Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution

Topics: Dispute resolution, Negotiation, Conflict Pages: 12 (3340 words) Published: March 14, 2013
Conflict management and dispute resolution coursework

Conflict and dispute are normal phenomenon in society and human relationships. When using different resolution techniques, conflicting parties could get both constructive and destructive outcomes. Good decisions from negotiation can bring a 'win-win' prospect to interested parties. This essay firstly proves the inevitability of conflict and dispute on commercial projects, reviewing some basic definitions and theories. Then, some useful and effective dispute resolution techniques in standard forms of commercial projects are discussed and compared. Lastly, four methods and the potential use of principled negotiation is evaluated for Chinese construction industry in the 21st century.

Inevitability of conflict and dispute on commercial projects

2.1 Some basic theory and knowledge of conflict

From ancient times, conflict is always existing in everyday life if there is more than one individual. Conflict was defined as a "process which involves incompatible differences between parties that result in interference or opposition, often finding expression in antagonism and the violation of roles and procedures"(Thomas,1992). Also, conflict was defined as a "breakdown in the decision-making apparatus resulting in difficulty in selecting alternative courses of action" (Assael,1969; Lisa, 2006). According to these theories, where there is a competitive setting among two or more parties, there comes conflict. For example, fighting for a toy between boys can be regarded as a conflict, and a war between countries definitely is a big severe conflict as well. Thus, conflict occurs among most individuals,organizations, and even countries. Apart from that, conflict is always related to needs, politics, beliefs, values, power, and different goals. Those with the most resources always exercise great power over others with limited resources, leading to the emergence of a conflict.

Different perspectives on conflict varies at different times, such as the unitary, pluralist, and interactionist perspective (Mckenna, 2006). The exact explanation of these three perspectives are as below:

Unitary perspective
In early researches, conflict was regarded as a harmful process that usually result in negative outcomes of poor communication, lack of trust between people, and the inability of responding to the needs (Mckenna, 2006). It was highly pointed that conflict should be avoided as much as possible. Fox (1974) believed that most conflict are abnormal and dysfunctional, and only same goals could lead to success.

Pluralist perspective
From 1950s to the mid-1970s, diverse perspectives came out, showing that conflict was a natural phenomenon that existed in people's everyday life. More scholars found that conflict could have positive effect on the performance between groups. Fox (1974) emphasized an expectation for groups to have divergent needs and interests was increasing dramatically. Also, conflict was not a insoluble problem but a opportunity to create new thoughts.

Interactionist perspective
Current thinking of conflict is the interactionist perspective which is described as functional or constructive conflict. It is said that a proper lever of conflict can make sure the creativity, viability and self-critical of a group (Mckenna, 2006).

2.2 Functional conflict and Dysfunctional conflict

Different people at different times view conflict as negative or positive. In some cases, conflict could be regard as a negative phenomenon to society and groups, because it could very easily damage the relationship and cooperation between individuals and organizations, which cause bad impact to each party. This is often resulted in miscommunication between people with opposing needs, values, beliefs, or goals.

Although it has been long in people's percept that bad outcomes are brought by conflict, more and more sociological theories focus on the positive aspect...
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