Conflict and Conflict Management

Table of Content

Conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. Conflict on teams is inevitable; however, the results of conflict are not predetermined. Conflict might escalate and lead to non-productive results, or conflict can be beneficially resolved and lead to quality final products. Therefore, learning to manage conflict is integral to a high-performance team. Although very few people go looking for conflict, more often than not, conflict results because of miscommunication between people with regard to their needs, ideas, beliefs, goals, or values.

Conflict management is the principle that all conflicts cannot necessarily be resolved, but learning how to manage conflicts can decrease the odds of non-productive escalation. Conflict management involves acquiring skills related to conflict resolution, self-awareness about conflict modes, conflict communication skills, and establishing a structure for management of conflict in your environment. The differences between “competition” and “conflict” “Competition” usually brings out the best in people, as they strive to be top in their field, whether in sport, community affairs, politics or work.

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In fact, fair and friendly competition often leads to new sporting achievements, scientific inventions or outstanding effort in solving a community problem. When competition becomes unfriendly or bitter, though, conflict can begin – and this can bring out the worst in people. Common causes of Conflict Causes or sources of organisational conflict can be many and varied. The most common causes are the following: * scarcity of resources (finance, equipment, facilities, etc) * different attitudes, values or perceptions * disagreements about needs, goals, priorities and interests * poor communication poor or inadequate organisational structure * lack of teamwork * lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities How to manage and resolve conflict situations Collective bargaining Especially in workplace situations, it is necessary to have agreed mechanisms in place for groups of people who may be antagonistic (e. g. management and workers) to collectively discuss and resolve issues. This process is often called “collective bargaining”, because representatives of each group come together with a mandate to work out a solution collectively.

Experience has shown that this is far better than avoidance or withdrawal, and puts democratic processes in place to achieve “integrative problem solving”, where people or groups who must find ways of co-operating in the same organisation, do so within their own agreed rules and procedures. Conciliation Conciliation is “the act of procuring good will or inducing a friendly feeling”. South African labour relations legislation provides for the process of conciliation in the workplace, whereby groups who are in conflict and who have failed to reach agreement, can come together once again to attempt to settle their differences.

Negotiation The process where mandated representatives of groups in a conflict situation meet together in order to resolve their differences and to reach agreement. It is a deliberate process, conducted by representatives of groups, designed to reconcile differences and to reach agreements by consensus. The outcome is often dependent on the power relationship between the groups. Negotiations often involve compromise – one group may win one of their demands and give in on another. In workplaces Unions and management representative usually sue negotiations to solve conflicts. Political and community groups also often use this method.

Mediation When negotiations fail or get stuck, parties often call in and independent mediator. This person or group will try to facilitate settlement of the conflict. The mediator plays an active part in the process, advises both or all groups, acts as intermediary and suggests possible solutions. In contrast to arbitration (see below) mediators act only in an advisory capacity – they have no decision-making powers and cannot impose a settlement on the conflicting parties. Skilled mediators are able to gain trust and confidence from the conflicting groups or individuals.

Arbitration. The appointment of an independent person to act as an adjudicator (or judge) in a dispute, to decide on the terms of a settlement. Both parties in a conflict have to agree about who the arbitrator should be, and that the decision of the arbitrator will be binding on them all. Arbitration differs from mediation and negotiation in that it does not promote the continuation of collective bargaining: the arbitrator listens to and investigates the demands and counter-demands and takes over the role of decision-maker. SITUATION This is my personal experience which I had faced when I was working for a software company as a trainee.

The manager of the new product division was originally the leader of the project team for which she interviewed and hired Aman. Parul, another project team member, also interviewed Aman, but strongly opposed hiring him for the project because she thought he was not competent to do the job. Seven months after Aman was hired, the manager left the project to start her own company and recommended that Aman and Parul serve as joint project leaders. Parul agreed reluctantly-with the stipulation that it be made clear she was not working for Aman.

The General Manager consented; Parul and Aman were to share the project leadership. Within a month certain issues were developed between them since they both share the same position of project leaders. Parul was angry because Aman was representing himself to others as the leader of the entire project and giving the impression that Parul was working for him. Right after the joint leadership arrangement was reached with the General Manager, Aman called a meeting of the project team without even consulting her about the time or content. He just told her when it was being held and said her to be there.

At the meeting, He reviewed everyone’s duties line by line, including hers, treating her as just another team member working for him. He sends out letters and signs himself as project director, which obviously implies to others that she was working for him. But according to Aman, Parul was all hung up with feelings of power and titles. She was too sensitive about everything. He called a meeting and she thought that he was trying to run everything. She had other things to do-other projects to run-so she didn’t pay too much attention to that project. Finally both of them were not ready to work with the other person.

So a meeting was called for all the team members in order to resolve the issue. Everyone came with their suggestions. A proper approach was followed to analyse the situation. Parul and Aman were asked for the explanations. I suggested certain reasons why it became a big issue. The Issue can be solved using these concepts: Communication Gap: There was no proper communication happening between them. Both of them were obsessed with their position and did not want to share the work and responsibility with the other person. If one took an initiative, the other felt unsecured.

They did not even try to bridge the communication gap. The solution offered was to forget the grudges and bridge the communication gap. Because communication was the only way to resolve the issues, by having a proper word they could divide the work and responsibilities. Proper communication and coordination are important for avoiding big problems. Empathy: By showing empathy they could have avoided the grudges. Considering the work load of Parul, Aman could have first discussed with her for arranging a meeting, and Parul could have delegated some of her work on that project to him.

By understanding empathising and coordinating they could have avoided this situation. Dissolving barriers in communication: In this case both of them were suffering from the barriers in communication i. e. ego, mindset, fear etc. Both had the ego issues. Because of their egos they did not had a proper word of mouth. Parul was senior to Aman and both were sharing same position so her ego stopped her to have communication. And Aman Felt that she was busy with other projects and not letting him take a lead. Mindset: Aman and Parul had a conservative mindset for each other.

Aman thought that she was hung up with the feeling of power and title and does not pay proper attention to the project and lets things slide. While Parul had a mindset that Aman was not competent for the job and does not deserves to be there and sharing position with him made her carry a preconception about him. Fear: Both had a fear of losing the position because they were the joint project leaders. These barriers in communication could be resolved by having proper communication with each other and having a open/broad perspective to avoid misunderstandings.

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