Five Levels of Organizational Conflict

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Organizational conflict is a term referring to conflict within a company or organization. It can be a negative aspect of business, but is also functional at times. Dysfunctional conflict leads to a decrease in productivity, while functional conflict encourages productivity and performance. If conflict is managed appropriately, it can be a positive force. There are two main resources used for dealing with organizational conflict: the Thomas Kilmann theory, and Borisoff and Victor's theory.

Thomas Kilmann Modes

Thomas Kilmann developed a five-mode system of dealing with organizational conflict. It consists of avoiding conflict; competing conflict; accommodating conflict; compromising conflict; and collaborating conflict. Kilmann’s theory explains the most common methods people use when dealing with conflict. If conflict is dealt with properly, it can benefit an organization. Employees must be willing to work together and must accept different types of personalities in order for organizational conflict to be beneficial.

Kilmann Modes Explained

Avoiding conflict is the first level of organizational conflict as defined by Kilmann. This mode states that a person avoids conflict altogether, never resolving problems within the organization. Competing conflict is a mode also known as the win-lose approach. People on this level use other people to accomplish their own goals. They are highly assertive and are not very cooperative. People with an accommodating conflict style focus on other people. To the person on this level, other people’s goals are more important than his own goals. The compromising conflict style is assertive and more cooperative. People looking to find the right solution often are on this level. They have a good balance of their own needs and the needs of others. The collaborating conflict mode is often labeled the win-win situation. This style works with others to find the best and most creative solution to problems.

Borisoff and Victor Levels

Deborah Borisoff and David Victor collaborated to develop five steps of conflict management, which they called the “five A’s.” These are assessment; acknowledgement; attitude; action; and analysis. These five steps are designed to manage conflict within an organization.

Borisoff and Victor’s Method Explained

Assessment is the first step in the “five A's” method. This step involves parties collecting information about a problem they are experiencing. They determine which conflict-handling mode will be used for the problem at hand. The next step is acknowledgement. During this step, all parties involved listen one another, trying to understand the situation from all sides. This does not mean all parties must agree; however, they must be willing to try to understand each other. Attitude comes next. In this step, the parties involved realize that there are natural differences between people based on culture, intelligence levels, gender and other factors. The fourth step is action. This is where the parties begin to find a way to correct the problem by discussing the options. The last step is analysis, in which the parties agree on the solution they choose. All information is summarized and a solution is decided.