Conflict resolution is the process of eliminating the underlying reasons for conflict. Conflict resolution falls into two broad approaches viz competitive and cooperative approaches. They are also referred to as integrative and distributive approaches. Within these broad approaches, theorists identify five conflict resolution strategies namely, avoidance, competition, accommodation, compromise and collaboration.
In the conflict scenarios below, we will be applying conflict resolution styles, explain reasons for the choice and anticipated outcome. We will examine the conflict scenarios from the prism of the Dual Concern Model of Cooperation and Competition (Pruitt & Rubin, 1986, as cited in Stangor, 2011, p.579) and the Conflict Intensity Continuum (Robbins & Judge, 2013).
Conflict Resolution Case 1
Thandi has job demands that conflict with her planned day off. Her supervisor wants her to reschedule day off and offers her flexi time and leave upon task completion. Applying the Dual Concern Model of Cooperation and Competition (Pruitt & Rubin, 1986, as cited in Stangor, 2011, p.579), I would balance high self-concern (job demands) with high others’ concern (Thandi’s need for day off).
I would adopt a collaborative problem-solving approach by offering flexi-time and leave upon task completion. This offers a win-win outcome. The task is done, and Thandi can still get her day off. The supervisor expanded the proverbial pie to include flexi-time with day off. Thandi is rewarded for cooperation. Providing rewards for cooperation increases likelihood for future collaboration and positive attitudes towards outcomes. (Stangor, 2011). Applying conflict resolution in this case resulted in satisfactory outcomes for both parties. It is a win-win case.
Conflict Management Case 2
Two talented but aggressive teammates engage in disruptive competitive behavior. The team leader wants them to work well with each other. This is relationship conflict due to personality incompatibility. Both parties exhibit high self-concern and low others’ concern. They are contending and competing. Their behaviors are high on the Conflict Intensity Continuum making it dysfunctional conflict. (Robbins & Judge, 2013). The personalities of the parties make them poor candidates for a collaborative solution. Viable options are third party mediation or decoupling. I would adopt decoupling; I would assign the teammates to other groups or to working solo. Their behaviors negatively impact team performance. Applying conflict resolution strategy of third party mediation has reported success rate of 60% and 75% satisfaction rates. (Robbins & Judge, 2013).
Conflict Resolution Case 3
Two groups planning a company picnic event come up with differing proposals. One favors group activities another favors individual activities. They agree to work together. While the groups have own preferences, they do recognize the concern of others and are willing to work towards cooperation. The groups collaborate to resolve the conflict. They show high concern for others in their willingness to work together. The groups can come together and discuss mutually agreeable group and individual activities for the picnic. The essential ingredient for successful cooperation is willingness to work together, so I am confident of a mutually satisfactory outcome to both groups.
Conflict Management Case 4
Heidi confronts Melissa with accusations of spreading rumors about her. She fumes relentlessly at Melissa. The conflict behaviors exhibited by Heidi are high on the Conflict Intensity Continuum. This makes the conflict dysfunctional. Relationship conflicts are typically dysfunctional. (Robbins & Judge, 2013). Dysfunctional conflicts are notoriously difficult to subject to cooperative approaches. I thus, would use third party interventions like mediation and conciliation. Third party mediation have reported success rate of 60% and 75% satisfaction rates. (Robbins & Judge, 2013). The high intensity of the conflict leaves no trust and goodwill upon which to discuss and work out conflict on their own. A neutral, trusted and mutually agreeable mediator or conciliator could work through persuasion and reasoning to resolve the conflict. I see viable outcomes in de-escalation of conflict, desisting from conflict behaviors, and even restoration of trust.
Conflict Resolution Case 5
Matt has conflicting demands of his job and life. There is pressing work demands and his children need supervision. His wife is wanted at work, the child milder is ill, he is at work and cannot leave. The self-concern and other’s concern are difficult to reconcile leaving compromise and accommodation as viable alternatives. Matt must yield to the job requirements and subordinate his family needs. Accommodation is a viable strategy when harmony and stability are important, and when collaboration and competition do not work. In Matt’s case he would not want to damage his reputation of reliability by being adversarial and he is outmatched in status and power in relation to supervisor. Robbins and Judge (2013), suggest the above are substantive reasons to pursue accommodation or compromise.
Learn more about conflict resolution strategies like negotiation and collaboration from our conflict management and negotiation skills courses.