5 Strategies For Conflict Management in The Workplace

When you're in a leadership role, disagreements and conflicts are inevitable. Here are five strategies for conflict management resolution in the workplace.

In any team, it is needless to say that conflicts are bound to happen. Everyone is different, and so is the way they think, share ideas and work. Often, they perceive things differently, which can lead to a conflict, especially in multicultural teams

Even when you are trying your best to keep the employees happy at all times, conflicts will still happen. However, how you deal with conflict is what’s crucial as well as keeping your conflict resolution process efficient. Knowing the benefits of conflict management in the workplace will motivate you to make the required changes and deal with your team effectively. 

Dealing with conflict efficiently would lead to team motivation and of course, a positive team culture where employees are recognised for their work.

Let’s dive into the types of conflict that one may face in a team.

What are the types of conflict?

1. Interorganizational & Intraorganizational

Conflict, internal or external is an inevitable part of the organizational environment. Within a single corporation, there can be conflicts between the teams or departments of the organization. Moreover, interorganizational conflicts may arise between the corporation and other external organizations. 

Interorganizational conflicts occur within the system and are concerned with agreements designed to reach settlement within the organization, whereas intraorganizational conflicts arise when businesses are competing for the same market, litigating a patent issue, et al.


2. Substantive and Affective


Substantive and affective conflicts are based on the scope. There are two types of conflict: substantive and affective. Substantive conflict is about the issue itself. Affective conflict has to do with how we feel about the issue. A person’s integrity may be compromised by offering a bribe, for example, but you can also feel angry by their offer, if you think it is disrespectful or insulting. Substantive conflict pertains to actual issues that the individuals are facing, in an objective sense. Affective conflict, however, is more subjective in nature. It tends to center around each individual's inner emotional turmoil as they deal with a pressing issue. 

Substantive conflict is usually concerned with one side "winning" and the other "losing." This type of conflict, which can be either overt or covert, takes place in the boardroom and involves charges of corporate mismanagement or illegal discrimination. Affective conflict comes about when employees have little stake in an organization's goals. When this happens, productivity drops and employees don't feel like exerting any effort.


3. Constructive and Destructive

Conflicts can be categorized into constructive or destructive based on the end result. As the name suggests constructive conflicts usually leads to a solution, while destructive does not. Good conflict helps people explore issues and try to resolve differences. We call this constructive conflict. Destructive conflict creates a conflict where there isn’t any, and drives a wedge through a group of people. Constructive conflict is worthy of learning, while destructive conflict is not. Constructive conflicts help improve performance, team aptitude and bonding, while destructive does just the opposite. 


4. Distributive and Integrative

Distributive and Integrative conflicts are based on shared outcomes of the groups involved. Distributive conflicts are zero-sum games, while integrative conflicts are nash equilibrium solutions to a particular game. 

The conflict can be distributive when a fixed amount of resources is to be distributed among a group of recipients, like for example: team leaders trying to coordinate the work of several employees but only have a limited budget for supplies; university professors looking to hire new faculty members but only have one open position. 

The conflict can also be integrative, when there is no limited allocation of resources, and parties look for creative ways to make their interests compatible, for example, working out strategies between two companies in order to deliver the best service at the lowest price.

Major Conflict Management Styles

There are five styles of managing conflicts: Collaborative, Accommodating, Competing, Compromising and Avoidant. Each style can be used by a manager to resolve conflict in the workplace. Everyone has different skills that they use while working to resolve problems. The first step to resolving any issue is to identify which management style you use when facing a conflict. Learning your style of managing conflict will help guide you to resolving future conflicts with ease and effectiveness.

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1. Collaborative

Many organizations need to address the issues of conflict management style in their strategies. Among the five styles, collaborative style is most effective to persuade people to cooperate and resolve conflict. Collaborative style of conflict management lays emphasis on the needs and concerns of both parties and works along with them to reach a solution which will fulfill those demands.

Collaborative effort means there is a concern but both parties are trying to solve it. A collaborative style works well for long term success. An employee with the collaborative conflict management style collaborates with people to achieve common objectives. They work around differing views, opinions and attitudes to produce a new approach of problem-solving or goal achievement.

