When a person is opposed by another because his needs and goals are different, he faces conflict. Feelings of anger, frustration, hurt, anxiety or fear almost always accompany conflict. Conflict management identifies and handles the conflict using effective communicating, problem-solving and understanding each person’s interest to negotiate fairly.
Purpose of Conflict Management
Conflict management is a systematic process to find a satisfying outcome between conflicted parties. With conflict management, a team, group and organization function more effectively and achieve goals. Without it, group performance is affected. Conflict management is less about identifying a problem than it is about establishing an ongoing process with leaders dedicated to creating open communication channels, developing productive work relationships, encouraging participation, improving organizational processes and procedures and helping individuals develop "win-win" outcomes.
Situations Requiring Conflict Management
The workplace can create a situation between co-workers, or between an employer and an employee as a result of poor communication. For example, an employee may not be informed of a decision or does not understand the reasons for a decision. She may be conflicted because of a rumor. Perhaps, she has misunderstood the role that management has assigned to her. If management shows the employee a lack of support, the situation can grow requiring the need for conflict management.
Process of Conflict Management
The process of conflict management involves understanding the nature of the conflict, who is involved and initiating resolution. In the case of conflict between an employer and employee, the employer initiates conflict management by arranging a time to meet with the employee and a human resources consultant or facilitator. All parties should understand that the purpose of managing the conflict is to find a solution. Action points, if required, should be completed within a certain time. Once the situation has been resolved, the cause should be discussed with measures to stop the situation from reoccurring.
Evolution of Conflict Management
Prior to the 1940s, conflict was considered counterproductive to organizational goals. The conflict management style was conflict avoidance leaving the conflicted party to feel slighted. Since the mid-1970s, experts believe that a conflict-free, cooperative organization tends to become stagnant and unresponsive to market change. As a result, a new position on conflict management emerged as an interactive approach encouraging conflict to enhance performance in the workplace through conflict management. (See Reference 4)