Dealing with CONFLICT … like a play?

Conflict ResolutionAt times, many of us have said in our professional relations, “I am tired of playing these games.” The conflicts or differences that prompted that feeling, may not be that far off. There is actual research, the Pondy model of organizational conflicts actually treats them like a series of acts similar to those in a theatrical presentation where each act leads naturally to the next.

If you care to take a “deep dive” you can read the original research here. Here is my take on this process for resolving conflicts.

Act I – Potential for Conflict entails structural and interpersonal variables. There must be fertile ground for conflict to emerge and grow from fundamental structural and interpersonal factors within organizations. Structural Variables includes the types of job, departments and the relationships among these jobs and departments. Interpersonal Variables comprise an individual’s personality and values. The everyday definition of personality is “Our values are our personal conceptions of what is good, desirable; or what is bad, undesirable, and improper.”

Act II – Awareness of conflict can be classified as perceived or felt conflict, but there are important differences between these terms. Perceived conflict is the awareness that structural and interpersonal variables, might lead to open conflict between two parties. This means that an individual is cognizant of the potential for conflict but has not yet engaged in overt conflict. They may not view the potential for conflict as being very high, or the issue may be too small to demand immediate attention. Felt Conflict is the knowledge that overt conflict is about to occur, accompanied by the emotions associated with anticipated overt conflict, tension, anger, and fear. These feelings are similar to those that individuals may experience when danger is either imminent or possible.

Act III – Behavioral changes are usually more observable than a particular approach to the issues. Overt conflict is the interference by one or both parties in the goal-achievement efforts of the other side. In general, the interfering party is usually aware of what he or she is doing. Awareness does always imply malice to frustrate the other side. Overt conflict can take many forms, from wars to fights. More subtle forms of overt conflict range from insults to failing to invite an opponent to a meeting. For example, “Working to Rule” is one way Unions sometime use this tactic to frustrate management’s effort to achieve certain goals. This means that they do not do anything that is not contractually mandated. This tactic is not as obvious as a strike.

Approaches are the methods that a person attempts to eliminate or minimize a dispute, and are usually a combination of specific behaviors and specific orientations.

Here are four (4) conflict resolution approaches.

1. Avoidance occurs when one or both sides recognize that a conflict exists but react by withdrawing from or postponing the conflict.
2. Accommodation occurs when one side resolves the conflict by giving in to the other side at the expense of at least some of their own needs. This may be a rational approach if the other side has overwhelming power and the will to use it. If the relationship between the parties is more important than the specific conflict issue, each side might be more inclined to accommodate the other.
3. Compromise occurs when both sides gain and lose in order to resolve the conflict. It is an approach in which each side is partially satisfied and partially dissatisfied. A party willing to compromise is considered fair and reasonable, while a party unwilling to compromise is thought to be stubborn and unfair.
4. Collaboration or creative problem-solving demands that both sides look beyond the immediate problem. It takes imagination and cooperation and can consume considerable amounts of time and energy. This approach produces two winners and contributes to the quality of working relationships, and higher success rates.

Act IV – Outcomes
Organizational conflict is episodic in nature and one particular conflict event may lead to others in what could be viewed as a war between two parties. This model seeks to further enhance the organization’s effectiveness and efficiency. Organizations are effective if they achieve their goals and efficient if they achieve their goals at minimal cost. It is possible for an organization to be effective but not efficient. It is not possible, however, for an organization to be both efficient and ineffective.

Related Articles:   Conflict Resolution … here’s how!   and   Listening … the internal obstacles!

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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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