What is Conflict?
Conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people
with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals.
A few definitions of conflicts are:
1. A state of open, often prolonged fighting; a battle or war.
2. A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical
persons, ideas, or interests; a clash.
3. A state of opposition between ideas, interests, etc.;
disagreement or controversy
4. A state of opposition between two simultaneous but incompatible wishes or drives, sometimes
leading to a state of emotional tension
Conflict at the workplace
In the workplace, a simple disagreement between team members, if unresolved, may escalate
into avoidance, inability to work together, verbal assaults, and resentment. In the worst cases, it
may also lead to hostility and eventual separation from the organization. Therefore, it is
important that the conflict be resolved as soon as possible.
As organizations continue to restructure work teams, conflicts will arise from differences, and
when individuals come together in teams, their differences in terms of power, values, and
attitudes contribute to the creation of conflict.
Some disputes managers and employees alike may be subjected to in the workplace include:
Unfair or unequal treatment
Angry/ Resistant individuals
Inability to saying no
Environments in transitions (i.e.
Inability to ask for what one needs
Culturally diverse environment
Unclear or undefined organizational directives
Physical attributes of the workplace (e.g. health and safety issues)
An overlook of Organizational Conflicts
Interpersonal Conflict: Conflict between individuals due to
differences in their goals or values.
Intra-group Conflict: Conflict within a group or team.
Intergroup Conflict: Conflict between two or more teams, groups
or departments. Managers play a key role in resolution of this
Inter-organizational Conflict: Conflict that arises across organizations.
Impact of Conflict
Conflict on teams is inevitable; however, the results of conflict are not predetermined. Conflict
might escalate and lead to nonproductive results, or conflict can be beneficially resolved and lead
to quality final products.
When is Conflict constructive?
Results in clarification of important problems and issues
Results in solutions to problems
Involves people in resolving issues important to them
Causes authentic communication
Helps release emotion, anxiety, and stress
Builds cooperation among people through learning more about each other
joining in resolving the conflict
Helps individuals develop understanding and skills
When is conflict destructive?
Takes attention away from other important activities
Undermines morale or self-concept
Polarizes people and groups, reducing cooperation
Increases or sharpens difference
Leads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting,
As well as being able to handle conflict when it arises, One should first focus on ways of
preventing conflict from becoming damaging. A constructive approach would be to:
Being open – if we have issues, we need to express and deal with them immediately and
not allow it to accumulate and dwell upon.
Maintain clear communication – articulate thoughts clearly, question and clarify views.
Encouraging different points of view and evaluating each fairly without any personal
Not looking for blame – encourage ownership of the problem and solution.
Demonstrating respect for team members rather than resorting to blame game.
Keeping team issues within the team, talking outside results in conflict escalation.
The term conflict refers to perceived incompatibilities resulting typically from some form of
interference or opposition. Conflict management, then, is the employment of strategies to correct
these perceived differences in a positive manner. For many decades, managers had been taught to
view conflict as a negative force. However, conflict may actually be either functional or
dysfunctional. Whereas dysfunctional conflict is destructive and leads to decreased productivity,
functional conflict may actually encourage greater work effort and help
Learning to manage conflict is integral to a high-performance
Conflict management is the principle that all conflicts cannot
necessarily be resolved, but learning how to manage conflicts can
decrease the odds of nonproductive escalation.
It involves acquiring skills related to conflict resolution, selfawareness about conflict modes, conflict communication skills and establishing a
structure for management of conflicts.
Ways of Dealing with Conflict
Dual concern model of conflict resolution
The dual concern model of conflict resolution is a conceptual perspective that assumes
individuals’ preferred method of dealing with conflict is based on two underlying themes or
1. A concern for self (i.e. assertiveness), and
2. A concern for others (i.e. empathy).
According to the model, group members balance their concern for satisfying personal needs and
interests with their concern for satisfying the needs and interests of others in different ways. The
intersection point between these two dimensions ultimately lead individuals towards exhibiting
different styles of conflict resolution The dual model identifies five conflict resolution
styles/strategies that individuals may use depending on their dispositions toward pro-self or prosocial goals.
