Conflict Resolution … here’s how!

Conflict Resolution MatrixI revisited some interesting research on Conflict-resolution Strategies during my preparations to respond to an inquiry. The research was originally published by Kenneth W. Thomas in the article, “Toward Multidimensional Values in Teaching: The Example of Conflict Behaviors. A group of approximately 28 CEOs studied this research and were asked to aggregate and summarize their preferred techniques when faced with certain conflict situations.

The methods that they employed most often when confronted with specific conflicts were:

Use of Force
When they needed to make or take quick and decisive actions, such as emergencies they used force, executive authority or power. They realized that actions, such as cost reduction, enforcing unpopular rules, or discipline would be unpopular. The rationale was that on issues that were vital to company welfare was necessary to guard against people who would take advantage of those who exercised non-competitive behaviors.

Consensus and Collaboration
This approach was taken when the objective was to learn, merge insights from people with different perspectives, and gain commitment by incorporating concerns into consensus. Additionally, it would be beneficial to work through issues without creating feelings that would interfere with important relationships. This process resulted in an integrated solution that considered concerns that were too important to be compromised.

These 28 CEOs did not feel that compromise was a surrendering of their core principles or acquiescence. Some goals are important, but not worth the potential disruption particularly when opponents with equal power were committed to mutually exclusive goals. Compromise was considered a useful strategy when issues required a temporary settlement, expedient solutions under time pressure or as a backup when consensus or collaboration failed.

There is actually a situation where avoidance is an appropriate strategy. For example, if a trivial issue could consume the time needed for more pressing or important issues, avoidance is a valid strategy. On a subjective basis, if you have minimal chances to satisfy your concerns or the potential disruption outweighs the benefits of resolution, deferring, postponing and avoiding the issue is a satisfactory strategy. Everyone possibly benefit by allowing “cooling-off” period to regain perspective, gather information or allow others to resolve the conflict more effectively.

At times, if you have failed to allow a better position to be heard, an attempt to be reasonable could be a good choice. Sometimes, an issue may be more important to others than to you, so an accommodation is worth consideration. In the vernacular of Steven Covey, you can build and bank some social credits for later issues. Accommodation can also be useful to minimize loss when you are outmatched and losing, harmony and stability are especially important or to allow subordinates to develop by learning from their mistakes.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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