Conflict management is the process of limiting the negative aspects of
conflict while increasing the positive aspects of conflict. The aim of
conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes,
including effectiveness or performance in an organizational
setting. Properly managed conflict can improve group outcomes.
1 Conflict resolution
2 Orientations to conflict
2.1 Early conflict management models
2.2 Khun and Poole's model
2.3 DeChurch and Marks's meta-taxonomy
2.4 Rahim's meta-model
3 International conflict management
4.1 Higher education
5 See also
7 External links
Conflict resolution involves the reduction, elimination, or
termination of all forms and types of conflict. Five styles for
conflict management, as identified by Thomas and Kilmann, are:
competing, compromising, collaborating, avoiding, and
Businesses can benefit from appropriate types and levels of conflict.
That is the aim of conflict management, and not the aim of conflict
Conflict management does not imply
Conflict management minimizes the negative outcomes of conflict and
promotes the positive outcomes of conflict with the goal of improving
learning in an organization.
Properly managed conflict increases organizational learning by
increasing the number of questions asked and encourages people to
challenge the status quo.
Organizational conflict at the interpersonal level includes disputes
between peers as well as supervisor-subordinate conflict.
Party-directed mediation (PDM) is a mediation approach particularly
suited for disputes between co-workers, colleagues or peers,
especially deep-seated interpersonal conflict, multicultural or
multiethnic disputes. The mediator listens to each party separately in
a pre-caucus or pre-mediation before ever bringing them into a joint
session. Part of the pre-caucus also includes coaching and role plays.
The idea is that the parties learn how to converse directly with their
adversary in the joint session. Some unique challenges arise when
organizational disputes involve supervisors and subordinates. The
Negotiated Performance Appraisal (NPA) is a tool for improving
communication between supervisors and subordinates and is particularly
useful as an alternate mediation model because it preserves the
hierarchical power of supervisors while encouraging dialogue and
dealing with differences in opinion.
Orientations to conflict
There are three orientations to conflict: lose-lose, win-lose, and
win-win. The lose-lose orientation is a type of conflict that tends to
end negatively for all parties involved. A win-lose orientation
results in one victorious party, usually at the expense of the other.
The win-win orientation is one of the most essential concepts to
conflict resolution. A win-win solution arrived at by integrative
bargaining may be close to optimal for both parties. This approach
engages in a cooperative approach rather than a competitive one.
Although the win-win concept is the ideal orientation, the notion that
there can only be one winner is constantly being reinforced in
"The win-lose orientation is manufactured in our society in athletic
competition, admission to academic programs, industrial promotion
systems, and so on. Individuals tend to generalize from their
objective win-lose situations and apply these experiences to
situations that are not objectively fixed-pies".
This kind of mentality can be destructive when communicating with
different cultural groups by creating barriers in negotiation,
resolution and compromise; it can also lead the "loser" to feel
mediocre. When the win-win orientation is absent in negotiation,
different responses to conflict may be observed.
Early conflict management models
Blake and Mouton (1964) were among the first to present a conceptual
scheme for classifying the modes (styles) for handling interpersonal
conflicts in five types: forcing, withdrawing, smoothing,
compromising, and problem solving.
In the 1970s and 1980s, researchers began using the intentions of the
parties involved to classify the styles of conflict management that
they included in their models. Both Thomas (1976) and Pruitt (1983)
put forth a model based on the concerns of the parties involved in the
conflict. The combination of the parties' concern for their own
interests (i.e. assertiveness) and their concern for the interests of
those across the table (i.e. cooperativeness) yielded a particular
conflict management style. Pruitt called these styles yielding (low
assertiveness/high cooperativeness), problem solving (high
assertiveness/high cooperativeness), inaction (low assertiveness/low
cooperativeness), and contending (high assertiveness/low
cooperativeness). Pruitt argues that problem-solving is the preferred
method when seeking mutually beneficial options (win-win).
Khun and Poole's model
Khun and Poole (2000) established a similar system of group conflict
management. In their system, they split Kozan's confrontational model
into two sub models: distributive and integrative.
Distributive – Here conflict is approached as a distribution of a
fixed amount of positive outcomes or resources, where one side will
end up winning and the other losing, even if they do win some
Integrative – Groups utilizing the integrative model see conflict as
a chance to integrate the needs and concerns of both groups and make
the best outcome possible. This model has a heavier emphasis on
compromise than the distributive model. Khun and Poole found that the
integrative model resulted in consistently better task related
outcomes than those using the distributive model.
DeChurch and Marks's meta-taxonomy
DeChurch and Marks (2001) examined the literature available on
conflict management at the time and Ni established what they claimed
was a "meta-taxonomy" that encompasses all other models.
