According to Rahim (2011), conflict management literature does not provide a clear set of rules or steps for managing conflict. Research on conflict in the workplace does not suggest how organizational conflict can be reduced, ignored, or enhanced in order to increase the effectiveness of the company. In addition, there does not appear to be research that would indicate how to resolve conflict in different situations. Because of the lack of literature and research on resolving conflict, it is believed that managing conflict in organizations is the best approach to organizational effectiveness. For years, we have been taught that conflict is bad. However, research indicates that conflict (if managed properly) can be a good thing.
How do you manage conflict? Researchers have identified five conflict management styles: Integrating, Obliging, Dominating, Avoiding, and Compromising (Rahim, 2011). In managing conflict with any of these styles, the leader should keep in mind organizational learning and effectiveness as well as the needs of the stakeholders and ethical concerns.
Integrating is described as a useful style when dealing with complex problems or complex conflicts. By synthesizing ideas, the leader can formulate solutions that have yet to be considered. If the conflict is simple or trivial, the Integrating Style is not the best match.
When the leader is not very knowledgeable about the issues involved in a conflict, the Obliging Style is effective. This style allows the leader to give up something now in order to manage the conflict with the hope of getting something in return at a later date. If the relationship is worth preserving, this style is effective in managing conflict.
When dealing with unpopular action plans, the leader may use the Dominating Style of managing conflict. This style is useful when the issues in the conflict are important to the leader and a decision opposite of the leader’s can be harmful to the organization. However, this style can lead to followers who do not like the leader.
The Avoiding Style many times is used by leaders when the issues are trivial or unimportant to the organization. This style is used when the time and effort of managing the conflict is not worth the outcome. This style, however, is not appropriate when the issues are important or complex to the organization.
When consensus cannot be reached and temporary solutions to a conflict are needed, the Compromising Style is effective. This style is used by a leader when both sides of the conflict have equal power and a decision cannot be rendered. The Compromising Style is not appropriate when the conflict involves complex issues requiring problem solving.
Conflict in organizations is not always a bad thing, but conflicts must be managed in order for organizations to continue to work toward and reach goals. The following are keys to managing conflict effectively:
1. Listen effectively
2. Consider another person’s perspective
3. Cultivate compassion
4. Be persistent
Baggerly-Hinojosa (2010). Are you a 10? The ten characteristics of a servant leader. Lulu.com
Rahim, M.A. (2011). Managing conflict in organizations. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.