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Managing Conflict

People and groups in organisations often hold differing views but still need each other's co-operation. They may differ about: -

  • Goals or what should be done
  • Roles or who should do what
  • Procedures or how people should work together
  • Relationships or how people should relate to each other

Good managers manage these conflicts when they interfere with the achievement of the organisation's mission. They work to clarify goals, then roles, and then procedures. Most interpersonal issues disappear when the goals, roles and procedures are clear.

When in a conflict,  listen, summarise the other's position and express your own thoughts and feelings clearly and directly. Use short sentences that start "I ....". If you manage two people who are in conflict, help them listen to each other and create their own solution. This is much more likely to stick than one you impose.

Styles of conflict handling

In any conflict situation, think about the relationship between the parties and the importance of the issue to you. The style you adopt will depend on the balance between these factors.


Relationship is important

Issue is unimportant

Style is "Smoothing"

The animal is

A Teddy Bear who wants to be liked

The risk is being exploited

This approach can be lose/win

Relationship is important

Issue is important

Style is "Confronting"

The animal is

An Owl who wants the best solution for all

The risk is being exhausted

This approach can be win/win

Relationship is unimportant

Issue is unimportant

Style is "Withdrawing"

The animal is

A Tortoise who wants peace and quiet

The risk is being bored

This approach can be lose/lose

Relationship is unimportant

Issue is important

Style is "Forcing"

The animal is

A Shark who wants to win

The risk is being sabotaged later

This approach can be win/lose

People often prefer to use some styles more than others. However, each situation may require a different style. You can use all of them as required. 

For further reading , "Caring enough to Confront" by David Augsberger, ISBN 0-8307-0733-6, 1981 is very good.



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