Conflict management (CM) styles provide us with those patterns of expressing our concern that usually develops in workplace organizations with an aim to resolve conflicts. Conflicting situations require the skills to cope up with various problem scenarios. CM is usually examined in my place of work as a dual process that first determines the conflict intensity and then manages and resolves conflicts between individuals or groups of individuals.
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That indicates that effective CM is cyclical in nature which conceptualizes the conflicts, detects triggering events that lead to some behavior, analyzes interaction, and consequences of the interaction. It is a win-win issue based on mutual interaction and is resolved only through cooperation.
The dichotomy in function and perception of CM has a tendency to create an attitude of animosity and negative energy between the two functional groups of line and staff. To illustrate these points in my workplace (fire department), I would like to point towards the fact that fire departments have strong traditions, and perhaps the most pervasive tradition in fire service administration is the quasi-military structure that possesses rigid lines of authority and maintains comprehensive standard procedures.
Conflicts are dealt with managing modern fire departments that are capable of modeling bureaucracy where there are limited spans of control with hierarchical organizational structures. Employees enjoy a highly centralized authority where autocratic management styles are driven by the structural categorizations of line and staff which fulfills the criteria that support their division being central to the fire service organization’s paradigm structure.
The approaches used for resolving conflicts in my place of work are based upon interaction and include
- competitive and accommodative style based on win-win or win-lose condition
- avoiding style
- sharing style
- the collaborative or integrative style based on an open situation.
The competitive and accommodative strategies are based upon ‘either-or’, ‘win-lose’, ‘win-win’ or ‘fixed-sum’ scenarios that use either domination or calming as their primary behaviors (Mcnary, 2003). These strategies are an illustration of how representative styles of distributive bargaining control situations at the workplace where the positions of the conflicting parties are mutually dealt with single-handedly.
Avoiding style is used when management feels the situation has no solution left. Therefore, management adopts a negligent attitude towards the situation and lets the situation remain unresolved. The Sharing style is characterized by compromising behavior in which management keeps the ‘compromise’ as the primary intention behind resolving conflicts and presents a ‘zero-sum’ situation that allows a give and takes for all parties.
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The collaborative or integrative behavior depicts an open-minded or undetermined situation in which the outcome arrives only if every member of the conflicting group fully participates or contributes. That means indirectly or directly every member of the group is supposed to explore the issue in order to resolve it in a gainful manner. However, there are difficulties in this approach because it seems impossible to have all parties completely satisfied once alternatives are established and interaction occurs (Pammer & Killian, 2003, p. 161). This matches with my strategy to resolve conflict because of few reasons.
The collaborative approach addresses conflicts that lead to less directly disruptive problems and gain an in-depth understanding of recognition while making sense of conflict for imagining alternatives, and for communicating to pursue resolution. This reduces sexual harassment at the workplace thereby resolving social and political conflicts on one hand. On the other hand, this approach is useful in minimizing the risk of workplace bullying which involves the adverse treatment of individuals at work by more than one person, regardless of position, power, or influence.
The integrative approach identifies workplace bullying culture through the cooperation of every member of the group. Such an additional barrier to overcome the problem might seem hard to change and follows a long-term strategy. But through adopting and implementing a collaborative approach, top management has a key role to play in this respect, and their lack of genuine commitment and support is considered a major barrier. The collaborative approach works best in the fire service department since the change in mission that is witnessed in most of the departments is a common cause of conflict. Such disputes are construed to be the root cause of conflict between line and staff and are exacerbated by departments’ reliance on functional specialization.
The integrative approach seeks the benefit of each and every employee and addresses the consequences of such disputes in a meaningful manner. It sets the stage where sub-and countercultures can be formed which provides the conditions under which differences may or may not emerge. Therefore, Integrative approaches address conflict as a distributive aspect of organizational life which seeks and patches up vulnerabilities and differences over goals.
This approach is characterized by functional groups and takes corrective measures for those employees who believe that their goals are negatively related. It helps the line and staff to rectify the win-lose or win-win situation in which their successes are compatible with the goal consistency. It is also important that perceptions of goal inconsistency are important whether there is an actual inconsistency or not.
Mcnary D. Lisa. (2003). The Term “Win-Win” in Conflict Management: A Classic Case of Misuse and Overuse. The Journal of Business Communication, 40(2), 144.
Pammer J. William & Killian Jerri. (2003). Handbook of Conflict Management: Marcel Dekker. New York.