STEPS IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION
To succeed in any workplace especially in Malaysian corporate competitive world, one must understand and evaluate your preferred style for handling conflicts. These skills can be obtained by following training courses provided by us. Although you should be able to change your style to suit the conflict involved, you must know how you are most likely to behave attempting to select an approach for resolving a particular conflict. Your basic style may be the correct approach for a given situation but in many cases it may not.
Understand The Source Or Identify The Cause
Analyse the situation in your Malaysia corporate environment. Determine if the conflict is a result of communication, structural or personal differences.
Be Aware Of Your Options
In the problem solving process, this step is labelled as ‘Decide What To Do’. There are basically five conflict resolution strategies:
Each has particular strengths and weaknesses. No one strategy is ideal for all situations. In every Malaysia training courses you will learn this as the basics of corporate conflicts resolution.
Select The Best Option
This is taking action in the problem solving process. The best solution is determined by your own definition of ‘best’. There are three components to consider in defining best:
- Importance of the Issue
- Speed of Resolution
- Maintaining Harmony.
All other things being equal, if the importance of the issue is critical to success, collaboration is the best option. If time is the major factor, forcing, accommodation and compromise – in that order – are preferred. If maintaining harmony is important, the best strategies in order of preference are accommodation, collaboration, compromise and avoidance. A caution must be made about avoidance. Some people seek to avoid conflict at any price. If you are such a person – always worried about face – you should guard against this tendency.
A final consideration in selecting the best option is the source of the conflict. Collaboration usually works best in communication differences. Personal differences can be resolved many times by avoidance but if the issue must be settled then forcing is a workable option. Structural conflicts can be resolved by any of the options depending upon the particular issue involved.
How Can Both Parties Win?
Everyone hopes for a win-win solution on resolving conflicts but this can only be achieved with the concerted efforts of both parties.
Following are some useful guidelines for resolving conflicts collaboratively:
1. Each person expresses his position, reasoning, feelings and interests that lie behind his positions thoroughly. Do not just disagree over positions but do the best to communicate and understand the ideas and interests that led both persons to develop their positions. Expression of anger and other feelings identifies specific issues, highlights the importance of the conflict and releases energy.
2. Show understanding of each other’s feelings and opinions. Throughout the conflict, demonstrate acceptance of the other person and convey appreciation of the other’s competence and strength. Politeness and gestures of affection also help. Be hard on the problem but soft on people.
3. Recognise that both persons are responsible for the issue and both can benefit by its resolution. Focus on working together to resolve the conflict.
4. If possible, ask a colleague or superior to help mediate the conflict.
5. Define the problem as specifically and clearly as possible to the agreement of both persons. Specific problems are more easily resolved than grand issues. Identify the specific behaviours that are interfering and frustrating rather than use general labels or fight over “personality”.
6. Examine the problem from different perspectives to develop various possible solutions. Avoid assuming that the choice is simply between the position favoured by one person or the position favoured by the other. Craft solutions that satisfy the most important interests of both persons. Use brainstorming where appropriate.
7. Choose a high quality solution consistent with the facts of the situation and reasonable. It should also be fair and advantageous to both persons. Do not agree out of passiveness or fear or weakness.
8. Clarify how both persons should carry out the solution and set a time frame or deadline to measure progress in resolving the underlying conflict.
9. Reflect and review the discussion. Acknowledge each other’s efforts and risks, celebrate the joint success and emphasize how both can now work more effectively in the future.
This tactic is when one does not immediately pursue his own concern or those of others. Each conflict does not require an assertive action. Sometimes avoidance is the best solution by just withdrawing from the conflict or ignoring its existence. Avoidance is useful when the conflict issue is trivial, when tempers are heated & time is needed to cool down or when further potential disruption from an assertive action outweighs the benefits of resolution.
When to use avoidance strategies:
- If you do not fully understand the cause or details of the conflict.
- 1f 2 conflicting parties can not reconcile differences after many attempts.
- If relationship is not strong enough to absorb overt conflict.
- If one attempts to place you or others for purpose in a conflict.