They argued that all other styles have inherent in them into two
activeness ("the extent to which conflict behaviors make a responsive
and direct rather than inert and indirect impression"). High
activeness is characterized by openly discussing differences of
opinion while fully going after their own interest.
agreeableness ("the extent to which conflict behaviors make a pleasant
and relaxed rather than unpleasant and strainful impression"). High
agreeableness is characterized by attempting to satisfy all parties
In the study DeChurch and Marks conducted to validate this division,
activeness did not have a significant effect on the effectiveness of
conflict resolution, but the agreeableness of the conflict management
style, whatever it was, did have a positive impact on how groups felt
about the way the conflict was managed, regardless of the outcome.
Rahim (2012) noted that there is agreement among management scholars
that there is no one best approach to how to make decisions, lead or
In a similar vein, rather than creating a very specific model of
conflict management, Rahim created a meta-model (in much the same way
that DeChurch and Marks, 2001, created a meta-taxonomy) for conflict
styles based on two dimensions, concern for self and concern for
Within this framework are five management approaches: integrating,
obliging, dominating, avoiding, and compromising.
Integration involves openness, exchanging information, looking for
alternatives, and examining differences so solve the problem in a
manner that is acceptable to both parties.
Obliging is associated with attempting to minimize the differences and
highlight the commonalities to satisfy the concern of the other party.
Dominating in this style one party goes all out to win his or her
objective and, as a result, often ignores the needs and expectations
of the other party.
Avoiding here a party fails to satisfy his or her own concern as well
as the concern of the other party.
Compromising involves give-and-take whereby both parties give up
something to make a mutually acceptable decision.
International conflict management
Special consideration should be paid to conflict management between
two parties from distinct cultures. In addition to the everyday
sources of conflict, "misunderstandings, and from this
counterproductive, pseudo conflicts, arise when members of one culture
are unable to understand culturally determined differences in
communication practices, traditions, and thought processing".
Indeed, this has already been observed in the business research
Renner (2007) recounted several episodes where managers from developed
countries moved to less developed countries to resolve conflicts
within the company and met with little success due to their failure to
adapt to the conflict management styles of the local culture.
As an example, in Kozan's study noted above, he noted that Asian
cultures are far more likely to use a harmony model of conflict
management. If a party operating from a harmony model comes in
conflict with a party using a more confrontational model,
misunderstandings above and beyond those generated by the conflict
itself will arise.
International conflict management, and the cultural issues associated
with it, is one of the primary areas of research in the field at the
time, as existing research is insufficient to deal with the
ever-increasing contact occurring between international entities.
With only 14% of researched universities reporting mandatory courses
in this subject, and with up to 25% of the manager day being spent on
dealing with conflict, education needs to reconsider the importance of
this subject. The subject warrants emphasis on enabling students to
deal with conflict management.
"Providing more conflict management training in undergraduate business
programs could help raise the emotional intelligence of future
managers." The improvement of emotional intelligence found that
employees were more likely to use problem-solving skills, instead of
trying to bargain.
Students need to have a good set of social skills. Good communication
skills allow the manager to accomplish interpersonal situations and
conflict. Instead of focusing on conflict as a behavior issue, focus
on the communication of it.
With an understanding of the communications required, the student will
gain the aptitude needed to differentiate between the nature and types
of conflicts. These skills also teach that relational and procedural
conflict needs a high degree of immediacy to resolution. If these two
conflicts are not dealt with quickly, an employee will become
dissatisfied or perform poorly.
It is also the responsibility of companies to react. One option is to
identify the skills needed in-house, but if the skills for creating
workplace fairness are already lacking, it may be best to seek
assistance from an outside organization, such as a developmental
According to Rupp, Baldwin, and Bashur, these organizations "have
become a popular means for providing coaching, feedback, and
experiential learning opportunities". Their main focus is fairness
and how it impacts employees' attitudes and performance.
These organizations teach competencies and what they mean. The
students then participate in simulations. Multiple observers assess
and record what skills are being used and then return this feedback to
the participant. After this assessment, participants are then given
another set of simulations to utilize the skills learned. Once again
they receive additional feedback from observers, in hopes that the
learning can be used in their workplace.
The feedback the participant receives is detailed, behaviorally
specific, and high quality. This is needed for the participant to
learn how to change their behavior. In this regard, it is also
important that the participant take time to self-reflect so that
learning may occur.
Once an assessment program is utilized, action plans may be developed
based on quantitative and qualitative data.
When personal conflict leads to frustration and loss of efficiency,
counseling may prove to be a helpful antidote. Although few
organizations can afford the luxury of having professional counselors
on the staff, given some training, managers may be able to perform
this function. Nondirective counseling, or "listening with
understanding", is little more than being a good listener —
something every manager should be.
Sometimes the simple process of being able to vent one's
feelings—that is, to express them to a concerned and understanding
listener–is enough to relieve frustration and make it possible for
the frustrated individual to advance to a problem-solving frame of
mind, better able to cope with a personal difficulty that is affecting
his work adversely. The nondirective approach is one effective way for
managers to deal with frustrated subordinates and co-workers.
