Resolving conflict – OPEN

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Topic 10.7: Resolving conflict

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As important as it is to be heard, people want conflict resolved (usually in their favour); therefore, you will need to make a decision.

Yet not all conflict can be resolved in a single session, so an interim action might be to consult with others to gather more information before meeting again at a scheduled time.

Similarly, not all conflict can be resolved by you, so your decision may be to escalate the matter to a higher authority or professional mediation.

No matter what, though, you need to show progress at every stage, and a number of factors may determine how you respond, including:

The relative importance and intensity of the conflict

The time pressure for resolving the conflict

The position taken by players involved

The availability of resources

The motivation of parties to resolve conflict, on a long-term or short-term basis, and

The relative power and interest of stakeholders – remember that from the module on Project Initiation?

In the 1970s, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann identified five main approaches to dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness.

They argued that people typically have a preferred conflict resolution style that is a function of the extent they are both assertive and cooperative.

Once you understand the different styles, you can use them to think about the most appropriate approach (or mixture of approaches) for the situation you’re in.

You can also think about your own instinctive approach, and learn how you need to change this if necessary.

Ideally you can adopt an approach that meets the situation, resolves the problem, respects people’s legitimate interests, and mends damaged working relationships.

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