Effective Strategies for Conflict Management

Workspirited Staff Nov 3, 2018
When you are working with many individuals, conflict management strategies are needed. So, what strategies should one apply to maintain the harmony? Read on.
The one sentence that we tend to hear quite often when working in a team is, "I beg to differ!" When it comes to managing people and working with them to achieve a common goal, conflicts are something that are inevitable!
After all, you are dealing with different individuals with different perceptions and ideologies. It is not always necessary that they will follow everything they are asked to, what is perfect for the organization need not be perfect for all employees.
Research states that the managers spend almost 20% of their valuable time in managing conflict in the workplace. Not only this, being associated with a conflict in the workplace also deteriorates the efficiency of the individual, thereby affecting the overall productivity of the organization.
Therefore, conflict management strategies are of vital importance in an organization. The manager needs to use his/her judgmental skills on what the situation demands for. Before actually applying a particular strategy towards a situation, managers first need to find answers to the following questions.

Before Applying the Conflict Management Strategies

Handling conflict between parties, either of which being assertive towards their individual point of views, is not an easy task. The manager needs to be sure that his or her decision addresses and responds to the situation in a justified and productive way.
There are a few factors that govern the decision of choosing a strategy to manage the conflicts. These factors include - importance of the issue, time pressure, relationship with the parties involved in the conflict, and authority of the manager over the parties.
Whenever a situation arises a conflict, the managers need to focus on the following areas and get productive answers to be able to decide on the strategy that needs to be applied to handle the conflict.
  • What is the root cause of the conflict?
  • What were the loop holes from the management's side to give rise to such a conflict?
  • How can the conflict affect the overall productivity?
  • Do we have time, or does the conflict needs to be addressed immediately?
  • How will the conflict impact the organization in both, short-term and long-term?
  • How will the conflict impact the organization's reputation and relationship with all the related parties?
Once you have analyzed the given questions, it will be easy for you to decide and choose appropriate conflict management strategy among the 5 most famous and universally applied strategies mentioned.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)5

There are many strategies in this context that one can choose from, but depending on what the situation demands for, it is better to be flexible in your approach when it comes to managing conflict.
There is no hard and fast rule to follow a particular type of strategy at a specific situation. Which is why, it is more or less the responsibility of the manager to accurately judge what the situation demands.
Nevertheless, coming back to the effective strategies for handling conflict, according to the research of Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann, the following five workplace conflict management strategies can help deal with conflicts among teams, people, or opponents. Have a look!

Collaboration

This strategy can also be called the "win-win strategy ". Collaboration proves to be helpful when the parties holding the conflict are of valued importance. Hence, this strategy requires a lot of cooperation and assertiveness from all the people involved.
Teamwork needs to be at its best at this point of time, and a creative solution is required to be formed to resolve the conflict. When this strategy is applied, one needs to have a lot of time and patience in hand, as the entire process is very time-consuming, but totally worth it!

Competition

Also known as the "I win, You lose " strategy, selecting this conflict resolution is apt only when the conflict is not more important than the overall goals and objectives, and therefore, democratic actions and decisions must be taken to protect the interest of the organization.
Most of the time this conflict management strategy is used when there is time pressure, and decisions need to be made as quickly as possible.

Compromise

Compromise is a situation where, "I sacrifice a little, and so do you! " Choosing this strategy is best suited when the issue is a little less than very important, or to put it in plain words, "moderately important ".
This is a situation wherein you don't mind giving up a little to make things work out in peace. Or, if you are in a situation where, in the future, the conflict may lead to a damage so big, that it's better to bend a little to make things work now itself.
Many times, compromise is a strategy to settle things down temporarily while it gives us some time to figure out what needs to be done later on.

Accommodation

Accommodating comes when you don't mind losing at your end. This strategy accounts for maximum cooperation and minimum or negligible assertiveness.
When you choose this conflict management strategy, you must be willing to let go your desires and focus on the expectations of the other party in conflict. This is the reason why this strategy is also known as "I Lose, You Win" strategy.
In a situation where your prime focus is on creating goodwill and building relationships, but the time factor doesn't allow you to collaborate, then this strategy will be helpful in handling the conflict. However, you must be willing to accept the fact that you might end up getting less attention and credibility, depending on whatever the situation is.

Avoidance

Last, and should be used the least, is the strategy of avoidance, also known as the "No Winners, No Losers" strategy! When to use it?
Well, on a situation which is best dealt when "avoided "! If the matter of conflict isn't worth the time and energy to be put at stake, or, when the time and place is just not right to address the issue, then it is best to avoid the conflict instead of investing time and efforts which will ultimately not prove to be productive at this point in time.
However, the thing to be kept in mind while applying this strategy, is to make sure that the issue doesn't create a larger conflict later on, which tends to become unmanageable in the future. Therefore, it is best advised to take care of a situation before it blows out of proportion!

Skills Required to Handle Conflict

Managing conflict isn't something which you can read in theory and successfully implement in practical situations. One needs to keep in mind that the root cause of a conflict is the fact that we are dealing with different human minds.
Therefore, there is nothing known as "one-size-fits-all" in this case. What one requires is the skill to be able to handle these conflicting minds and bring a mutual harmony between all the parties, so that all the individual efforts eventually turn out to be productive and satisfactory. The skills required to be efficient in dealing with conflicts are -
  • Decision-Making Skills
  • Management Skills
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Workplace Communication Skills
  • Time Management Skills
  • Observing Skills
Studies have shown that people in the organization tend to use only one or two strategies most of the time. Therefore, one must be analytical and judgmental towards the conflicting situation and carefully scrutinize all the options before applying a strategy to resolve the conflict.
Management must remember the famous saying, "Just because there are no complaints, doesn't mean everyone is happy." Therefore, as responsible managers, be comfortable in managing conflict and try to address the needs and concerns of all the parties involved.
And once you are able to judge the kind of attention the conflict requires, it won't be difficult for you to choose among the various strategies to manage conflict in the workplace, which best fulfills the need of the hour.