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Conflict can occur in any situation in which two or more parties feel themselves in opposition.
Conflict is an interpersonal process that arises from disagreements over the goals to attain or the
methods to be used to accomplish those goals.
In addition to conflicts over goals or methods, conflicts also arise due to task interdependence,
ambiguity of roles, policies, and rules, personality differences, ineffective communications, the
competition over scarce resources, and underlying differences in attitudes, beliefs, and

Interpersonal conflict arises from a variety of sources:
1. Organizational change: People hold differing views over the direction to go, the routes to
take and their likely success, the resources to be used, and the probable outcomes. With the
pace of technological, political, and social change increasing and the marketplace hurtling
toward a global economy, organizational changes will be ever-present.
2. Different sets of values: People also hold different beliefs and adhere to different value
systems. Their philosophies may diverge, or their ethical values may lead them in different
directions. The resulting disputes can be difficult to resolve, since they are less objective than
disagreements over alternative products, inventory levels or promotional campaigns.
3. Threats to status: The status, or the social rank of a person in a group, is very important to
many individuals. When one's status as threatened, face saving becomes a powerful driving
force as a person struggles to maintain a desired image. Conflict may arise between the
defensive person and whoever created a threat to status.
4. Contrasting perceptions: People perceive things differently as a result of their prior
experiences and expectations. Since their perceptions are very real to them (and they feel
that these perceptions must be equally apparent to others), they sometimes fail to realize that
others may hold contrasting perceptions of the same object or event. Conflict may arise
unless employees learn to see things as others see them and help others do the same.
5. Lack of trust: Every continuing relationship requires some degree of trust-the capacity to
depend on each other's word and actions. Trust opens up boundaries, provides opportunities
in which to act, and enriches the entire social fabric of an organization. It takes time to build ,
but it can be destroyed in an instant. When someone has a real or perceived reason not to
trust another, the potential for conflict rises.
6. Personality clashes: The concept of individual differences is fundamental to organizational
behavior. Not everyone thinks feels, looks, or acts alike. Some people simply "rub us the
wrong way, and we cannot necessarily explain why. Although personality differences can
cause conflict, they are also a rich resource for creative problem solving. Employees need to
accept, respect, and learn how to use these differences when they arise.


There are at least four clearly different strategies (and a combination one, called compromising).
Each of these represents different degree of concern for ones outcomes and for anothers
results, and has a predictable outcome.
1. Avoiding: Physical or mental withdrawal from the conflict. This approach reflects a low
concern for either partys outcomes and often results in a lose-lose situation.
2. Accommodating/Smoothing: Accommodating the other partys interests. This approach
places greatest emphasis on concern for others usually to ones own detriment, resulting in a
lose-win outcome.

3. Competing/Forcing: Using power tactics to achieve a win. This strategy relies on
aggressiveness and dominance to achieve personal goals at the expense of the concern for
the other party.
4. Compromising: Searching for middle ground or being willing to give up something in
exchange for gaining something else. This strategy reflects a moderate degree of concern for
self and others, with no clear-cut outcome.
5. Collaborating/Confronting: Facing the conflict directly and working it through to a mutually
satisfactory resolution. Also known as problem solving, this tactic seeks to maximize the
achievement of both partys goals, resulting in a win-win outcome.

Conflict may produce four distinct outcomes, depending on the approaches taken by the people
involved. The following diagram illustrates these outcomes.

3 4

Win Win-Lose Win-Win

As Outcome

1 2

Lose Lose-Lose Lose-Win

Lose Win
Bs Outcome
The first quadrant, termed lose-lose, depicts a situation in which a conflict deteriorates to
the point that both parties are worse off than they were before.
The second quadrant is lose win, a situation in which one person is defeated while the other
one is victorious.
In quadrant three the situation is reversed, with B losing to A.
The fourth quadrant is the win-win outcome of conflict, in which both parties perceive that
they are in a better position than they were before the conflict began.


1. Agree on the common goal to solve the problem.
2. Commit yourself to fluid, not fixed, positions.
3. Clarify the strengths and weaknesses of both partys positions.
4. Recognize the other persons and your own, possible need for face-saving.
5. Be candid and up-front; dont hold back key information.
6. Avoid arguing or using yes-but responses; maintain control over your emotions.
7. Strive to understand the other persons viewpoint, needs, and bottom line
8. Ask questions to elicit needed information; probe for deeper meanings and support.
9. Make sure that both parties have a vested interest in making the outcome succeed.
10. Give the other party substantial credit when the conflict is over.


1. Avoiding Strategy (Lose-Lose)

The desire to withdraw from or suppress a conflict.
In this approach, individuals attempt to passively ignore the conflict rather than resolve it.
Avoiders have a low concern for self and others, and a lose-lose situation is created
because the conflict is not resolved.

2. Accommodating Strategy (Lose-Win)

The willingness of one party in a conflict to place the opponents interests above his or her
The accommodating approach is unassertive and cooperative. Individuals who use this
strategy prefer harmony to conflict, desire to be liked, and believe that conflict is damaging
to relationships.
This approach represents a low concern for self and a high concern for others, thus
resulting in a lose-win situation.

3. Competing/Forcing Strategy (Win-Lose or maybe even Lose-Lose)

A desire to satisfy ones interests, regardless of the impact on the other party to the
This strategy is characterized by the use of aggressive behavior, an uncooperative attitude,
and an autocratic attempt to satisfy ones own needs at the expense of others.
Since this win-lose approach to conflict involves a high concern for self and low concern for
others, deep feelings of resentment and hostility often result.

4. Compromising Strategy (Partial Lose-Lose)

A situation in which each party to a conflict is willing to give up something.
Compromisers value harmony as well as individual satisfaction and often will try to work
out the situation so nobody gets all he or she wants, but everyone gets something.
The advantage of this strategy is that the conflict is resolved, and relationships are

5. Collaborating Strategy (Win-Win)

A situation in which the parties to a conflict each desire to satisfy fully the concerns of all
Using this strategy, parties attempt to jointly resolve the conflict with the best solution
agreeable to all parties. Since collaborating involves a high degree of assertiveness and a
high degree of cooperation, it is also called the problem-solving strategy.
Collaborating encourages openness and honesty and stresses the importance of criticizing
or critiquing ideas rather than the persons involved. Because there is a high concern for
self and others, collaborating tends to produce a climate of trust and respect in a win-win