Accommodating : The accommodating strategy essentially entails giving the opposing side
what it wants.
Avoiding : The avoidance strategy seeks to put off conflict indefinitely.
Collaborating : Collaboration works by integrating ideas set out by multiple people. The object
is to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone.
Compromising : The compromising strategy typically calls for both sides of a conflict to give
up elements of their position in order to establish an acceptable, if not agreeable, solution.
Competing : Competition operates as a zero-sum game, in which one side wins and other loses.
Healthy and Unhealthy ways of managing and resolving conflict
Inability to compromise or see other
Ability to seek compromise and avoid
Explosive, angry, hurtful, resentful
Calm, non-defensive and respectful
Withdrawal of love resulting in rejection,
isolation and abandonment
Readiness to forgive and forget and to move
past the conflict without holding
resentments or anger
Fear and avoidance of conflict; the
expectation of bad outcomes
Belief that facing conflict head on is the best
thing for both sides
Conflict Management Skills
Good and a patient listener
The pitch and the tone have to be taken great care of
Adopt a positive attitude
Never criticize anyone or make him feel small
Prefer the conference room, board room or any suitable place for presentations, seminars
The superiors must ensure that the team members are assigned responsibilities according
to their KRAs and specializations
Avoid gossips and rumors
Conflicts must be avoided at workplace so that employees do not carry tensions back home
and are able to give their best to benefit themselves as well as the organization.
Importance of Conflict Management
Facilitates employees to concentrate on their work.
Strengthens bonds amongst employees
Helps finding a middle way – an alternative to any
problem and successful implementation of any idea.
Motivates employees to strive hard to live up to the
expectations and contribute to the organization in the
best possible way.
Prevention is better than cure.
Video : Series : The Office, Season 2, Episode 21 : Conflict Resolution
About “The Office”
The series depicts the everyday lives of office employees in the Scranton,
Pennsylvania branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
"Conflict Resolution" is the twenty-first and penultimate episode of the second season of the
American comedy television series The Office, the show's twenty-seventh episode overall.
In the episode, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) resolves a conflict between Oscar
Martinez (Oscar Nunez) and Angela Martin (Angela Kinsey), and then discovers a file of
other unresolved complaints between staff members and he determines to resolve them. But
Michael's attempts actually unearth old tensions and create new ones between the office
"Conflict Resolution" features the return of a poster created for the earlier episode "Christmas
Party". The show opens when Michael Scott hears Oscar Martinez complaining about Angela
Martin's baby poster to Toby Flenderson. Michael learns that Angela and Oscar are fighting
over the poster of babies dressed up like musicians. He intervenes and resolves the conflict
himself by forcing his "solution" onto all parties.
Inspired, Michael wrests the file outlining other unresolved office complaints from Toby,
determined to resolve them all. Michael publicly reads all the outstanding complaints against
everyone, even though they were supposed to be anonymous, which only serves to further
increase office tensions. This is an excellent example of how conflict shouldn’t be managed.
Michael now wants to resolve all the complaints in the office.
The list of conflicts depicted in the series include :
Kevin complains that Stanley uses his Miracle Whip without asking.
Meredith complains that everyone is too loud in the morning and that the lights are too
Creed complains that he doesn't want to look at the redhead all day, but would rather
be at a desk facing the receptionist.
"Someone" has complained that Pam does too much wedding planning at the office.
Kelly is upset that Ryan never returns her calls. Michael is equally upset that Ryan
never returns his calls.
Jim says that Dwight tried to kiss him once but he didn't make a complaint because he
wasn't sure how he felt about it.
Someone has complained that the bathroom is for whites only. (An assumption
because the picture on the door is that of a white man.
Phyllis complains that Angela gives her "death stares".
Stanley complains that Phyllis cries too much and it bothers him.
Angela is upset because Phyllis keeps forgetting and parking in Angela's unmarked,
reserved parking space.
Ryan complains that Creed has an old man smell about him.
Angela complains that Kevin has made sexually suggestive remarks to her.
Meanwhile, when photos for identification badges are being taken in the break room, Jim
Halpert uses the situation as a way to prank Dwight Schrute. Jim made Dwight's new ID, labeled
Dwight as a security threat, and changed his middle name from Kurt to "Fart". Dwight could no
longer take it. He storms into the conference room and demand that Michael take care of this.
