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Leading and Managing Conflict Resolution

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Conflict is created from differences between individuals, institutions or even countries. It usually happens when people disagree over desires,ideas, motivations, or values. Sometimes the extent of these differences can ignite a fire that points to an underlying source of the real issue. These issues can be needs that were not met earlier and triggers a sense of disconnect or lack of value for that individual. Everyone needs to feel a sense of security, support, respect, and valued. When these needs or others are being threatened then there is a likelihood of conflict arising between the individual who threatens the need and the individual who is feels threatened. It is absolutely necessary for personal and professional relationships to utilize a method of conflict resolution that can aid in the process of disagreements. Leaders should have a consistent but effective method they use for conflicts in the workplace. A method helps to have structure, hold each employee responsible, and allows the leader to go through each step to ensure the conflict does not recur.

According to Kenneth Thomas there are five major styles of managing conflict in the workplace. These five styles are competitive, accommodative, sharing, collaborative, and avoidant. These five styles are grouped into two categories; assertiveness and cooperativeness. Assertiveness is satisfying one’s own concerns while cooperativeness tries to satisfy the needs of others. (Dubrin, 2010)

Competitive Style: is seen when one party seeks to satisfy and gain interests at others expense. This individual does not regard or take into consideration others. The competitive person will usually dominate a conversation, be insistent on having things go their way, interrupt others while they are talking, try to bring the other person down instead of deal with the issue.

Compromising Style: is when each party makes an effort to resolve the situation. The compromiser seeks to show interest in the other person’s contribution, will seek to focus on the problem, and will attempt to be fair.

Accommodating Style. In this method an individual will allow the other person’s ideas and interests to precede theirs. This personality will often time choose to have a peaceful environment instead of taking the risk to offend another. The accommodating personality usually asks what the other person wants, put other needs before his own, often apologize even when not necessary, and is very agreeable and polite.

Avoidance Style. People who use the avoidance style usually perceives their is an issue and immediately withdraws from the other party. They ignore and do no not want to get involved in a solution process. This person appears to agree with all that is said and often times puts the needs of others ahead of his.

Collaborative Style: “In contrast to the other styles, the collaborative style reflects a desire to fully satisfy the desires of both parties. It is based on the underlying philosophy of the win–win approach to conflict resolution, the belief that after conflict has been resolved, both sides should gain something of value. The user of win–win approaches is genuinely concerned about arriving at a settlement that meets the needs of both parties, or at least does not badly damage the welfare of the other side. When collaborative approaches to resolving conflict are used, the relationships among the parties are built on and improved. (Dubrin, 2010)

(Rykrsmith, 2012)

This model is very popular and the five methods are arranged into two aspects, assertiveness and cooperativeness. Assertiveness is highly important in conflict resolution. People who are generally passive, which is the opposite of assertive will not do well in conflict. If an individual chooses to use the avoidance or accommodating style they are more likely than not to fail in an attempt at resolution. They are not exercising assertiveness in the situation or process to resolve the situation. Being assertive simply means that you develop a behavior and communicative pattern that demonstrates that you are willing to resolve the situation, and that you will use all resources needed to do so including paying attention. Enhancing your management style with assertion ensures that you are actively involved in conflict resolution. Others will grow to trust you and would be forced to develop a level of professionalism that allows them to be actively involved in the resolution as well.

Having cooperation is also necessary to resolving issues. You may not have the best style to deal with an issue but if you are willing to cooperate then hurdles can be jumped. Over a period of time if individuals are cooperative in fixing and dealing with issues, then they are more susceptible to developing a style that is more considerable of the fact of the issues than the other person who they are having the issue with. They will then esteem the issue as the priority to be dealt with instead of lingering through the process. Notice though that compromise is not altogether the best method to use when resolving a conflict. When compromise is used there is only a temporary resolve for each person involved. A person who is assertive and cooperative will strive for resolve that is permanent for both parties. They will develop, over time, to care about the other side’s success as well as their own. The ideal conflict resolution is the collaborative style where both groups having the issue are very assertive in creating a resolve and willing to go through the process of that resolve.

An inability to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person The capacity to recognize and respond to the things that matter to the other person Explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions

Calm, non-defensive, and respectful reactions
The withdrawal of love, resulting in rejection, isolation, shaming, and fear of abandonment A readiness to forgive and forget, and to move past the conflict without holding resentments or anger An inability to compromise or see the other person’s side

The ability to seek compromise and avoid punishing
The fear and avoidance of conflict; the expectation of bad outcomes A belief that facing conflict head on is the best thing for both sides

Conflict triggers very strong negative emotions and can lead to irreparable damage. Companies can lose production if there are rifts that are not resolved. Leaders should have adopt ways that enhance their styles of dealing with conflict. Emotions need to be put away and each person needs to approach the situation professionally. Along with your conflict management style here are some additional ways a leader can use to resolve conflict in the workplace.

1. Analyse the situation. Actively listen to both sides of the argument. Ensure that you approach the situation with assertiveness not being passive or aggressive. The parties having the issue will know you are actively listening if you can restate and summarize their issue.

2. Gather All the information for the case. Ask for each person’s view or opinion and cooperation to deal with the issue. It is important that you understand the motive for these individual’s actions. Consider if the object of their conflict is affecting their work, the work environment, hampering team efforts, or decision making processes. Focus solely on the issue at this point and not on the individual.

3. Agree that there is an Issue. Even though this sounds obvious, it is only fair that as a leader you acknowledge there is an issue and it is worth looking into. Perception of a problem does not mean there is. So having come to the conclusion that there is a problem helps everyone to move on.

4. Possible Solutions. Everyone needs to bring to the table at this time their input and share their idea. It is very possible that ideas will arise that may solve the problem that both parties were overlooking. During this
phase when both parties truly understand the perspective and motive of each other it is simpler to deal with the issue. Unless one individual’s motive was not in the best interest of the company. This phase also helps everyone to realize that they are working together in the same direction and toward the same goal.

5. Negotiate and agree to let the issue go. If the two parties can agree to closure and completion of the issue then the leader has successfully managed conflict. It is best when the resolve is permanent and not temporary because a leader can find himself dealing with this issue over a long term period. Companies should not have to spend valuable time searching for a resolve over the same issue. Production will be lost and the value of the company can be affected. Conflict in the workplace can be very destructive and if managed by the leaders ina wrong way can also be catastrophic. When the wrong approaches are used then only negative outcomes are to be had. Leaders should identify their conflict management style and the style of the other individuals involved. This makes it easier to address the issue. Even though emotions and tempers may run high it is critical that the issue and only the issue be addressed. Conflict management allows a leader to go through the steps of resolving an issue and completing each step. When each phase is completed then it is more likely that the issue was resolved permanently.


Dubrin, A. 2010. Leadership: Research Findings, Practices, and Skills. Cengage Learning; Canada. Rykrsmith, E 2012. What is our conflict resolution style? retrieved from http://evarykr.com/2012/08/what-is-your-conflict-resolution-style/
Segal, J. & Smith, M. 2013. Conflict Resolution Skills. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/eq8_conflict_resolution.htm

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