Meaning of Conflict Management Theory
An organization comprises individuals with different sets of values and work ethics. Thus, a little friction between members of said organization is expected over the long course of working together. The management of these conflicts is an essential part of creating a healthy work environment. Conflict management aims not to suppress discord but to identify the underlying issues and lead to a constructive path of resolution.
A certain level of tension may actually be beneficial for an organization. Disagreements may often lead to the conception of creative solutions. Not to mention, a healthy discussion essentially increases the sense of companionship between co-workers. The basic purpose of an individual when involving themselves in this unpleasant situation is a deep belief in their ideas and a need to be valued for the same. A favorable approach by the management motivates subordinates to be confident in their assertions and to encourage patience in their attitude.
Types of Conflict Management Approaches
There is no clear-cut rule of thumb to eliminate disagreements. The main motives of conflict management are to minimize conflicts, promote the positive aspects of a disagreement, and help design an atmosphere of harmony. Although there are no rigid structures in place to manage conflicts, the following approaches with examples may provide some general guidelines that may be used to influence the outcome of the conflict. The approaches differ in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness.
This is the most aggressive approach out of all. There is a low level of cooperation and a high level of assertion. In this approach, opposing viewpoints are not encouraged and are instead silenced. Feedback is advised against and there is a high degree of centralization in the process of making decisions. Overuse of this approach leads to a loss of innovation and a lack of empowerment. This approach is well-suited to a situation when immediate decisions are to be made or unpopular decisions are to be implemented.
For instance, a manager needs to implement changes that will reduce costs in the future but will cause initial discomfort to his subordinates. In this case, he may deem it fit to not entertain the protests of his subordinates and remain strict in his stance.
A collaborating approach is idealistic in its values and is the result of a best-case scenario. A high value is placed on both cooperation and assertion. This approach requires mutual trust and equal efforts to produce the best possible united solution for both parties. The downside to this approach is that it can be time-consuming to resolve conflicts in a way that merges toward common ground.
A good example of a situation where this approach may be beneficial is when a particular deadline is coming up and there is a need for longer working hours. A collaborative approach, here, would be if the employees worked overtime and in return, received additional paid leave after the completion of the project.
In this approach, equally low importance levels are placed on both cooperation and assertion. The conflict is ignored for an indefinite period and the needs of both parties are pushed aside for the time being. Inappropriate use of this approach can lead to a build-up of resentment, a negative outlook regarding the workplace, and an increase in miscommunication. Therefore, this approach must be carefully carried out in selective situations. It is more suited for situations when the issue is minor or when intentionally poking at it can result in even more hurtful situations.
Let’s say, there has been a lack of communication between X and Y regarding the details of a project. It has resulted in a minor setback that can be easily corrected. Any argument between the two coworkers is superfluous at best and hostile at worst in this scenario. It is best to utilize the avoidance approach here.
Under this approach, cooperation is more important than assertion. One party decides to forego their chance at asserting their idea as the bond they share with the other party is more important than the conflict. They may also not care as much about the issue as the other person does. Excessive use of this approach can lead to a loss of feeling valued and too low confidence levels.
For example, X believes it is better to have the project broken up into smaller deadlines and Y believes it is better to have one final deadline. Y may decide to accept X’s proposal as Y cares more about the end goal than the process.
There is a moderate degree of assertiveness and cooperation. A rough solution is agreed upon where neither of the parties involved is completely satisfied. It is ideal during time constraints or conflicts between people with equal power. Frequently using this style may keep conflicts unresolved and lead to burnout.
For example, X and Y are partners in a business. X wants to utilize this year’s profits to mend and upgrade their place of business and Y wants to invest in a trust fund. Under this approach, they may choose to upgrade limited assets while creating a trust fund with a reduced amount for the time being.