Causes of Conflicts and Conflict Management

Benjamin Franklin famously said the only certainties in life are Death and Taxes, but he forgot to mention one. Conflict. It will happen at one point or another, but it is how you react and resolve conflict that will make or break your success. The goal of this essay is to inform you about a few of the causes of conflict, so you can effectively understand it, and give you a couple of ways to resolve conflict.

There are multiple ways that conflict arises. Two people can have different goals, which could bring people into conflict because they are trying to achieve two completely different things. They could have clashing personalities, which could cause them to argue if they are entirely to different, or if they are both ‘leaders’ trying take charge of everybody. One other reason is they could have different beliefs and values. If one person operates by a certain set of values or believes in a certain religion, and they are forced to work with somebody who has a completely different set of values they will inevitably clash. Now that we have a few of the reasons that conflict happens, we can work to prevent or resolve these conflicts.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Module outlines 5 different types of conflict resolution styles. Avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising, and collaborating. Accommodating is doing whatever is possible to help someone else, even if it is at the expense of yourself or your goals. This method of conflict resolution is good if the other party has a better solution, or to maintain good relations. Avoiding is when an issue is simply ignored. This style is generally seen as a negative style but can be the correct style if the issue at hand is a negligible issue or has the opportunity to escalate into a bigger issue. Competing is seen as the “win-lose” approach. One party acts in a forceful way to impose their will. This approach can be effective when time is of the essence but could be harmful for future relationships. Compromising is seen as the “lose-lose” approach. This approach is useful for the ‘unstoppable force meets an immovable object’ situations, where neither side will budge. It involves both sides giving up something to make the other side happy and reach an agreement. The final style is collaborating, or the ‘win-win’ approach. This style is when both parties can agree to an outcome that both promotes and accommodates each party’s wants and goals. The only downside to this approach is that it generally requires an ample amount of time for both parties to reach a consensus.

Great conflict managers aren’t just proficient in multiple styles of conflict management, they are also adept at selecting which style is the appropriate style to use. They must also be self-aware, so they know if they are inciting any sort of conflict themselves.  

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