The article “Managing conflict: Third-party interventions for managers” delineates the essential steps followed by a manager in effectively and efficiently managing organizational conflict and the various approaches adopted for its resolution. It identifies certain key variables to consider for each step of the decision process concerning intervention and presents guidelines for making appropriate choices. It also describes a variety of pitfalls that a manager must beware of when intervening as third party in managing conflict. Third-party intervention by the manager assumes greater significance in the light of increasing use of teams and participatory management approaches used by organizations wherein timely conflict resolution greatly impacts team performance. When a conflict arises between two individual disputants, appropriate third-party managerial intervention not only improves the working relationships of the disputants but also helps them develop their own conflict-management and problem-solving skills. The steps followed in the decision process of manager for interventions are as under:
•Step 1 – Is intervention necessary or appropriate? The key variables that influence the managerial decision in this step are the urgency and importance of the impact of conflict and the disputants’ capability to resolve the conflict themselves, in terms of both their abilities and motivation to resolve it and implement appropriate solutions. For example, if the conflict is neither important nor its resolution urgent, managerial intervention is not required irrespective of the capacity of the disputants. Similarly, regardless of the urgency and importance of conflict, if both the disputants are judged to be capable enough both in terms of abilities required to resolve conflict and motivation to do so, then intervention is not appropriate. Non-intervention not only helps disputants in enhancing their conflict-management and relationship-building skills but also saves precious time of the manager. However, when the conflict tends to reach a point of impasse, making resolution increasingly difficult, the manager following a strategy of non-intervention must keep a tab on the situation and intervene later lest the conflict spirals out of control.
•Step 2 – If so, what type of intervention is most appropriate? The key variables that influence decision in this step are urgency and importance of the impact of conflict, disputants’ capability to resolve conflicts and nature of conflict. On the basis of nature of conflict, there are two sets of issues that must be dealt with – content issues and emotional issues. Content issues include such substantive concerns as incompatible goals and priorities, differences about appropriate means to achieve ends, and the sharing of scarce resources. Emotional issues involve feelings such as anger, frustration, or hurt that often arises from normative expectations and judgments about the other person's behaviour. The two types of issues require different kinds of interventions by the manager. Based on the urgency and importance of conflict, the manager must decide about adopting final outcome-controlled or process of conflict resolution controlled approach. For example, if the disputants are judged to have high abilities to resolve conflicts but less motivation to resolve it, the manager may exercise high process-controlled (HPC) and low final outcome-controlled approach (LOC) when conflict is important but not urgent. The classification of various third-party intervention approaches for managers are presented in the following table:
Table A: Classification of Third-party intervention approaches for managers Third-party intervention approachesDegree of control exercised over final outcomeDegree of control exercised over processDegree of emphasis on content issuesDegree of emphasis on emotional issues Non-interventionNoneNoneNoneNone