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Conflict Resolution Techniques

Introduction

Human communication, regardless of the sphere of interest, cannot exist without critical evaluation of events, beliefs, and social convictions. Thus, once these evaluations do not reach a justifiable consensus, people tend to have disputes in order to prove one’s point of view on the matter of interest. While conflicts are an integral part of people’s everyday lives, conflict emergence in the business paradigm remains one of the major challenges in terms of its management and efficient resolution. Thus, the primary purpose of the following presentation is to analyze the notion of conflict in the context of modern business. In terms of the topic, the notions of conflict types, conflict resolution strategies, and conflict resolution skills will be taken into consideration.

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What is a Conflict?

There is a common belief that conflict as an inevitable part of functioning within the team may be perceived from various perspectives. To begin with, the very definition of conflict stands for perceived disparities between two or more parties, whether it concerns individuals or groups of people (Kay & Skarlicki, 2020). When considered as a disagreement or misunderstanding, conflict is perceived as a rather negative experience that might undermine productivity within the workspace. However, according to the researchers, some conflicts tend to bring diversity and perspective to the issues taking place in the company (Kay & Skarlicki, 2020). Thus, when speaking of the definition of conflict, there is no predetermined approach to its recognition due to its highly individual perception in each professional setting.

Types of Conflict

In order to understand the patterns of conflict emergence in specific environments, it is necessary to dwell on the basic conflict typology, which was presented by C. Moore at the end of the 20th century. According to his studies, there exist five major categories within which conflicts are likely to emerge (Almeida et al., 2017):

  • The category of value. In the context of the following area, the issues of disparity of ethical consideration, ideologies, beliefs, and expectations are identified.
  • The category of relationships. In terms of this category, parties experience disagreements and misunderstandings based on one’s individual characteristics and personality peculiarities.
  • The category of information or data. The conflicts emerging within this area are primarily caused by poor or absent knowledge regarding the topic discussed. It may be caused by various factors such as lack of access, unwillingness to find the information, or disparity in terms of the perception of the same information by different parties.
  • The category of structural matters. The following area concerns the external aspects of the conflict emergence. This category usually implies the notions of communication hierarchy, power issues, and regulation of various procedures. The category of structural matters is frequently associated with conflict management within an organization and a workplace.
  • The category of interests. This notion stands for the parties’ inability to comprehend or accept each other’s interests. The interests are generally divided into three major types: material (money, property, resources), procedural (process characteristics such as openness, readiness to cooperate, equality), and psychological (one’s feelings regarding the situation) (Almeida et al., 2017).

Considering these factors, it may be concluded that the notion of conflict is extremely broad in terms of its semantics, so the process of addressing any conflict requires exhaustive groundwork prior to the direct action. A prime example of such research is Christopher Moore’s “Circle of Conflict” model.

The Circle of Conflict

According to the researchers, every conflict is to be diagnosed regarding its implicit precedents and constituents in order to think of the conflict’s efficient resolution in the future. Thus, Christopher Moore regards the aforementioned categories of conflict emergence as fundamentals of primary conflict evaluation (Almeida et al., 2017). Moore claims that one of the areas in the spectrum is a root for every conflict emerging between the parties. While various categories are often included in the conflict, the notions of values, data, and relationship are to be addressed first in order to secure conflict management one of the two more pragmatic aspects of the misunderstanding. Considering the fact that the model is especially beneficial in the organizational paradigm, it is of crucial importance to dwell on the interpretation of conflict in the workplace.

Conflict in the Workplace

Working process, as a social endeavor that implies constant cooperation with people playing various social roles, cannot be imagined without constant conflict management. According to the researchers, while conflict remains an inevitable part of any cooperation, there is no universal framework on conflict resolution, as each misunderstanding depends on its nature, parties involved, intensity, and the timeframe within which the conflict has to be resolved (Ellis & Abbott, 2020). Thus, in order to ensure that conflicts are resolved prior to bringing major damage to the enterprise and organization’s environment, workplaces have embraced the existence of healthy and reasonable leadership.

Leadership and Conflict Resolution

When speaking of any conflict taking place in the working environment, it would be safe to assume that the misunderstanding itself, in order to be resolved, requires the presence of an impartial individual willing to reach a consensus. Thus, it is the leader who usually takes primary responsibility for reacting timely to a conflict emergence. According to the scholars, while defining conflict management as one of the primary skills for leaders, the discussion of the conflict resolution strategies is frequently limited (Huber et al., 2018). Such a discrepancy may be explained by the fact that the researchers believe that leaders either have necessary skills automatically or there is no need to study conflict due to its inevitability in the working environment. However, putting aside both these assumptions, it is better to understand how conflict works at various organizational levels.

