boss who is always demanding apologies for no wrong doing. Employees or colleagues who use accommodation as a primary conflict management strategy, however, may keep track and develop resentment.
The avoidance strategy seeks to put off conflict indefinitely. By delaying or ignoring the conflict, the avoider usually hopes the problem resolves itself without a confrontation. There are reasons why people may avoid conflict in the workplace which includes the fact that the person may hold a position of low power or have low esteem or the person perceives the issue as minor and will therefore not like to get confrontational with it. In some circumstances, avoiding can serve as a positive conflict management strategy especially when the issue is minor and the other party is abusive and confrontational. The implications of avoiding confrontation range from a breakdown of communication and damaged relationships to lowered organizational productivity and morale
This works by integrating ideas set out by multiple people. The objective of this is to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone. Collaboration, though useful, calls for a significant time commitment not appropriate to all conflicts resolutions. It demands interaction and feedback from both parties.
This strategy typically calls for both sides of a conflict to give up elements of their position in order to establish an acceptable, if not agreeable, solution. This strategy prevails most often in conflicts where the parties hold approximately equivalent power. For example in an organization where two managers with equivalent power have overlap roles, both parties will need to give up some of their roles in other to create clear define roles which do not overlap to enhance cohesion and harmony.
Competition operates as a zero-sum game, in which one side wins and other loses. Highly assertive personalities often fall back on competition as a conflict management strategy. The competitive strategy works best in a limited number of conflicts, such as emergency situations.
It should be noted that collaboration strategy is the best among all these strategies .When conflict arises, it’s easy for people to get entrenched in their positions and for tempers to flare, voices to rise, and body language to become defensive or aggressive . However , for effective collaboration, everyone involved should listen actively and empathetically, have a good understanding of body language, be emotionally intelligent, and understand how to employ different anger management techniques.
- Make sure that good relationships are a priority. Treat the other person with respect. Do your best to be courteous, and to discuss matters constructively.
- Separate people from problems. Recognize that, in many cases, the other person is not “being difficult” – real and valid differences can lie behind conflicting positions. By separating the problem from the person, you can discuss issues without damaging relationships.
- Listen carefully to different interests. You’ll get a better grasp of why people have adopted their position if you try to understand their point of view.
- Listen first, talk second. You should listen to what the other person is saying before defending your own position. They might say something that changes your mind.
- Set out the “facts.” Decide on the observable facts that might impact your decision, together.