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Conflict Resolution and Conflict Management

  • Conflict always arises in the real-world — it's unavoidable.
  • It is how we handle the conflicts that makes the difference.
  • A healthy work environment is one that can resolve conflicts peacefully by finding a win-win solution.
  • An unhealthy work environment is one that sees conflicts as evil that needs to be punished.

  • Our research shows that employee job satisfaction depends very much on how the organization handles conflicts with the co-workers in the work environment.
  • One of the most common reasons employees cited for leaving a job is unresolved conflicts in the work environment — resulting in employee turnover, dissatisfaction and low productivity.

Why Do Conflicts Arise in the First Place?

  • Conflicts are natural consequences of human interactions.
  • Conflicts arise when there are competing interests that compete for a mutually-exclusive solution.

  • For example, if someone wants to “have the cake and eat it too”, it creates a conflict because the solution is mutually exclusive —
  •    if you have the cake, you can't eat it.
  •    if you eat the cake, you can't have it.

  • Conflicts could arise similarly when human interacts with each other:
  • For instance, when the “wants” of a person and the “needs” of another person are in competition, then it creates a conflict.

  • Therefore, conflicts arise constantly as long as humans are interacting with each other because there are always competing interests among people.

Is Avoiding Conflicts the Best Solution?

  • Avoiding conflict is not necessarily a smart solution because that may imply giving up a person's “wants and needs” to settle for something less.
  • This often leads to resentment somewhere down the line.
  • The best way to deal with conflict is to address the conflicting interest, and resolve it that way instead of avoiding it.
  • In other words, avoiding conflicts is a passive solution — when the resentment builds up, it will lead to “passive aggressiveness”, which basically can eat people up alive!

How to Resolve Conflicts Peacefully?

  • Peaceful resolution of conflicts requires forethoughts and compassion.
  • It requires the willingness to find an alternate solution that could lead to a win-win situation.

  • The reason why conflicts exist in the first place is that the solutions are mutually exclusive.
  • If you can find an alternate inclusive solution (rather than an exclusive solution), then you will resolve the conflict peacefully.

  • Our research shows that “fighting it out” not only would not resolve a conflict but also escalate the conflict into a crisis because it exacerbates the competing interests even further.

How can a Human Resource Department Manage Employee Conflicts More Effectively?

  • Conflict management requires skills and compassion.
  • Having the forethought is a good start in preventive medicine.
  • But when conflicts already occurred, then conflict intervention could be used to de-escalate the crisis.

  • Effective conflict management in the workplace requires the skills and know-how of teamwork and team-building.
  • Conflicts could be effectively resolved if the parties are able to see the bigger vision of the team (whole) rather than being short-sighted by the competing parts.

  • When the parts are operating cooperatively, it will benefit the whole — the win-win solution.
  • When the parts are operating against each other, it will destroy the whole — the lose-lose solution.

Conflict Resolution is Like Playing in a Cooperative Game

  • Our research shows that conflicts can be understood in terms of “Game Theory”.
  • There are many kinds of games: cooperative game and competitive game.

  • A “cooperative game” is a game where the game-players work together to win — the objective is to reach a common end-goal by assisting each other.
  • A “competitive game” is a game where the game-players work against each other to win — the objective is to destroy the other.

  • For cooperative games, if the game-players destroy the others, it will make it harder to reach the end-goal, so players work cooperatively to win — there is no incentive to destroy the others.
  • Therefore, conflicts usually don't arise because there are no competing interests, and if they exist, they can resolved easily.
  • In contrast, for competitive games, the incentive is to destroy the others to win — which always leads to conflicts because of the competing interests.

  • Peaceful conflict resolution can be understood by applying the winning strategy in cooperative games based on game theory — which always lead to a win-win situation.
  • Deletive conflict resolution is likened to the winning strategy in competitive games — which always lead to a win-lose or lose-lose situation.

How Does Emotional Intelligence Affect Conflict Resolution?

  • Our research shows that most conflicts are exacerbated by the unresolved emotional bitterness.
  • Even if the competing interests are resolved, if the emotional sourness is not resolved, conflicts still remain.

  • Effective conflict management that leads to peaceful resolution requires emotional intelligence.
  • The ability to recognize, manage and channel appropriate emotions in resolving conflicts is crucial.
  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to effective manage one's emotions in a productive way that allows for effective communication and understanding of the situation at issue.

How Can We Help You Manage Conflicts More Effectively?

  • We offer “Conflict Management Seminars and Workshps” to our corporate clients.
  • The Conflict Management Program consists of multiple parts:
  •    (1) Understanding the essense of teamwork in conflict resolution.
  •    (2) Understanding the cooperative game theory in conflict resolution.
  •    (3) Understanding the emotional intelligence in conflict resolution.
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