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Levels of Conflict

Researchers identify four major levels of conflict in terms of parties involved. Thus, according to Huber et al. (2018), these levels include:

  • Interpersonal conflict. Being the most widespread conflict in the workplace, it presupposes the disagreement emergence between two individuals. The most common precedent for such conflicts is the disruption between the individual’s personality types and perception of the workflow and communication.
  • Intrapersonal conflict. This conflict level is one of the hardest to identify and address due to the fact that it takes place within one’s mind. Hence, the dissonance taking place in one person’s perception, although invisible, may eventually lead to misunderstandings on the team. In such situations, the leader’s primary goal is to notice the conflict emergence in order to help the employee find the necessary help to address the issue.
  • Intergroup conflict. This conflict takes place between various teams within one organization. It is primarily caused by competition and goal disparity.
  • Intragroup conflict. Unlike the previous level, intragroup disagreements are limited by one team, the members of which fail to find common ground in terms of some conflict categories. The following type is one of the most frequent and demanding ones for the leader (Huber et al., 2018).

Considering the aforementioned conflict levels, it becomes evident that each conflict requires a thoroughly calculated strategy in terms of its management. Hence, the definition of conflict resolution will now be addressed.

Conflict Resolution Definition

There exist various approaches to defining conflict resolution regarding the desired outcome one expects from addressing the conflict. However, one of the most appropriate definitions is outlined by Shank (2020), who claims conflict resolution to be either a formal or informal endeavor aimed at finding a reasonable solution to a dispute between two parties. The idea of conflict resolution is frequently juxtaposed with the notion of conflict management. Although these concepts have much in common, it is important to remember that the latter is more related to the aim of reducing the adverse outcomes of the conflict and bring a positive perspective instead (Huber et al., 2018). Thus, conflict management is focused on dealing with the complications of the conflict, whereas resolution is about preventing these complications entirely.

Conflict Resolution Strategies: Avoidance

To begin with, it should be mentioned that conflict resolution cannot be handled by choosing the easiest way possible due to the conflict’s sophisticated structure. Thus, resolving a disagreement becomes an easy task in rare cases, whereas the vast majority of conflicts require deep consideration of the issue roots and critical analysis of the parties’ perception of a dispute. A prime example of an insufficient conflict resolution strategy is the method of avoidance, which means ignoring the issue expecting its self-resolution over time or through regular communication (Wang & Wu, 2020). Such an attitude frequently results in conflict escalation in the future.

According to the evidence-based data, when considering avoidance as one of the possible options to address the conflict within the organization, almost 100% of leaders involved refused to perceive it as a tangible solution (Wang & Wu, 2020).

Conflict Resolution Strategies: Accommodation

Frequently, the notion of conflict presupposes that one of the parties will be left at an advantage compared to other participants. Such an outcome is expected when applying the strategy of accommodation and obliging. In terms of the following strategy, one conflict party does everything to satisfy another in order to leave the disagreement behind (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017). According to the qualitative research, the application of the accommodating resolution style results in complete satisfaction of the party whose interests were prioritized, whereas the satisfaction of the other party was not 100% certain (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017). Hence, it may be concluded that accommodation is a valuable conflict resolution tool only in cases when one of the parties is willing to sacrifice something in order to end the disagreement, and this decision should not be imposed.

Conflict Resolution Strategies: Compromise

The notion of compromise has always been associated with something positive, as it implies obtaining beneficial outcomes as a result of cooperation or even sacrifice. When speaking of compromise as a conflict resolution strategy, it stands for cooperation aimed at balancing negative and positive outcomes of the situation (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017). In fact, while this strategy seems relatively utopian, its application requires a presence of a complex conflict that would inevitably result in some complications. Thus, in such a way, the complications may be mitigated by common effort. For example, according to the analysis of case studies related to outsourcing in business, no participants employed the compromising strategy due to the issues being manageable enough to avoid any negative outcomes (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017).

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Conflict Resolution Strategies: Competition

While previous strategies were describing either a neutral or positive attitude towards conflict resolution, the notion of competition presupposes rather an aggressive perception of the disagreement. In fact, this strategy describes the behavioral pattern during which one of the parties tries to benefit from the situation at the expense of other conflict participants by ignoring their interests completely (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017).

Frequently, the desire to obtain maximum benefit results in no one being satisfied with the outcome due to a lack of rational assessment of the conflict environment. For example, in a case study where two partners had a dispute over their profit share, no party was pleased with the solution (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017). Thus, the competitive strategy, although existing within the conflict resolution paradigm, should not be considered as relevant in the context of the modern working environment.

Conflict Resolution Strategies: Collaboration

Finally, one of the most beneficial and promising means of conflict mitigation is collaboration. The concept implies both parties of the conflict working together towards finding the solution that satisfies the needs of both sides (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017). Unlike compromise, which is frequently miscomprehended as a synonymous strategy, collaboration encompasses joint activity rather than reaching an agreement. Empirical data demonstrates that every time collaboration was employed to resolve a dispute, both parties felt extremely satisfied with the outcomes (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017). Hence, considering all the aforementioned data, it may be concluded that collaboration is considered the best way to address and resolve any disagreement within a working environment.

