What is Conflict Management?
Conflict is inevitable, thus it requires to manage. The conflict has both positive and negative impacts. Conflict management is the process where negative conflicts are eliminated and positive or constructive conflicts are taken into consideration to take advantage.
Conflict management includes skillful encouragement and handling of constructive conflict on the one hand and resolving or limiting dysfunctional conflict on the other. So before managing conflict, consequences of conflict must be determined because they may help or hurt the organization.
Constructive conflict means the conflict which has some positive sides that is beneficial to the organization. This type of conflict must be managed. And, the dysfunctional conflict has only negative impacts on the organization, so that types of conflict must be discharged.
Hence, the constructive or functional conflict needs to be stimulated. But destructive or negative conflict must be eliminated through preventive or corrective measures. A manager should seek a level of conflict appropriate to the existing condition.
Here, we will discuss, how to stimulate conflict? How to prevent conflict? and How to resolve conflict.
Conflict Management Strategies and Techniques
Especially, there are three main strategies, techniques, approaches, or mechanisms for conflict management, they are conflict stimulation, conflict prevention, and conflict resolution.
#1 Conflict Stimulation Techniques
Conflict is not always negative. Stimulating conflict sometimes has a positive effect on the progress of an organization. A situation when conflict is too low generally involves people who passively accept the thing the way they are, rather than always trying to minimize conflict.
Some common conflict stimulation techniques of conflict management are:
Changing the structure of an organization is the best way of creating conflict. Breaking up old workgroups and departments and reorganizing them so that they have new entrants or responsibilities. Such action will create uncertainties that call for readjustments immediately. The conflict that develops during this period may ultimately lead to improved methods of operations as members try to adjust to new circumstances.
Managers can manipulate messages to stimulate conflict. Ambiguous or threatening messages e.g. a department is to be abolished, can reduce apathy, stimulate new ideas, and force revaluation of existing practices. Rumors may be intellectually planned in the normal communication system. Sometimes a manager can also redirect messages and alters channels to encourage conflict.
The use of the bonus, incentive pay, and the award for excellent performance will stimulate competition. As one group is hard to outperform the other, constructive conflict will occur.
Bringing in Outsiders
Management may shake up a stagnant organization by bringing people whose attitudes, values, and styles differ significantly from the prevailing norms. When such heterogeneous persons join the organization, the status quo is disrupted. Divergent opinions, innovative ideas, and originality can be developed.
# 2 Conflict Prevention
Sometimes conflict rises to alarming levels and unfavorably affects the work performance in an organization. In such a case, managers need to prevent them and tone them down a bit. Some methods of conflict prevention for conflict management are as follows:
Super Ordinate Goals
A superordinate goal is a common goal that appeals to all the parties involved in the conflict and can not be accomplished by the resources of any single party separately. Superordinate goals demand interdependence and cooperation between departments.
For example, severe competition may force different departments to work together to ensure the survival and growth of the organization.
The potential of conflict is very high in situations where two departments have to work in an interdependent fashion and share scarce resources. As a result of this, mutual dependency, disagreement, and conflict will be reduced.
Exchange of Personnel
Rotation of employees into inter-dependent departments improves perceptions and understanding which helps in conflict management. Narrow perspectives, department loyalties misunderstanding created by the organizational boundaries are reduced. Employees become more considerate and cooperative.
Liaison Group or Integrators
Intermediaries acceptable to interdependent units may be appointed to negotiate between the conflict groups. The arbitrator has to use expertise and persuasion to achieve coordination and get people together. He must understand each other’s problems and must be able to rally both groups towards a mutually agreeable solution.
Appeal To Higher Authority
When the conflict can not be solved at the level of parties involved, it may be referred to as a superior position. Since the superior has the authority to dictate to both the parties, he can succeed in bringing the conflicting parties together.
#3 Conflict Resolution Techniques
Conflict in an organization is inevitable. Sometimes the best managers find themselves in the middle of the dysfunctional conflict. Conflict resolution means a situation in which the underlined reasons for a given conflict are eliminated.
Managers can use a number of techniques to resolve conflict. Some important conflict resolution techniques in conflict management are:
Problem-solving involves bringing together the conflicting parties to share their problems. The focus is on sharing information to avoid misunderstanding and to find out areas of common interest. Discussion over who is right or wrong is not allowed but the only discussion with regard to the identification of problems and possible solutions to alternatives is permitted.
An atmosphere of trust and openness has to be built where neither party feels that it has to win every battle to maintain self-respect. This method is suitable for resolving conflicts arising out of misunderstanding.
Smoothing involves playing down differences among conflicting parties and highlighting similarities and areas of agreement and peaceful co-existence through recognition of common interest in the goal. Sharing of opinions removes misunderstanding and both parties realize that they are not far apart.
Smoothing may be useful when the conflict is associated with aggressive feelings among the parties and temporary solutions are needed in the short run.
This is a traditional method of conflict resolution. Compromising is a process of bargaining where the parties negotiate on the basis of giving and taking principle to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement. It is commonly used where the conflict involves differences in goals, attitudes, or values. There is no distinct winner or loser because each party is expected to sacrifice something in exchange for a concession.
It is the most typical way of dealing with labor-management conflict. However, compromise takes time which the management may not be able to afford always. The amount given up by each party in conflict management or resolution becomes the direct relation to its strength.
Avoiding is a deliberate decision to sidestep a conflict but the issue, postpone addressing it till later or withdraw from a conflicting situation. In certain situations, it may be appropriate to avoid a conflict. This conflict resolution technique is useful when issues involved in a conflict are of a very minor nature or where more important issues deserve attention.
Avoidance strategy should be applied when one feels that people in an organization should cool down so that the issue can be handled at a later date in a better psychological environment.