Approaches to Conflict Management || Organizational Conflict and Stress           

Approaches to Conflict Management

Approaches to Conflict  Management


The conflict in organizations may have serious consequences, so the problem is to solve those problems, and that is where conflict management fits in. If there is conflict there will be no challenge and no dynamics. But if there is too much conflict, it brings a great loss in the organization. There are two approaches to conflict  management:

  1. Structural conflict  management approaches
  2. Inter-personal conflict  management approaches

There are some possible combinations given regarding conflict:

  • “Conflict is inevitable, an agreement is possible.”
  • “Conflict may be inevitable, but agreement is not possible.”

A. Structural Conflict Management Approaches

It has two aspects. They are

  • Conflict Stimulation techniques
  • Conflict Resolution Structural techniques

Conflict Stimulation techniques:

  1. Communication
  2. Bringing in outsiders
  3. Restructure the organization
  4. Encouraging competition

a. Conflict- Simulation Techniques:

Communication Using ambiguous or threatening messages to increase the conflict levels.
Bringing in outsiders Adding employees to a group whose backgrounds, attitudes, or managerial styles differ from those of present members.
Restructuring the organization Realigning workgroups, altering rules and regulations, increasing interdependence, and making similar structural changes to disrupt the status
Appointing a devil’s advocate Designing a critic to purposely argue against the majority positions held by the group

b. Conflict Resolution Structural techniques:

  1. Problem Solving
  2. Super-ordinate goals
  3. Expansion of resources
  4. Avoidance
  5. Smoothing
  6. Compromise
  7. Authoritative command
  8. Altering the structural variables

Conflict Resolution Techniques:

Problem Solving A face-to-face meeting of the conflicting parties to identify the problem and resolve it through open discussion.
Super-ordinate goals Creating a shared goal that cannot be attained without the cooperation of each of the conflicting parties.
Expansion of resources When a conflict is caused by the scarcity of a resource- say, money, promotion opportunities, office space- expansion of the resource can create a win-win situation.
Avoidance Withdrawal from, or suspension of, the conflict.
Smoothing Playing down differences while emphasizing common interests between the conflicting parties
Compromise Each part of the conflict gives up something of value
Authoritative command Management uses its formal authority to resolve the conflict and then communicates its desires to the parties involved.
Altering the structural variables Changing the formal organization structure and the interaction patterns of conflicting parties through job redesign, transfers, creation of coordinating positions.

B. Inter-personal conflict  management approaches

It is viewed in terms of a two-dimensional model. Thompson suggested five styles viz., collaborating, avoiding, competing, accommodating, and compromising. The choice and use of the five conflict-handling styles is likely to depend upon both the nature of the individual and the situational factors.

Given below are a brief description of five styles:

  1. Collaborating: tries to find a mutually beneficial solution for both parties through problem-solving. An important feature of collaboration is information sharing so that both parties can identify common ground and potential solutions that satisfy both or all of them.
  2. Avoiding: tries to smooth over or avoid conflict situations altogether. For example, some employees will rearrange their work area or tasks to minimize interaction with certain co-workers.
  3. Competing: tries to win the conflict at the expense of the others’ expense. This style has the strongest win-lose situation because it has the highest level of assertiveness and the lowest level of cooperativeness.
  4. Accommodating: involves giving in completely to the other side’s wishes or at least cooperating with little or no attention to their own interests.
  5. Compromising: tries to reach a middle level of understanding with the other party. You look for a position in which your losses are offset by equally valued gains.

Differences between traditional and modern approaches to conflict  management:

a. Traditional approach:

The traditional approach to conflict is the earliest view on organizational conflicts. It is the simplest approach for conflicts and was developed in the 1930s. In the past, the managers considered conflicts as evil, outright wrong, destructive, and negative. Furthermore, managers wanted to avoid conflicts completely at their workstation as conflicts bring demotivated workforce, less productivity, and dysfunctional work.

The traditional approach suggests that managers should manage the conflict by identifying the malfunctioning of causes. Further, the traditional approach of conflict emphasizes miscommunication, disagreement between employees, trust issues, and irresponsibility of managers or company owners’ regarding the needs and expectations of employees.

b. Modern approach:

The modern approach to conflicts is the contemporary view on organizational conflicts. The development and expansion of studies on organizational behavior and HR methodologies challenge certain traditional approaches. The traditional approach to conflict was one such concept in HR.

The modern approach to conflict identifies conflicts as an important part of the organization. Moreover, it considers conflicts as favorable to the company and does not eliminate them at all. According to modern theories, if an organization does not face any conflicts, the organization is unadaptable, non-flexible, non-responsive, and static.

Conflicts are more favorable at the minimum level of it as it brings self-motivation, self-evaluation, and creativity among individuals. It is due to the competition between each other. Also, it reflects better outcomes of tasks assigned, effective resolutions and improves group performance

The Functional and Dysfunctional  Organizational Conflicts:

a. Functional conflict (win-win situation) includes:

  • Awareness of both sides of issues
  • Improvement of working conditions due to accomplishing solutions together
  • Solving issues together to improve overall morale
  • Making innovations and improvements within an organization

b. Dysfunctional(win-lose situation):

  • Dysfunctional conflict is the conflict that leads to a decline in communication or the performance of a group.
  • Dysfunctional conflict can be an overabundance of conflict or a lack of sufficient motivating conflict.

Resolution  of Organizational Conflicts:

Conflict resolution is the process by which two or more parties reach a peaceful resolution to a dispute.

  • Handle the conflict positively.
  • Formation of the official grievance procedure for all members.
  • Concentrate on the causes rather than their effect, to assess conflicts.
  • Parties to conflicts should be given an equal voice, irrespective of their position, term, or political influence.

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