Conflict Resolution Strategies: Switch

Unquestionably, applying a specific strategy in terms of conflict resolution is beneficial in terms of the definition of the framework. However, in some cases, in the course of resolution, the chosen approach does not secure the desired outcome due to the modifications in the parties’ perception of the situation or the external factors impacting the dispute. Thus, in order to comply with the desired outcome, leaders often decide to switch between the approaches (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017). For example, some conflicts, initially perceived as the ones demanding compromise and collaboration, maybe avoided or accommodated to the environment over time. However, while switching strategies is sometimes encouraged, manipulations leading to the situation deterioration should be excluded from consideration.

The Role of Human Resource Management

One of the major challenges concerning modern patterns of conflict management is the proper realization of the conflicts’ impact on teamwork and organizational performance as a whole. Hence, whereas leaders are the ones responsible for responding immediately to a conflict, there are other aspects that are to be considered prior to the conflict and after its resolution. Such work is usually performed by the Human Resource Management, or HRM, as according to the researchers, its core value in terms of the subject is the fact that any conflict should be analyzed in order to be eliminated from the future cooperation patterns (Currie et al., 2017). Hence, HRM’s role in conflict resolution is the development of a system able to anticipate both positive and negative outcomes of a dispute taking place in the team.

Positive Conflict Outcomes

Undoubtedly, any conflict that arises within an organization has to be taken into account in order to prevent the situation from spreading to the other aspects of the workflow. However, sometimes, conflicts have various positive effects on the organization, as they constitute the existence of a diverse point of view regarding one situation. Thus, according to Lacity & Willcocks (2017), the following positive outcomes of a conflict may be outlined:

  • The ability to reconsider conventional points of view by listening to the new ideas presented by the parties.
  • The ability to recognize inappropriate approaches to the situation by voicing them in the course of conflict resolution.
  • A rapid increase in the discussions taking place within the organization.
  • The ability for an individual to present their perception of the conflict categories.

Negative Conflict Outcomes

However, despite the presence of some beneficial aspects of a conflict, the overwhelming majority of the outcomes remain rather negative for the organization. Some of the most obvious aspects of detrimental effects include:

  • Higher stress and anxiety rates among the team, leading to inefficiency, lack of communication, and intrapersonal conflicts.
  • Disruption of the team’s morale and unity, which may result in higher HR turnover rates.
  • Rapid productivity decrease caused by lack of mutual assistance and support on the team (Lacity & Willcocks, 2017).

Conclusion

Over the years, the notion of conflict has remained one of the most controversial yet important in the context of modern organizational structure. The primary aim of the following of the following presentation was to dwell on the definition of conflict, its prerequisites, typology, and resolution means. Thus, in terms of the conducted research, the following aspects were identified:

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  • Conflict is a complicated concept that requires much consideration prior to making any elimination attempts.
  • There exist five major categories of conflict emergence: value, interest, structure, relationship, and data.
  • Conflicts vary significantly in terms of participants involved.
  • Some of the most widespread strategies of conflict resolution include avoidance, accommodation, compromise, competition, and collaboration.
  • Collaboration is considered the most beneficial means of conflict resolution.
  • Conflict cannot be perceived as inherently good or bad, as it obtains both positive and negative outcomes for the parties involved.

References

Almeida, J., Costa, C., & da Silva, F. N. (2017). A framework for conflict analysis in spatial planning for tourism. Tourism Management Perspectives, 24, 94-106. Web.

Currie, D., Gormley, T., Roche, B., & Teague, P. (2017). The management of workplace conflict: Contrasting pathways in the HRM literature. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19(4), 492-509. Web.

Ellis, P., & Abbott, J. (2020). Managing Conflict in the workplace: reducing and managing it. Journal of Kidney Care, 5(3), 140-143. Web.

Huber, T., Breitenstine, L., Schreiber, L., Budzik, K., Moffitt, T., & Persol, J. (Eds.). (2018). Leadership lessons in healthcare and public health. The Ohio State University Pressbooks.

Kay, A. A., & Skarlicki, D. P. (2020). Cultivating a conflict-positive workplace: How mindfulness facilitates constructive conflict management. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 159, 8-20. Web.

Lacity, M., & Willcocks, L. (2017). Conflict resolution in business services outsourcing relationships. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 26(2), 80-100. Web.

Shonk, K. (2020). What is conflict resolution, and how does it work? Web.

Wang, N., & Wu, G. (2020). A systematic approach to effective conflict management for program. SAGE Open, 10(1). Web.

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