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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 Strategies of Managing Conflict

I discovered some great information recently after googling "5 Strategies of Managing Conflict". I knew the strategies yet wanted more perspective on using them. This is what I found from Wright State University.

Conflict Management Strategies Taken from Wright State University's College of Business
There is a menu of strategies we can choose from when in conflict situations:

Forcing - using formal authority or other power that you possess to satisfy your concerns without regard to the concerns of the party that you are in conflict with.
Accommodating - allowing the other party to satisfy their concerns while neglecting your own.
Avoiding - not paying attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it.
Compromising - attempting to resolve a conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties, but completely satisfactory to neither.
Collaborating - cooperating with the other party to understand their concerns and expressing your own concerns in an effort to find a mutually and completely satisfactory solution (win-win).

Research on conflict management styles has found that each of us tends to use one or two of the above five strategies more than the others. For instance, some people predominantly use collaborating when in interpersonal conflict situations. In other words, although there are five different ways to handle conflicts, such a person is more likely to collaborate than they are to force, accommodate, avoid, or compromise. There are many advantages to using a collaborating strategy to handle interpersonal conflict situations. Collaborating with the other party promotes creative problem solving, and it's a way of fostering mutual respect and rapport.

However, collaborating takes time, and many conflict situations are either very urgent or too trivial to justify the time it takes to collaborate. There are many conflict situations that should be handled with one of the other four conflict management strategies rather than collaboration.

Managers who are very skilled at conflict management are able to (a) understand interpersonal conflict situations and (b) use the appropriate conflict management strategy for each situation.

Matching Strategies to Situations
There are a few key variables that define conflict management situations and determine which conflict management strategies are likely to be effective. Time pressure is an important variable--if there were never any time pressures, collaboration might always be the best approach to use. In addition to time pressures, some of the most important factors to consider are issue importance, relationship importance, and relative power:

Issue importance - the extent to which important priorities, principles or values are involved in the conflict.
Relationship importance - how important it is that you maintain a close, mutually supportive relationship with the other party.
Relative power - how much power you have compared to how much power other party has.

When you find yourself in conflict over very important issues, you should normally try to collaborate with the other party. But, if time is precious and if you have enough power to impose your will, forcing is more appropriate. Realize that you might need to repair the relationship after using a forcing strategy if the other party feels that you did not show adequate consideration for their concerns. Again, collaborating is normally the best strategy for handling conflicts over important issues.

When dealing with moderately important issues, compromising can often lead to quick solutions. However, compromise does not completely satisfy either party, and compromise does not foster innovation the way that taking the time to collaborate can. So, collaborating is a better approach to dealing with very important issues.

When you find yourself in conflict over a fairly unimportant issue, using an accommodating strategy is a quick way to resolve the conflict without straining your relationship with the other party. Collaborating is also an option, but it might not be worth the time.

Avoiding should normally be reserved for situations where there is a clear advantage to waiting to resolve the conflict. Too often, interpersonal conflicts persist and even worsen if there is no attempt to resolve them. Avoiding is appropriate if you are too busy with more important concerns and if your relationship with the other party is unimportant. However, if either the issue or the relationship between the parties is important, then avoidance is a poor strategy.

Inappropriate Strategy for Managing Self during Conflict

So last month I had my hair cut from the same guy at the same place I've been going to for the past two years. I like this guy because he knows how to cut thick hair and gives me a short cut I can rely on. It's just short enough that it's edgy, which reflects the confidence appearance I am after.

He and I have really developed an ability to talk openly about ourselves, which leads us each to look forward to our next visit. Hence, in the previous visit I shared my enthusiasm for going to Miami FL where I would be presenting two workshops for a firm's annual conference, enjoying the arrangements downtown Miami, and looking forward to my first major speaking engagement for a private group. So when Roger suggested I come in early the week of my departure for a complimentary "spruce up", I took him up on it.

That afternoon came and I added a massage to the time there, supporting a new associate who offers chair massage. Shoot, why not since this visit wasn't costing me anything? $15 was easy enough to afford. Of course the massage was enjoyable, which made my haircut even more enjoyable. But when Roger gave me back my credit card receipt after ringing me up I realized something was wrong. There was the cut and the massage listed, an amount I wasn't planning to spend. Additionally, I realized he had forgotten his complimentary offer to me.

Stunned, I said nothing. First, I didn't want to make a scene in his shop - which I wouldn't have made, had I addressed it correctly. And secondly, I decided that I was putting too much importance on the dollar. So I signed, and drove away.

My method for handling that conflict was avoidance. Eventually I let this scenario eat away at me, because I didn't like how I handled it. Which led me to call him. I knew if I didn't, I would begin to question Roger's actions, lose trust in him and no longer have the relationship I had. Simply because I didn't address the conflict using the appropriate strategy.

So I called him. He apologized for being so forgetful, took the charge off my bill and committed to making it up to me, all of which he has done.

This scenario is less about Roger and more about me. And the way I tend to manage conflict. Of the 5 strategies we could use to manage conflict, most of us use only one or two. Yet depending on the scenario, any of the 5 could be appropriate.

The strategy I used was avoidance. Now in some cases, avoidance works. When the other person is a relationship that doesn't matter to you or your focusing on things of more importance than the conflict issue. In my case, I couldn't stop thinking about the extra charge to my credit card. Trying to get my mind off it, I played cd's in my car, I focused on the traffic around me, but the scenario was unsettled in my head. I kept going back to the moment Roger charged me for both fees. Clearly this wasn't an avoidance-appropriate strategy issue. Additionally, Roger was an important relationship to me. I didn't want to distrust him, so I needed to give him the chance to address my concern.

The strategy I wanted to use but opted out of is Forcing him to rethink what he was doing or to hear the pre-arranged condition. For some reason I resisted, yet I see that under the time constraint of having to sign on the dotted line, it was the most appropriate strategy. Speak up!

Want to know about the 5 strategies, go to this link. It's good information. And it can save you some time, relationship and grief.

Finding difficulty understanding what's really at the core of the conflict? The information above won't help until you can objectively see what you're dealing with. In that case, contact me.