Dwight becomes even more furious that his voluminous complaints against Jim have gone
ignored, and tells Michael that either Jim gets fired or Dwight will quit. When Michael reads all
of Jim's pranks on Dwight, Jim begins to regret how much time he has wasted at the office.
List of Dwight's grievances mentioned against Jim:
Told Dwight there was an abandoned infant in the women's bathroom, thus tricking him
into going into the bathroom and "[seeing] Meredith on the can"
Dwight hit himself in the head with his phone (Jim kept putting nickels into the handset
until Dwight got used to the weight; Jim then abruptly removed all of the nickels; Dwight
went to pick up the phone, and believing the phone was heavy, pulled it very hard)
Jim paid everyone five dollars so they would call Dwight "Dwayne"
Every time Dwight typed his name it came out as "diapers"
Placed a bloody glove in Dwight's desk drawer and tried to convince him he committed
By the end of the day, Dwight's desk was moved two feet closer to the copier
Replaced all of Dwight's pens and pencils with crayons
Also in the episode Jim said "Dwight tried to kiss me. I didn't say anything because I'm not
really sure how I feel about it."
Attempts at Conflict Management
1.Michael wrests the file outlining other unresolved office complaints from Toby, determined to
resolve them all. Michael publicly reads all the outstanding complaints against everyone, even
though they were supposed to be anonymous, which only serves to further increase office
tensions. This is an excellent example of how conflict shouldn’t be managed.
2.He also tries to force his opnion on others to resolve any issues pointed by them, that’s again a
3.Michael locks Dwight and Jim together in a room for a "cage match", where they're not
allowed to leave until they come to an understanding. However, no conclusion can be reached.
Dwight taunts Jim with a notice of a Dunder-Mifflin position in Stamford, saying that Jim should
look into it because Dwight will still be working in Scranton by next week. Michael surveys the
angry, divided office and silently nods to a watching Toby, acknowledging his efforts were a
4.He then defuses Dwight's anger by saying he will make his decision but needs indeterminate
time to do so, which placates Dwight.
Pam Beesly is particularly troubled by a nameless complaint that she plans her wedding during
office hours, a complaint she concludes was filed by Angela.
5.As everyone prepares to leave, Michael pays the photographer to take a special group photo,
but goes through a lot of money before he, albeit poorly, Photoshops one himself. During the
procedure, Jim admits to Pam that he had registered the complaint about her wedding planning,
and Pam looks shocked.
As we can see the above series episode is a fitting example of an attempt at conflict management.
It shows various kinds of conflicts :
Interpersonal Conflict: Conflict between Jim and Dwight
Inter-sender Conflict : Jim had complained about Pam earlier, and then later redacted his own
words, signifying conflicting messages from the same sender.
Intra-group Conflict: When different people in the office groyup have a resentment towards
Pam because she has invited some to her wedding and ignored a few others.
Intergroup Conflict: Conflict between Angela and Angela and how others have different
opinions about it.
Inter-organizational Conflict: Whole group upset with each other and not ready to pose
together for a group picture.
Lastly, toby is seen taking the boxful of complaints to huge room and dumps the box between
thousands of stacks of identical boxes, thus signifying an attempt at the avoidance style of
"The better able team members are to engage, speak, listen, hear, interpret, and respond
constructively, the more likely their teams are to leverage conflict rather than be leveled by it”
I n many cases, effective conflict resolution can make the difference between positive and
The good news is that by resolving conflict successfully, you can solve many of the problems
that it has brought to the surface, as well as getting benefits that you might not at first expect:
Increased understanding: The discussion needed to resolve conflict expands people's
awareness of the situation, giving them an insight into how they can achieve their own
goals without undermining those of other people.
Increased group cohesion: When conflict is resolved effectively, team members can
develop stronger mutual respect, and a renewed faith in their ability to work together.
Improved self-knowledge: Conflict pushes individuals to examine their goals in close
detail , helping them understand the things that are most important to them, sharpening
their focus, and enhancing their effectiveness.