Managing and Resolving Conflicts

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MANAGING AND RESOLVING CONFLICTS

Introduction

Many atimes when the term conflict is used, the association made is with physical violence. Though, news media and other sources often use conflict and physical violence interchangeably. The concept of conflict is far more expansive. In many cases, conflict in the workplace just seems to be a fact of life. We’ve all seen situations where different people with different goals and needs have come into conflict. The fact that conflict exists is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as it is resolved effectively, it can lead to personal and professional growth.

In many cases, effective conflict resolution skills can make the difference between positive and negative outcomes. The good news is that by resolving conflict successfully, you can solve many of the problems brought to the surface as well as getting benefits that you might not at first expect.

Definition:

The pursuit of incompatible goals by different groups. This includes conflict at personal levels as well as at the communal and broader systematic levels. Interests at a societal level and at a global level will not always be compatible. e.g. the Local Transport Authority wants to widen an existing road that runs through a residential neighborhood to provide an alternative route for those who commute everyday on a congested highway. The neighbors on the other hand, do not want the added traffic, noise and pollution coming through their neighborhood. Each party has goals and interests that are mutually exclusive. The Authority and the neighbors are in conflict. Conflict can be a sign of deeper issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps, the deeper issue could be the lack of enough communication between the community and the government officials. If it is well handled, there won’t be any problem. However, if they are not addressed in a fair, transparent way, then conflict can be harmful. Conflicts can employ violent methodologies and those that are detrimental to the health and general well-being of societies.

In most conflicts, the parties involved have a variety of means at their disposal to respond to or resolve their differences. The procedures available to them vary considerably in the way the conflicts is addressed and settled and often result in different outcomes, both tangible and intangible.

Conflict Theory

The study of conflict was not a formalized field until after World War II, but it pulled on the theories of early philosophers. There are two major Schools of thought on Conflict theories: the first holds that conflict is rational, subject to no rules and can be socially functional. As Nietzsche said: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The second holds that conflict is irrational, pathological and socially dysfunctional or as Isaac Asmiov said Violence is the last resort of the incompetent. We can from these deduce two approaches:

Micro-Conflict Theory Approach
Macro-Conflict Theory Approach

These approaches are not only conflict resolution methodology, but also peace building methodology.

Micro Conflict – Behaviorism, social identity theory etc. These see conflict as an intrinsic part of human nature and behaviour.

Macro-conflict – Class hierarchies, Power Imbalance or Inequalities can lead to latent tension if not outright physical violence.

Human Needs Theory

This is an off-shoot of frustration – Aggression Theory (Berkowitz’s Model) - Aggression is borne out of the inability of a party to achieve a set goal. Human Needs Theory goes a step further to say that humans have a right to satisfy their basic needs for security, identity and recognition. Every society should have structures that value and provide those fundamental human needs. Conflict arises when those needs cannot and are not being met.

Violent conflicts often delve into identity-type issues in three key areas – Economic deprivation, discrimination and Denial of...
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