There are other more direct and more diagnostic ways that might be
used in appropriate circumstances. The great strength of the
nondirective approach (nondirective counseling is based on the
client-centered therapy of Carl Rogers), however, lies in its
simplicity, its effectiveness, and the fact that it deliberately
avoids the manager-counselor's diagnosing and interpreting emotional
problems, which would call for special psychological training. No one
has ever been harmed by being listened to sympathetically and
understandingly. On the contrary, this approach has helped many people
to cope with problems that were interfering with their effectiveness
on the job.
Alternative dispute resolution
Alper, S.; Tjosvold, D.; Law, K. S. (2000). "Conflict management,
efficacy, and performance in organizational teams". Personnel
Psychology. 53: 625–642.
Amason, A. C. (1996). "Distinguishing the effects of functional and
dysfunctional conflict on strategic decision making: Resolving a
paradox for top management teams". Academy of
Management Journal. 39:
Baron, R. A. (1997). Positive effects of conflict: Insights from
social cognition. In C. K. W. DeDreu & E. Van de Vliert (Eds.),
Using conflict in organizations (pp. 177–191). London: Sage.
Batcheldor, M. (2000) The Elusive Intangible Intelligence: Conflict
Management and Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace. The Western
Scholar, Fall, 7-9
Behfar, K. J.; Peterson, R. S.; Mannis, E. A.; Trochim, W. M. K.
(2008). "The critical role of conflict resolution in teams: A close
look at the links between conflict type, conflict management
strategies, and team outcomes". Journal of Applied Psychology. 93:
170–188. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.93.1.170. PMID 18211143.
Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. S. (1964). The managerial grid.
Houston, TX: Gulf.
Bodtker, A. M.; Jameson, J. K. (2001). "Emotion in conflict formation
and its transformation: Application to organizational conflict
management". The International Journal of Conflict Management. 3:
Borisoff, D., & Victor, D. A. (1989). Conflict management: A
communication skills approach. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
De Dreu, C. K. W.; Weingart, L. R. (2003). "Task versus relationship
conflict, team performance, and team member satisfaction: A
meta-analysis". Journal of Applied Psychology. 88: 741–749.
doi:10.1037/0021-9010.88.4.741. PMID 12940412.
DeChurch, L. A; Marks, M. A. (2001). "Maximizing the benefits of task
conflict: The role of conflict management". The International Journal
of Conflict Management. 12: 4–22. doi:10.1108/eb022847.
Follett, M. P. (1940). Constructive conflict. In H. C. Metcalf &
L. Urwick (Eds.), Dynamic administration: The collected papers of Mary
Parker Follett (pp. 30–49). New York: Harper & Row.
(originally published 1926).
Guetzkow, H.; Gyr, J. (1954). "An analysis of conflict in
decision-making groups". Hitman Relations. 7: 367–381.
Jehn, K. A. (1995). "A multimethod examination of the benefits and
determinants of intragroup conflict". Administrative Science
Quarterly. 40: 256–282. doi:10.2307/2393638.
Jehn, K. A. (1997). "A qualitative analysis of conflict types and
dimensions of organizational groups". Administrative Science
Quarterly. 42: 530–557. doi:10.2307/2393737.
Jehn, K. A.; Northcraft, G. B.; Neale, M. A. (1999). "Why differences
make a difference: A field study of diversity, conflict, and
performance in workgroups". Administrative Science Quarterly. 44:
Kozan, M. K. (1997). "Culture and conflict management: A theoretical
framework". The International Journal of Conflict Management. 8:
Kuhn, T.; Poole, M. S. (2000). "Do conflict management styles affect
group decision making?". Human Communication Research. 26: 558–590.
Luthans, F.; Rubach, M. J.; Marsnik, P. (1995). "Going beyond total
quality: The characteristics, techniques, and measures of learning
organizations". International Journal of Organizational Analysis. 3:
Pinkley, R. L. (1990). "Dimensions of conflict frame: Disputant
interpretations of conflict". Journal of Applied Psychology. 75:
Pruitt, D. G. (1983). "Strategic choice in negotiation". American
Behavioral Scientist. 27: 167–194.
Rahim, M. A. (1992). Managing conflict in organizations (2nd ed.).
Westport, CT: Praeger.
Rahim, M. A. (2002). "Toward a theory of managing organizational
conflict". The International Journal of Conflict Management. 13:
Rahim, M. A.; Bonoma, T. V. (1979). "Managing organizational conflict:
A model for diagnosis and intervention". Psychological Reports. 44:
Renner, J (2007). "Coaching abroad: Insights about assets". Consulting
Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. 59: 271–285.
