Conflict Management In Business Teams

Conflicts are bound to arise when people with different views and different backgrounds work together. There is hardly any profession where people do not work in teams or groups where conflicts are inevitable. No matter how hard one tries to get used to the differences in their teams, the probability of conflicts is always there. Whether it's a corporate or a sports unit/team, all have, at one time or the other, had to face conflict.

The root causes of conflicts are variable. Different ways of perceiving tasks, attitude, behavior towards peers, sincerity towards project/tasks, personal differences, office politics, varying willingness to follow orders, etc. can all be possible causes of conflict. A conflict can be worsened when it turns into brawls. Various conflict management styles and strategies can however, be adopted which are all aimed at maintaining harmony and decorum in the organization.

Technically, conflict management is defined as the practice of identifying and handling conflicts rationally, fairly, and efficiently. Author Max Lucado’s quote “Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional” seems really apt in relation to this. Combating conflict is not a difficult task but requires patience and a ‘calm mind.’ The following five ways can help manage conflicts, especially when corporate bodies and other organizations are involved:

1. Avoiding: Avoiding a problem is sometimes confused with running away from it. By avoiding conflict, the individuals or parties involved give the issue time to lose its intensity. The same conflict might look like a ‘thing of the past’ after a few days. Time is a “natural healer” and so, avoiding confrontations and conflicts is a quick management technique. This may not however, be effective on the long run since problems don’t go away by themselves.

2. Accommodation: Through accommodation, you accept what the opposite party is asking. The application of this technique, however, is possible only when one of the parties is willing to accommodate contrary ideas in order to maintain peace. This approach can be adopted when the other person is an expert or has a better solution than yours. It is also effective when your desire is to preserve future relations with the opposing party. With this technique, conflict can easily be avoided by putting aside one’s ego.

3. Collaborating: With this approach, different solutions and opinions are combined to achieve a win-win situation. Combining different inputs increases the probability of satisfaction, with members having positive feelings of being ‘contributors’ if not ‘decision-makers’.

4. Compromising: The result of compromising usually involves a combination of options that is not exactly what each of the parties wanted from the onset. It involves identifying a middle ground that the parties involved in the conflict can live with.

5. Competing: Here again, when neither of the parties is willing to give up or adjust, the last resort is competition. In this case, one side will emerge as the ‘complete’ winner and the other side, of course, as the loser. Both parties will use competitive tactics to oust the other. Elevating one’s own arguments, criticizing others’ ideas, trying to prove others’ ideas as a deal of loss are some of the tactics used when competing. This technique is not considered a healthy one as the situation can turn into a real fight. It is however, effective in an emergency when decisions need to be made swiftly, with little room for extensive discussions.

To resolve conflict, the effective approach always involves a combination of these approaches. Putting aside your self-esteem or ego will not only help you achieve career growth but will also help in maintaining harmony and peace in the workplace.  

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