What is the Conflict Process? - Definition and Stages

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  • 0:57 Potential Opposition
  • 2:00 Cognition and Personalization
  • 2:41 Intentions
  • 3:37 Behavior
  • 4:39 Outcomes
  • 5:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
The conflict process deals with five steps that help alleviate disagreement, problems or fighting within organizations. The five steps are potential opposition or incompatibility, cognition and personalization, intentions, behavior and outcomes.

Conflict Process

Violet Jones has been the manager of Intestinal Distress Taco for two years. Violet has dealt with many different employee issues, but lately there has been a problem that is really causing her concern. One of her most veteran employees is sabotaging sales. Eric brings constant negativity to the job and has actually made customers leave the restaurant.

Violet has a big conflict on her hands and will have to decide how and when she will move through a conflict process to solve the problem with Eric. A conflict process deals with five steps that help alleviate friction, disagreement, problems or fighting. The five steps are:

  • potential opposition or incompatibility
  • cognition and personalization
  • intentions
  • behavior
  • outcomes

Let's take a look at Violet's situation with Eric to see how she utilizes the conflict process to solve her organizational issue.

Potential Opposition

The first stage of the conflict process is called potential opposition or incompatibility. In this stage, there are potential areas of conflict that could develop, and they consist of communication, structure and personal variables. For Violet, all three areas of incompatibility exist, so it's not surprising that she has multiple issues with Eric.

Eric does not listen very well and always misinterprets what Violet says during her daily meetings. For example, she might say that employees have to be friendlier to customers, but Eric takes that to mean that it is okay for him to talk to them about problems with the store and his personal life. The structure of the store is also a cause of conflict because Violet has over 25 employees to manage weekly. She does not have the time to follow Eric around and ensure that he does not upset customers. In addition, Eric's personal variables lean towards conflict. He enjoys drama and is always ready to complain or fight with Violet over hours, tasks or customer service. The next step deals with the recognition of the fact that there is a conflict.

Cognition and Personalization

When one of the factors mentioned in the potential opposition stage actually materializes as a conflict, then stage two occurs based on cognition and personalization. During this stage, the perception of conflict arises between the parties. For example, Violet realized that Eric's numerous issues have caused a drop in sales of 15%. She is cognizant of the fact that Eric is the one responsible and that she needs to fix this issue. In order for personalization to occur, the parties must feel that there is conflict via stress, anger or frustration, resulting in emotional involvement. Once conflict arises, individuals must make a decision on how to handle the problem.


The third stage is regarding intentions, or decisions to take action in a certain way. Violet does have a multitude of choices in how she can handle the conflict.

Violet can use competing, collaborating, avoiding, accommodating or compromising to solve the conflict with Eric. If she decides to be competitive, she only cares about winning and is not open to any compromise. She could involve Eric in trying to see if they can mutually come to a resolution using a collaborative or compromising style. She cannot take an avoidance stance and wish that the conflict would just disappear; she has lost too much money and continues to do so on a weekly basis. Lastly, Violet will not just give in and be accommodating to Eric.

She feels that she will try to compromise and collaborate with him in a Friday meeting offsite. She wants to know why he is being so negative and hurting business when he used to be a good worker. The meeting starts off very confrontational.

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