Ruble, T. L.; Thomas, K. W. (1976). "Support for a two-dimensional
model for conflict behavior". Organizational Behavior and Human
Performance. 16: 143–155. doi:10.1016/0030-5073(76)90010-6.
Thomas, K. W. (1976). Conflict and conflict management. In M. D.
Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook in industrial and organizational psychology
(pp. 889–935). Chicago: Rand McNally.
Van; de Vliert, E.; Kabanoff, B. (1990). "Toward theory-based measures
of conflict management". Academy of
Management Journal. 33: 199–209.
Wall, J. A. Jr.; Callister, R. R. (1995). "Conflict and its
management". Journal of Management. 21: 515–558.
Wall, V. D. Jr.; Nolan, L. L. (1986). "Perceptions of inequity,
satisfaction, and conflict in task in task-oriented groups". Human
Relations. 39: 1033–1052. doi:10.1177/001872678603901106.
Fisher, N (2010). "A better way to manage conflict". Political
Quarterly. 81 (3): 428–430.
Huo, Y. J.; Molina, L. E.; Sawahata, R.; Deang, J. M. (2005).
"Leadership and the management of conflicts in diverse groups: Why
acknowledging versus neglecting subgroup identity matters". European
Journal of Social Psychology. 35 (2): 237–254.
Ishak, A. W., & Ballard, D. I. (2012). Time to re-group: A
typology and nested phase model for action teams. Small Group
Research, 43(1), 3-29. oi:10.1177/1046496411425250
Lang, M (2009). "Conflict management: A gap in business education
curricula". Journal of Education for Business. 84 (4): 240–245.
Maccoby, M.; Scudder, T. (2011). "Leading in the heat of conflict".
T+D. 65 (12): 46–51.
Myers, L. L.; Larson, R. (2005). "Preparing students for early work
Business Communication Quarterly. 68 (3): 306–317.
Rahim, M.; Antonioni, D.; Psenicka, C. (2001). "A structureal
equations model of leader power, subordinates' styles of handling
conflict, and job performance". International Journal of Conflict
Management. 12 (3): 191–211. doi:10.1108/eb022855.
Rupp, D. E.; Baldwin, A.; Bashshur, M. (2006). "Using developmental
assessment centers to foster workplace fairness". Psychologist-Manager
Journal. 9 (2): 145–170. doi:10.1207/s15503461tpmj0902_6.
Schaller-Demers, D (2008). "Conflict: A Catalyst for Institutional
Change". Journal of Research Administration. 39 (2): 81–90.
Taylor, M (2010). "Does locus of control predict young adult conflict
strategies with superiors? An examination of control orientation and
the organizational communication conflict instrument". North American
Journal of Psychology. 12 (3): 445–458.
Wilson, J (2004). "Make conflict management successful—if not
Accounting Today. 18 (19): 22–27.
Zemke, R (1985). "The honeywell studies: How managers learn to
manage". Training. 22 (8): 46–51.
^ a b Rahim, 2002, p. 208
^ Alpert, Tjosvaldo, & Law, 2000; Bodtker & Jameson, 2001;
Rahim & Bonoma, 1979; Kuhn & Poole, 2000; DeChurch &
^ Technical Brief for the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode, CPP Research
^ Altaf, Muddaser. "Conflict management". http://muddaser.com/.
External link in website= (help)
^ Luthans, Rubach, & Marsnik, 1995
^ Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue Between Individuals
(on-line 3rd Edition, 2014) by Gregorio Billikopf, University of
^ Davidson and Wood 2
^ Spangle and Isenhart 14
^ Rahim, 2002
^ Borisoff & Victor, 1989
^ Lang, p. 240
^ Lang, p. 241
^ Myers & Larson, 2005, p. 307
^ Myers & Larson, p. 313
^ Rupp, Baldwin & Bashshur, 2006, p. 145
^ a b Rupp et al., p. 146
^ Rupp et al., p. 159
^ Henry P Knowles; Börje O Saxberg (1971). Personality and leadership
behavior. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. Chapter 8.
^ a b Richard Arvid Johnson (1976). Management, systems, and
society : an introduction. Pacific Palisades, Calif.: Goodyear
Pub. Co. pp. 148–142. ISBN 978-0-87620-540-2.
Management Articles - a collection of conflict management
Search For Common Ground - one of the world's largest non-government
organisations dedicated to conflict resolution
CUNY Dispute Resolution Consortium
The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue Between Individuals by
Gregorio Billikopf, free complete book PDF download, at the University
of California (3rd Edition, posted 24 March 2014)
Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue Between Individuals by
Gregorio Billikopf, free complete book download, from Internet Archive
(3rd Edition, multiple file formats including PDF, EPUB, and others)
Management & Resolution, in: Berghof Glossary
on Conflict Transformation, 2012. edited by Berghof Foundation,
Management Processes - effective conflict res