- Stake in a conflict is low but the situation may damage working relationships.
- If you face severe time constraints.
Accommodating is the opposite of competing where an individual neglects his own concerns to satisfy the concerns of others. The goal of accommodation is to maintain harmony by placing another’s needs and concerns above your own. This strategy works best when the issue in dispute is not that important to you or when you want to build up credits for later issues.
When to use accommodating strategies:
- If an argument is in ‘full flight’.
- When trying to win someone over.
- When dealing with an influential boss or other actor.
- When issue is more important to the other & must be resolved quickly.
- When strong working relationships are more important than other considerations.
Competing is a power-oriented skill in which one uses whatever power seems appropriate to win one’s position, usually at the expense of others.
In forcing, you attempt to satisfy your own needs at the expense of the other person. Forcing is a useful option when the situation needs a quick resolution on important issues where unpopular actions must be taken and where commitment by others to your solution is not critical.
When to use competing strategies:
- If a quick, tidy decision is vital.
- If the conflicting parties will not budge from their position.
- When conflicting parties will not even discuss an issue.
- When you feel compelled to maintain a strong position.
- When your relationship with the other person is unimportant.
Compromising falls between competing and accommodating. The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution which partially satisfies both parties. The compromise option requires each party to give up something of value. Compromising is generally best when the conflicting parties are about equal in power, when it is desirable to achieve a temporary solution to a complex problem or when time pressures demand a fast resolution.
When to use compromise strategies:
- If a conflict goes on for an unreasonable period of time.
- When other employees begin to take sides in a conflict.
- When an employee’s performance on the job is affected by the conflict.
- When conflicting parties may be willing to meet half-way.
- When issues are critical and very complex.
- When conflicting parties request a third-party solution.
- When both parties have equal power and need a good working relationship.
Collaborating involves an attempt and skill to work with the other person to find a solution which fully satisfies the concerns of both persons. This option is the ultimate win-win solution. All parties to the conflict seek to satisfy their interests. It requires positive assertiveness on all sides – open, honest and respectful communication. It works best when time pressures are minimal, when all parties seriously want a win-win solution or when the issues are too important to be compromised. In Malaysia, collaboration is not a big deal as the people are from multi-racial background but have very good unity among themselves.
A collaborative problem-solving outline:
- Admit a conflict exists.
- Confront the problem or conflict.
- Brainstorm possible options or alternatives.
- Select an option or reach agreement.
- Look to the future.
- Winning the point will cause more trouble than its worth.
- Tempers need to calm down to allow a clear perspective.
- Someone else can handle the situation better.
- You need to gather facts about the situation.
- You need to clarify your own thoughts about the situation.
- An emergency calls for quick, decisive action.
- Non-negotiable points have to be enforced.
- You are in the wrong and you need to be seen to be reasonable.
- The issue is more important to others than it is to you.
- You need someone to do something for you. You need to cut your losses if you are losing and your situation will not get better.
- You need to gain favours for another time.
- The relationship is more important than you being right.
- You need a temporary settlement to a complicated issue.
- Time is running out and you need a workable solution.
- You are up against an equal with an opposite goal.
- Your point is important but not worth the time and hassle of being more assertive.
- Your personal goals and the relationship are both of moderate importance.
- Each person’s position and relationship are too important to compromise
- You need to learn something from others.
- You need to unify different points of view.
- You need to get total commitment from all.
- It is important to repair a damaged relationship.
Winning Isn’t Everything
Anytime you have two or more people together in the workplace, you have potential for conflict. A large chunk of a manager’s time is spent dealing with conflicts. Conflicts do not have to be associated with anger, violence or even ill feeling.
Conflicts can occur any time there is a difference of interests, understanding, values or beliefs, style, opinions or perceptions. The consequences of conflicts can be anger, sadness, frustration, stress, disappointment, violence, waste, confusion, etc.
It is generally accepted that there are five ways of dealing with conflict. There is no single ‘best’ way – the situation and the consequences of how the conflict is addressed will indicate the best approach for each situation.
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