The workshop by Dr. Matrecia James developed our understanding of managing conflicts at a workplace. We learnt that conflicts are an integral part of any organization as differences and disagreements bound to happen when we are dealing with people. It, thus, becomes necessary for organizations to effectively handle conflicts in a workplace. Effective handling of conflicts increases satisfaction level among employees, thereby increasing employee productivity. The workshop helped us comprehend the concept of psychological contracts, in context of conflicts. Psychological contracts are unwritten and informal contractual obligations between two people in a relationship, either formal workplace relationship or informal personal relationships. Psychological contracts are more delicate than formal written contracts for two reasons. Firstly, expectations differ across people. It depends on people’s interests, upbringing and cultural background. Secondly, these psychological expectations are not clearly stated like the formal agreements and different people may interpret it differently. Hence, psychological contracts get broken more easily.
Conflicts can be productive or counter-productive depending upon its nature of impact on the organization. Some conflicts are functional and help fulfill organizational goal, while others are dysfunctional and hinder organizational growth. It is important for an organization to promote the functional conflicts and avoid chances of dysfunctional conflicts. Conflict management style differs from person to person. Broadly, there are six styles of conflict management.
The first style is the negotiating style. It is a style in which a person moderately values his/her concerns as well as the other person’s concern. Conflict resolution in negotiating style is done through cooperation and assertion. It is like a give and take concept which ultimately leads to a win-win situation. The second style of conflict management is the avoiding style. This style leads to a lose-lose situation for both conflicting parties because the needs of both the parties are not taken care of. Avoiding smaller conflicts may lead to bigger conflicts in future. Accommodating is the third style of managing conflicts. It is an example of a win-lose situation where one party wins and the other one loses. It is a style of resolving conflict in which a person gives higher regarding for others’ concern. The fourth style of managing conflicts is the forcing style. It is again a win-lose situation because a person has very high regards for his own needs and forces it upon the other conflicting party. Conflict is resolved through aggression in this case. The fifth style of conflict management is the collaborating style. In this style of conflict management, a person gives high regards to the needs of both conflicting parties. The aim is to find the best possible solution to a given problem, which benefits everyone. This is the best way of resolving conflicts and creates a win-win situation.
Conflict resolution process requires an initiator and respondent. The role of initiator is to plan and present the Behavior, Consequences and Feelings (BCF) statement. The initiator is also responsible for agreeing of the conflict situation, suggest solutions and agree on the recommended change. The respondent is required to listen to the BCF statement, paraphrase it (if required), agree to the acceptable terms, suggest changes wherever needed and agree on the final statement.
Conflict is a natural thing to happen between people. The same applies to a workplace setting. It is, however, important that the conflicting parties collaborate, analyze the situation and reach on a mutually agreeable solution. The solution should be such that it satisfies both the parties. In order to secure its goal of increasing productivity, a company should focus on avoiding unproductive conflicts among its employees.
Attending the workshop has been quite an enriching experience. The most important thing that I learnt was how to resolve a conflict. I learnt that the conflict management style to be used depends on the criticality of the conflict and the relationship with people. While avoidance is a good style for minor conflicts, critical conflicts need to be resolved by involving both the parties and reaching to a mutually agreeable solution.
I also learnt that conflict is a common phenomenon between people. When two people are in a relationship, formal or personal, conflict is unavoidable. Hence, it should be looked at with positivity. Rather than a hindrance or an obstacle, it can be taken as another point of view. This is because people are different and see things differently. It is, thus, important to manage conflict rather than complaining about its occurrence. Effective conflict management will strengthen our relationship and create a positive environment.