Conflict Management

Article Author:
Vickie Ellis
Article Editor:
Tammy Toney-Butler
Updated:
6/27/2018 9:52:27 AM
PubMed Link:
Conflict Management

Introduction

Conflict is the disagreement or difference of opinions between 2 or more individuals. In the workplace setting, it often involves personal agendas, insights, or goals versus the agendas, insights, or goals of the group or team. Conflict management is to resolve the disagreement or conflict with positive outcomes, which satisfy all involved or is beneficial to the group. Often the perception of conflict is negative.

Conflict can, in fact, be positive if it is managed productively. Conflict can promote team building skills, critical thinking, new ideas, and alternative resolutions. Conflict management is a crucial competency that leaders must possess, for the success of the team, group, unit, or employees they lead.

Function

Providing conflict management skills could help raise the emotional intelligence of future managers. Excellent communication skills allow the manager to resolve interpersonal situations and conflict. Mentoring of new leaders is vital in bridging generational gaps and shaping the culture of the organization. Mentoring can assist a new leader in navigating the murky waters of an organizational hierarchy and developing their style of leadership that fits well within the charted course.

Leadership style has a role to play in conflict resolution and overall team dynamic. 

Leadership Styles

Servant Leader

A servant-leader is where a person aspires to lead by servitude and ensures the needs of others are a priority. Servant-leaders focus on the needs and growth of others, putting their well-being first, rather than their self-interests. This leadership style reflects a sharing of power, enabling others to perform at a higher level for personal growth. 

Transformational Leader

Transformational-leaders assist an individual in the process of transformation where their own beliefs and values support or align with the organizational values. A transformational-leader fosters an environment of trust, relationship building to meet common goals, and sharing of innovative ideas or long-term vision for the organization.

Transformative leaders can develop a trusting, relationship with their followers or team members, thus influencing their actions. The effect is a trickle-down outcome of conflict resolution in an environment built on mutual trust and the ability to mold an individual's response to a conflict or stressor for the greater good of the organization and population served. An ability to manage conflict effectively is a quality of a transformative leader.

Laissez-Faire Leader

Laissez-Faire leaders leave the decision making to their followers or team members, lacking real authority within their organization, but responsible for group decisions and actions. The leader trusts the individual members of the team to problem solve, create new projects, make and meet goals, and self-monitor. This leadership style requires no real feedback, oversight, direct leadership, discipline or praise. Thus, productivity may be low amongst some members of the group and lead to a source of conflict.

Authoritarian Leader

Authoritarian leaders lead by dictating and controlling the actions and decision-making capacity of the group. This leadership style reflects choices made based on their ideas, judgments and personal beliefs, not those of their employees. Authoritarian leaders lead by enforcement and welcome little input from their team members or followers. 

Expecting a job to be done, focused on tasks rather than individuals performing those tasks, and inability to accept input and give positive feedback yields an environment lacking in trust. Team members are not trusted, nor empowered to resolve conflicts on their own. Thus, the team dynamic may suffer long-term. Turn over in staff directly related to the inability to manage disputes and promote an environment that enriches positive growth and resolves conflicts.

Transactional Leader

A transactional leader primarily focused on workflow. This leadership style may focus on incentives for "getting the job done" in a timely, efficient manner. Rewards for completing work on time or ahead of schedule, or penalties (disciplinary action) if the job delayed are components of this leadership style. These leaders may fail to look forward at where the future of the organization is heading, focused only on the here and now.

Visionary Leader

A visionary leader has a vision or long-term goal. These leaders possess insight, imagination, and passion related to an innovative goal or idea. They are always looking out for the best interest of the team, promoting sharing of ideas, creative goals, and a sense of empowerment to go beyond what is expected to create something unexpected.

A visionary leader fosters a healthy relationship with their team. Promoting entrepreneurial ideas and visions for the future, thus fostering a strong team dynamic capable of managing conflicts through open communication in a positive, nonadversarial manner. 

Conflict management styles take many forms and can reflect a particular style of leadership.

Issues of Concern

Conflict Management Styles

Avoidance

In this style of conflict management, some or all people involved in the conflict simply avoid the situation or ignore its existence. For the individuals involved, this is a losing situation. The conflict is unresolved. It continues to fester and build, creating more conflict.

Accommodative

In this style of conflict management, one party wins and one party loses. One opinion is accepted, and the other opinion is lost. The resolution will benefit one instead of all involved. For the person who manages the conflict, this becomes a sore spot and causes resentment. Although it may resolve the conflict, it does not satisfy all involved.

Competitive

In this style of conflict management, one party will win, and one party will lose. It will resolve the situation, but will not promote a unified or team approach to solving problems.

Compromise

In this style of conflict management, neither party will be fully satisfied. The result will harbor resentment between those involved. In the resolution, each party sacrifices a portion of his or her solution. A significant part of the resolution can be left out, and the best outcome may not prevail.

Collaborative

In this style of conflict management, all parties involved are brought together for a resolution. Active listening, respectful communication, and an open mind are incorporated into the solution process for the best outcome. All parties involved have a say, and all parties involved reach a solution. This solution is accepted as the best outcome for all involved.

Steps To Conflict Management

  • Before communication begins, set rules of respectful communication.
  • Ask all involved to set aside preconceived opinions about each other.
  • Ask all parties to engage in active listening without interruption.
  • Ask all parties to write down the problem. Then restate the problem out loud. This provides understanding and agreement about the problem causing the conflict.
  • Ask each party to come up with a solution. 
  • Discuss each solution and the positive and negative of each.

Clinical Significance

Resolution of conflicting views is of paramount importance in assuring that patients receive the best care possible. As such, it is important for healthcare providers to work together to achieve conflict resolution.