2. Accommodating

During a conflict, to make an adjustment through acceptance or sacrifice of one’s own viewpoint, interests, or needs so that others may feel better is called accommodation. Besides caring for and showing consideration to the interaction partner, the accommodator may also avoid an argument with a harsh attitude by softening their own position.

Someone who is accommodating solves conflict by yielding to the concerns of others,  accepting compromises. However, they run the risk of crossing the thin line between being accommodating and being a pushover.

employees-fighting-at-work

4. Compromising

The compromising conflict management style can be used when both parties are willing to give up something to satisfy the interests of the other party. The parties see splitting the difference as an amicable option, instead of fulfilling all their individual wants and needs.

This style can be used when neither party wants to give in or when the problem at hand is not that important. The parties could reach a solution that meets some of their needs, if not all.

5. Competing

A competing conflict management style means the parties do not have any discussion and  one party seeks to dominate the other. In this style, we are more concerned about our own position than other persons. This usually arises when there is a crossfire about who will get the desired opportunity or who is willing to do the task. The person engaged in this style would not consider anyone's opinion but their own.  

A person in this situation, no matter what the decision, will have their interest at heart, above any other interests. This strong desire to win at all costs leads one to stop listening to others and view the disagreement as an all-out conflict. The individual that uses this style assumes that they are right and that they will not settle for anything less than victory.

6. Avoidance

An avoidance management style is commonly used when individuals prefer to postpone or minimize contact with others in order to avoid conflict and manage problem situations. An avoidance style is most appropriate in a conflict situation that seems unlikely to be resolved, or if you don’t want to increase the risk of harm to others or yourself.

This conflict style can be useful for keeping the peace, maintaining harmony in the workplace, or avoiding danger. This does come with a caveat that avoidance won’t necessarily make the underlying conflict go away.

Conclusion

As some of you may know, there is a lot at stake when it comes to resolving workplace conflicts and ensuring that they don’t escalate. Beyond the negative emotional impact that a conflict can have on workers and the team, It also spills over and affects business continuity. Businesses struggle to have focus, peak performance, and consistency when team members are at odds.

We’ve offered these techniques and strategies in the hopes that they will help you resolve your own workplace conflict, but we can’t stress enough that situational nuances inevitably change from conflict to conflict. The corresponding strategies aren’t a magic formula for instantly resolving all conflicts. You can never predict when a conflict might arise, but if you keep your eyes and ears open, you can be prepared to address them effectively when the time comes.

Read more:

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FAQs

1. What are two positive results of conflicts?

In the workplace, conflicts shouldn't be avoided because they're uncomfortable to work through. The natural friction caused by conflicting opinions and personalities will improve an organization if it is harnessed properly—and that means understanding why conflicts arise and how they can be used to benefit the organization. A good conflict resolution strategy is vital if an organization wants to be successful, and a better understanding of conflicts could ensure that they are resolved peacefully, rather than going unresolved and causing tension within an organization. Some conflicts lead to individuals widening their thinking process. It also leads to creative solutions and improved communication. Finally, It teaches employees to be flexible and adaptable.


2. How do you handle conflict at work?


Conflict happens in every workplace. Sometimes it is intentional and sometimes it is not. It can be difficult to always know what the best way to handle conflict at work is because it depends on the situation and the people involved. The above described ways will certainly help you understand how to resolve conflict when it arises in the workplace.


3. How do you improve conflict management & conflict resolution skills?

Conflict management is essential to surviving in today’s ever-changing workplace. Finding the right way to react to conflict scenarios can be hard, but if you approach conflict correctly, you can resolve problems before they get out of hand. The first step is managing the idea of a “conflict” itself. There are many types of workplace conflict, and knowing how to handle them will help you immensely during any scenario. Some of the skills that you should definitely work upon are:

Patience
Listening
Communication
Ability to forgive
Humour


4. Why is conflict management important?


Employers have a responsibility to create an environment where people can work together peacefully and effectively toward a common goal. If that environment is lacking, it’s in the employer’s best interest to address the problem. After all, the longer the conflict goes unresolved, the more likely it becomes that the situation will escalate. Employees may become less happy, or their performance may suffer.

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