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Author: Usama Shamma

Where There are People, There is Conflict

Conflict is a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, and external or internal demands.

Where there are people, there is conflict. Conflicts are seen as negative. However, this is inaccurate as conflicts are necessary for healthy relationships.

Conflict should not be perceived as a problem. It is a chance for growth and can be useful in opening yourself up to groups or other individuals. When conflict begins to suppress or disrupt productivity and gives way to more conflicts, conflict management is needed to address the dispute. There are many types of conflict, but here are three typical examples:

1. Intragroup Conflict

Intragroup conflict occurs among individuals within a team. The incompatibilities and misunderstandings between team members can lead to intragroup conflict. It starts from interpersonal disagreements like team members have different personalities which may lead to tension or differences in views and ideas.

Within a team, conflict can be helpful in coming up with decisions, which will eventually allow them to achieve their objectives as a team. However, if the degree of conflict disrupts harmony among the members, then some serious guidance from a different party will be needed for it to be settled.

2. Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict means a conflict between two individuals. Conflict occurs because of differences between individuals. We all have varied personalities which can lead to incompatible choices and opinions. So, it is a natural occurrence which can eventually help in personal growth or develop our relationships with others.

Interpersonal conflict among individuals at work has been shown to be one of the most frequently noted stressors for employees. This type of conflict is associated with the broader concept of workplace harassment. It relates to other stressors that might co-occur, such as role conflict, role ambiguity, and workload. It also relates to strains such as anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, and low levels of job satisfaction. Disputes between peers as well as supervisor and subordinate conflicts fall into this category.

3. Intergroup Conflict

Intergroup conflict occurs when a misunderstanding arises among different teams or groups within an organization.

Horizontal strain intergroup conflict typically can occur between the marketing & sales departments who are looking to increase the organizational sales. Varied sets of goals, objectives, and interests of these groups can cause conflict. Competition between the groups also amplifies intergroup conflict as each organizational team is trying to outperform each other in reaching their set of goals and objectives. These factors may include a rivalry in resources or the boundaries of responsibilities.

Another type is Vertical strain conflict which involves competition between hierarchical levels such as a union versus company management, or a struggle between a group of employees and management.

Conflict Resolution Management Techniques

There are five strategies for managing stressful situations. None of them is a “one-size-fits-all” answer. Choosing the best conflict management technique depends on a variety of factors, including an appraisal of the intensity of the conflict and environmental factors. Here are the five types of conflict resolution management:

  • Collaborating − win/win
  • Compromising − win some/lose some
  • Accommodating − lose/win
  • Competing − win/lose
  • Avoiding − no winners/no losers

Collaborating Technique

This technique follows the rule “I win, you win.” Collaborating means working together by integrating ideas set out by multiple people. The objective here is to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone. It calls for a significant time commitment. Collaborating can lead to “I will win all costs” or the Competing technique below. Each group must be committed to the win/win outcome and have trust with each other for collaborating to be successful. The collaborating approach gives longer lasting and more meaningful agreements. Participants that collaborate are significantly more likely not to feel negative about the outcome.

Compromising Technique

This method follows the rule “You bend, I bend.” Compromising means adjusting with each other’s opinions and ideas, and thinking of a solution where both points of view are part of the solution outcome. Similarly, both the parties need to give up on some of their ideas and should agree with the other. Values and long-term objectives can be derailed using this technique. This process may not work if initial demands are high and if there is no commitment to honor the compromised solutions or outcomes. Comprise is best in tough situations where collaboration will not work. The results are less likely to be sustainable and mutually valued as both sides feel slightly negative about the experience.

Accommodating Technique

This method follows the rule “I lose, you win.” Accommodating means giving up on ideas and thoughts so that the other party wins and the conflict ends. However, using this technique, one’s own ideas do not get attention, ensures lost credibility, and influence is lost. The approach of “I will just do what you say” deflates the morale of one side of the conflict. Accommodating gives a lack of caring, concern, and commitment to the solution outcome by one side of the conflict. It is having one side of the conflict jumping ship and saying “It is your problem now.” Leaving both sides of the conflict feeling negative about the experience and untrusting of each other regarding the solution outcome.

Competing Technique

This method follows the rule “I win, you lose.” Competition means when there is a dispute a person or a group is not willing to collaborate or adjust, but it simply wants the opposite party to lose. This technique can further escalate conflict or losers may retaliate. This “It is my way or the highway” leads to stronger emotions and greater conflict. Many conflicts start as competing but then move into other collaboration types.

Avoiding Technique

This method follows the rule “No winners, no losers.” Avoiding means the ideas suggested by both the parties are rejected. Both parties are then lead undermine each other, ignoring each other’s ideas and creates a greater wedge between the two parties to reach a conclusion in the future.