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Conflict Resolution: Managing Conflict in Organizations

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  • 1:38 Avoidance
  • 2:36 Accommodation
  • 3:46 Competition
  • 4:30 Compromise
  • 5:32 Collaboration
  • 6:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

Conflict can be solved in many ways. This lesson provides an overview of the different types of conflict resolution strategies, including avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration.

The Conflict

Rub-A-Dub Soap Company is getting ready to launch their new organic product line of soaps: O-Natural. The marketing department has been tasked with developing a promotional campaign that will advertise the new product line and promote sales of the O-Natural products. The director of marketing has assigned two of his best marketing representatives to work on this project: Eddie and Chase.

Unfortunately, Eddie and Chase do not agree on the best way to promote the new product line. Eddie believes that a direct mail campaign to existing Rub-A-Dub customers would be the best way to reach the target audience. Chase thinks that Eddie's idea will limit them from reaching new clients as well as old ones and rather than doing a direct mail campaign, they should create a dynamic infomercial to show the world what O-Natural can really do. Eddie thinks that an infomercial is a waste of money and worries about the logistics of putting it together.

The more they debate on the issue, the more they disagree. Eddie and Chase decide to present both ideas to the director but are told that they need to make the decision themselves. How will Eddie and Chase resolve their disagreement on how to best promote the new product line? Luckily for Eddie and Chase, there are several different ways to manage conflict, including avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration. To better understand each of these styles, we can apply them to our conflict situation between Eddie and Chase.

Avoidance

A common way of dealing with conflict, especially for those who do not like it, is to avoid it. If the parties in our conflict scenario choose the avoidance conflict management style, they will simply attempt to ignore the disagreement. Perhaps Chase does not like the hassle of dealing with the challenge and difficulty of negotiation. Eddie might be unassertive and afraid to hurt Chase's feelings by not accepting his idea as the best one. Unfortunately for Eddie and Chase, they must make a decision on which idea to use for the promotional campaign, making the avoidance conflict management style ineffective in this scenario.

Avoiding conflict can signal to the other party that you simply do not care enough about them to work through the issue. It can also allow for emotions to fester, making conflict worse. Of course, there are times where people need to cool off and take some time to think about the issue more, making it advantageous to temporarily use an avoidance conflict management style.

Accommodation

Another option for solving this conflict would be for Chase and Eddie to use an accommodation conflict management style, whereby one party tries to end the conflict by giving in to the wishes of others. Eddie could decide to accommodate Chase because he has little interest in which promotional campaign they eventually implement. Perhaps Eddie is new to the marketing department and does not want to appear like he is not a team player in Chase's eyes.

Those with a high need for approval tend to accommodate more. Beyond seeking approval, it also says to the other party that you are a reasonable person and willing to bend on your position. Perhaps you realize that you are wrong, and rather than clinging on stubbornly to your position, you show humility and admit your faults.

Accommodation also has its disadvantages. Giving in too early can lead to bad decision making because the issues go, for the most part, unexamined. Many conflicts require time to discuss several possible solutions before choosing which one best solves the issue - accommodating is often done with little to no discussion of all potential solutions.

Competition

One conflict management style that can be especially damaging is competition, which occurs when the objective is to win and to make the other lose, no matter the expense. If Eddie or Chase has little concern for the other party, they may compete. Competition is mostly about power or the ability to influence the other party to accept their point of view as the best position.

While both parties in this scenario are looking to see their idea implemented, only one of them can walk away satisfied if a competition style is used. Competition can create a hostile and defensive environment, making it difficult to reach an agreement. This could also negatively affect Eddie and Chase's working relationship going forward.

Compromise

Because Eddie and Chase both care about the end result of this conflict, a compromise may be needed. A compromise conflict management style attempts to resolve a conflict by finding a middle ground. The compromise is considered a lose-lose strategy because, for each party to get something they want, they have to sacrifice something that they would prefer not to give up. Compromise is about a give-and-take where you win and lose simultaneously.

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