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Conflict Management Within Organizations

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Conflict occurs when “interdependent parties perceive that they have incompatible interests, related to the distribution of limited resources” (Argosy Online, 2014). Productive conflict promotes creativity and innovation amongst individuals, and within organizations. Counterproductive conflict disrupts communication networks, and interpersonal work relationships, and can also produce psychological scars (Shockley- Zalabak, 2012). 

The conflict process consists of five stages. Latent conflict is comprised of underlying conditions in organizations and individual relationships, which have the potential to lead to conflict. These variables include the delegation of responsibility, authority, control of resources, and the achievement of organizational goals. Perceived conflict is the awareness of differences among individuals and groups. Felt conflict signifies the emotional impact of perceived conflicts. Manifest conflict is the outward display of conflict behaviors. Lastly, conflict aftermath is the culmination of the foregoing conflict stages (Shockley- Zalabak, 2012). 

Individuals react to conflict situations through the use of avoidance, compromise, accommodation, and collaboration strategies. Groups negotiate or bargain, as a response to conflict situations. Also, mediation or third- party arbitration may be necessary, in order to resolve group conflict (Shockley- Zalabak, 2012). Supportive organizational environments encourage effective problem solving skills, through the use of problem analysis, creativity, empathy, and an operational conflict resolution model. 

This researcher proposes that organizations utilize the conflict resolution model, as presented by Reese- Weber (1998):

  • Identify the conflict, context, and individuals involved within the conflict.

  • Assess how power dynamics and leadership play a role within the conflict.

  • Assess the current level of trust between the individuals involved in the conflict.

  • Assess how cultural dynamics play a role within the conflict.

  • Identify the values displayed, and their impact upon the conflict.

  • Determine whether the conflict displays symptoms of interpersonal, or group to group conflict.

  • Decide where the conflict is headed: escalation, resolution, or putting it aside.

  • Develop expectations for a win-win solution.

  • Define the problem in terms of needs.

  • Generate possible solutions.

  • Develop consequences, both positive and negative, for each solution.

  • Evaluate, rate and rank solutions.

  • Decide on a mutually beneficial solution.

  • Implement solution.

  • Examine solution at a later date.

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Argosy Online. L7450 Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, Modules 1-7

Reese- Weber, M. (1998). Conflict resolution styles in family subsystems and adolescent romantic relationships. Journal of Youth and Adolescence (27)6, 735- 752

Shockley- Zalabak, P. (2012). Fundamentals of organizational communication: Knowledge, sensitivity, skills, values. 8th Edition. Pearson Education, Inc.: E- Book

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