This literature review was prepared utilizing sources available on conflict management styles and its influence on decision-making. Using eight different research studies, the information was reviewed, evaluated, and summarized with the main focus on the effect that conflict management styles have on a group’s decision-making.
A group’s conflict management style will more than likely have a direct influence on its decision making when decisions involve open conflict. The conflict management patterns may have two types of indirect effect on decision making, even when the decision making does not involve open disagreement. First, when groups make decisions, many of the same skills and processes involved in managing conflict may come into play. Groups should consider alternatives like, respond to others’ oppositions or try compromising. During conflict episodes, norms that evolve, seem likely to influence these interactions. Second, a group’s conflict management style may change relationships among members by swaying the communication climate as well as the roles the group members assume (Kuhn, 2000). During the research for this literature review, six different conflict management styles were identified and compared.
Benoliel (2017), noted that those who collaborate try to work with group members to come up with a solution that will fully satisfy everyone’s concerns by being assertive and cooperative. Williams (N.D.), along with agreed with Benoliel (2017), Evans (2013), and Mayglothing (201) that collaboration attempts to find a solution to the problem. Benoliel (2017) notes that collaborating works best when there is a long-term relationship at stake. There is no middle ground solution, the solution must satisfy everyone. Collaboration is appropriate when multiple perspectives need to be addressed, the relationship between the parties is important, the final solution is too important for anyone to be dissatisfied, or the beliefs of multiple stakeholders must be represented (Amaresan, 2018). All authors agreed that the problem have to be resolved and everyone should be satisfied with the solution.
Beckwith (2015), concluded that collaboration is the best style by far because it causes groups to work together so that everyone can be a winner. Meier (2011), Amaresan (2018), Williams (n.d.), and Terrell (n.d.), stated it a bit different and noted that collaboration or cooperation is a “win-win” strategy, but needs to be used effectively.
Meier (2011), however, concludes that collaboration requires a high-degree of trust amongst the group in reaching a consensus and can require a lot of time and effort to get all group members on board to produce all of the ideas.
Competing or Directing, according to Meier (2011) and Terrell (n.d.), says that this is a “win-lose” approach. This outcome of this style of conflict management usually results in one party having their wants and needs met, while the other person does not. The “win-lose” approach shows no cooperation. Unfortunately, this approach was nurtured in many people from an early age where one learns that they need to beat out others to get what they want. This strategy can cause animosity, bitterness, and further aggression down the road (Terrell, 2016).
Meier (2011), along with Benoliel (2017), Evans (2013), and Terrell (2016) all agree that individuals who compete are normally assertive and stubborn and only prepared to pursue one’s own interests at another person’s expense. Using this style will work without caring about the relationship but the end result is important (Benoliel, 2017). A firm stance is taken in the competing style and the individual refuses to see the perspectives of the other parties. Only one viewpoint is pushed and the individual pushing their viewpoint keeps rejecting ideas of others until they get their way Amaresan, (2018). Mayglothling (2017), also believes that competing or directing is one-sided. This occurs when one person involved in a disagreement dictates to others, instructs others, and leaves no opportunity for alternative ideas.
This approach however, may be appropriate if an individual need to stand up for their rights or morals, or if an individual wants to make a quick decision and force others to get on board (Amaresan, 2018). However, Benoliel (2017) cautions, “Don’t use competing or directing in your company or organization; it doesn’t build relationships.”
Avoiding, according to Williams (n.d.) happens when management isn’t paying any attention to the conflict and is not taking any action to avoid the conflict. However, those who avoid conflicts are unassertive and unwilling to cooperate and will sidestep an issue or withdraw from the situation. The conflict is avoided which means the individuals can’t reach a resolution (Benoliel, 2017). This completely evades the conflict by continuously dodging or postponing whenever it comes up (Amaresan, 2018).
The conflict at this point is being dealt with through a passive attitude and the problem wounds up being ignored; even thinking it would resolve by itself (Evans, 2013). In this style of conflict management, the problem is never dealt with directly or talked about which causes the problem to remain but resurface later (Mayglothling, 2017).
According to Meier (2011) and Amaresan (2018), if the problem is trivial or if management has no way of winning, avoidance can be used because resolution is too costly. Avoiding the problem means that the responsibilities are being neglected and the problem will not be confronted (Evans, 2013). However, according to Terrell (n.d.), this strategy will backfire quickly and that conflicts are managed better when addressed quickly and competently.
Accommodating or harmonizing occurs when a manager puts the groups interests ahead of their own which can lead to the manager being taken advantage of, especially when there is excessive accommodating being done (Beckwith, 2015). An accommodating style will cause the manager to forsake his/her own needs or desires in exchange for those of others. This means putting the problems of others come first and the manager either gives in or are persuaded to give in (Amaresan, 2018). This is cooperation to the highest degree at the manager’s own expense which will actually work against the goals, objectives and desired outcomes of the manager (Meier, 2011).
