A conflict arises when two or more incompatible wishes, opportunities, requirements or purposes manifest themselves. We can never fully resolve conflicts. It is inevitable that we encounter some obstacles. This increases the stress caused by the conflict. There are three types of conflict:
1 – The attraction–attraction conflict that is the result of being attracted to two incompatible purposes at the same time
2 – The avoidance–avoidance conflict that arises as a result of two equally unwanted choices that cannot both be avoided
3 – The attraction–avoidance conflict that arises when the same purpose has both desired and unwanted particulars that make it both attractive and to be avoided
The conflict one has with his/her own desires causes stress, and conflicts with others in the establishment, or between various departments of the establishment cause loss of efficiency. A large portion of the working life of managers is spent resolving the conflicts at the work place. Actually, if conflicts are managed correctly, they turn into a driving force that enables the advancement of the individual and the establishment.
Reasons for Conflict
Personal conflicts are the ones most often encountered. These conflicts may be at any level. Besides being between subordinates and superiors, individuals at the same level may also experience conflicts. Usually, differences between individuals are the cause of these conflicts. Differences in feelings and opinions may cause conflicts. The individual’s personal make up will define the conflict and its dimensions. Some people have conflicts with others because of their inner conflicts. Generally, people who are contrary, who believe their rights are being usurped, who live with the fear that others will take away what is rightfully theirs, experience more conflicts. Moreover, insufficient resources and problems in sharing at the work place boost conflicts between departments as well as individuals.
In conflicts, one of the most important factors is lack of communications. Disrupted communications are both the cause and the result of conflicts. Everyone takes a different stance against conflicts. Some stay and fight, some run away. Conflicts do not happen in the blink of an eye. First, the necessary conditions develop, and then the parties to the conflict evaluate the situation. After the reasons and the necessity of the conflict have been pondered upon, the parties usually hone themselves for the battle. The conflict, which is a personal one, slowly comes out in the open, and reaches a result watched by many. In these circumstances, the conflict affects the workplace.
Each conflict has a positive and a negative aspect. Sometimes, conflict may increase motivation and personal effort. It may reduce the lack of communications in a work place, and may cause, as well as the establishment of communications between groups, an environment of competitiveness and an increase of productivity. But at the same time, it can also cause a disruption of the mental health of the workers, a complete disruption of communications among employees, and a total loss of time, money and labor at the work place.
The primary responsible for the positive or negative management of the conflict is the leader. The leader carries the responsibility for the irresolution of the conflicts at the work place, or may even be a party to the conflict him/herself. A conflict will have a negative outcome if it is badly managed. Different methods may be used to manage a conflict.
If a person’s wish has a low probability of being realized, if it will lead to a better solution in the future, concessions can be made for the resolution of the conflict. When it is necessary to find a quick and temporary solution to the conflict, and there is little chance of a compromise, bargaining is a solution method. When the issue is serious, and the parties need to be placated, avoidance of the conflict may be necessary. When a quick and immediate decision is necessary, and it is deemed important for the future, forcing is also an option. Sometimes, when all of the reasons for the conflict are significant, and both parties of the conflict are important, then a compromise for the resolution unavoidable.
The concept of management today considers conflict natural, and even necessary. In order to manage a conflict properly, the leader must be in a system where he/she can be aware of conflicts. The management that is aware of conflicts must use correct communications methods, must listen, understand and decide. Knowing that every conflict cannot be resolved with the same method, one must choose the correct option, and spend the energy, not to prevent conflicts, but to the correct management of the conflict.
Professor Bengi Semeci, M.D.