Conflict occurs in situations in which people are interdependent, seek different outcomes, favor different methods to the same end, or perceive others are interfering with their ability for rewards or resources. A persons behavior in conflict situations can be described by two basic dimensionsassertiveness and cooperation. Assertiveness is the extent to which the team member attempts to satisfy his own concerns. Cooperation is the team members attempt to satisfy the other persons concerns. There are five specific methods of dealing with conflict using these two dimensions: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. Each one of us has a tendency for one or more behavior styles depending on the situation.
When teams form, there will be conflict. Any time there is more than one person, you will have conflict. How do you handle conflict?
Understanding the style with which you are comfortable is important when you are dealing with conflict with one person or in a group. For example, if avoidance is how you deal with conflict, when it arises, you will shrink back, saying to yourself, I dont want to do this. Your thoughts might go like, Its bad enough when it happens with my spouse, but I dont have to do it in my job.
Keep in mind that there are times when every one of these behaviors will appear in each of us. For example, we would not have sports without competitive conflictfootball, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf. People get a charge out of this type of win/lose competition. Each behavior has value, depending on what you need in a given situation.
Conflict has value. If you discourage conflict, you will have trouble building good teams. If everyone always agrees, we go along and its boring and predictable. But what if you dont want yelling, screaming and hitting? That kind of conflict scares me. It reminds me of my childhood. But, when we talk about conflict, we are really talking about our differences. Our differences are who we are. Knowing that each person is different allows us to go into a group or team with the understanding that everyone will have different opinions and thoughts. But if we think everyone is the same, we will be really disappointed and hurt when someone differs from us.
We each have the responsibility to be aware of the differences and uniqueness in each of us. Conflict is good. Be open to differences. Until each of us can say, Tell me what you think; let me hear what you think; and, why do you believe what you think, then the conflict will continue to be competing. Using inquiry and questions to find out more about the other person will give us understanding and compassion.
Teams that have a good understanding of conflict management work effectively and learn to trust others. These people work together effectively in other subgroups, are more task oriented, demonstrate increased satisfaction, and work toward better decisions. The Art of Managing How to Build a Better Workplace and Relationships helps you define your behavior in conflict situations.