Accommodating or harmonizing is appropriate to use when peace needs to be kept, the manager could be in the wrong, or the only way out is to agree with the other point-of-view (Amaresan, 2018). This approach can be effective when the other individual has a better solution or if they are an expert (Meier, 2011). This type of conflict is unhealthy and cause an individual to act in a non-assertive way to keep the other person happy (Mayglothling, 2017). Managers who are interested in keeping the peace and maintaining harmony will adopt an accommodating style of management because they are willing to sacrifice their own needs and preferences for the concern of others (Terrell, n.d.).
When compromising, an expedient solution which is mutually acceptable by both parties is found while maintaining some cooperation and assertiveness. However, compromising should be used when the outcome is not critical and there is not enough time for resolution (Benoliel, 2017). Evans (2013), Mayglothling (2017), and Terrell (n.d.) also believes that compromising is used to give both parties a portion of what they want, but the solution does not fully satisfy either party. Benoliel (2017), also notes that with compromising, no one is really satisfied. Meier (2011) backs up Benoliel’s (2017) theory by stating that no one really wins and that compromising is a “lose-lose” scenario.
Beckwith (2015), concludes that some may think that compromising is the best solution, but some interests are satisfied, but not all of them. Williams (n.d.) agreed with Beckwith (2015) that neither person is really satisfied when compromising.
Williams (n.d), was alone with the forcing style of conflict management. According to Williams (n.d.), using a formal figure of authority or power possessed to satisfy concerns without any regards to the concerns of the other party that the conflict lies. This seems like a last resort if all other styles do not work.
Conflict management is the ability to identify and navigate conflicts in a way that is efficient, effective, and fair. Whenever people need to work together, as a part of a group or a collaborative unit, it’s almost inevitable that conflicts, arguments, and disagreements will arise (Terrell, N.D.). The style of conflict chosen will represent how the manager handles decision-making. There will always be a time when misunderstanding will occur in a group because each individual has their own different points of view. The need for conflict management comes with the rising of difficult of intractable conflicts (Evans, 2013).
Conflict may be ingrained by other non-apparent reasons, even in the most ordinary situations. Being able to understand the other sides of the conflicts would allow those involved to come up with a resolution that is ideal to solve to the problem. Given the different conflict management styles, there might be one style that would fit most managers. It may be important to note that the strategy involved in coming up with a resolution is relative to the kind of the problem (Evans, 2013).
Decision making is one of the main areas in group communication. The main goal in decision making is to understand the factors that have influence over groups to make good and bad decisions. By figuring out these factors, hopefully the decision-making practice can be improved (Aakhus, 2002). However, figuring out the factors may not always be an easy job. For instance, there may be differences in the culture between stakeholders which can affect communications, negotiations, and decision making. The way the information is interpreted may show that the context influences the cultural expressions of understanding and ideas of information. In some cultures, an affirmative answer when asked a question does not always mean yes. The cultural influence can sometimes create misunderstandings on a project which has project stakeholders who share more than one culture (Saylor, n.d.).
Conflict, in any setting, is frustrating and uncomfortable. Not everyone can live in a world of complete peace, compliance, and agreement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. You may avoid conflict in the workplace like the plague. However, sometimes, it can creep up on you before you know it, with either customers or other employees. That’s when you must decide how you want to approach the conflict. Learning about interpersonal communication and ways to handle upset customers is especially vital to an employee working in customer success (Amaresan, 2018).
A manager of a group that develops using cooperative conflict management styles tend to make more effective decisions than those that use confrontational or avoidant conflict management styles. Groups who do not develop constant conflict management styles are less effective than groups with integrated styles (Kuhn, 2000). According to Meier (2011), self-awareness can be improved by knowing default patterns. Being aware of personal patterns, attention can be paid as to whether or not they are working, if not, other alternatives can be explored. By using a scenario-based approach, more effective conflict management styles to test the effectiveness in situations (Meier, J. D. 2011).
According to Williams (n.d.), collaborating is predominantly used when in interpersonal conflict situations because there are many advantages when using it. When collaborating with another individual, it promotes creative problem solving, and it’s a way of promoting mutual respect and a good rapport. However, collaborating takes time, and most conflicts are either too trivial or of the utmost importance to justify the time it may take to collaborate. The are many conflicts that can be handled with other conflict management strategies rather than using collaboration. Managers, with good conflict management skills will be able to use the use the appropriate conflict management strategy for each situation and recognize interpersonal conflict situations.
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