Conflict Management

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Approaches to Conflict Resolution

In Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, five modes for conflict resolution are explained and the situations when they are best utilized are identified. (19) These modes are Confronting, Compromising, Smoothing, Forcing, and Avoiding.

Confronting is also described as problem solving, integrating, collaborating or win-win style. It involves the conflicting parties meeting face-to-face and collaborating to reach an agreement that satifies the concerns of both parties. This style involves open and direct communication which should lead the way to solving the problem. Confronting should be used when:

  • Both parties need to win.

  • You want to decrease cost.

  • You want create a common power base.

  • Skills are complementary.

  • Time is sufficent.

  • Trust is present.

  • Learning is the ultimate goal.

Compromising is also described as a "give and take" style. Conflicting parties bargain to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Both parties give up something in order to reach a decision and leave with some degree of satisfaction. Compromising should be used when:

  • Both parties need to win.

  • You are in a deadlock.

  • Time is not sufficient.

  • You want to maintain the relationship among the involved parties.

  • You will get nothing if you do not compromise.

  • Stakes are moderate.

Smoothing is also referred to as accommodating or obliging style. In this approach, the areas of agreement are emphasized and the areas of disagreement are downplayed. Conflicts are not always resolved in the smoothing mode. A party may sacrifice it's own concerns or goals in order to satisfy the concerns or goals of the other party. Smoothing should be used when:

  • Goal to be reached is overarching.

  • You want to create obligation for a trade-off at a later time.

  • Stakes are low.

  • Liability is limited.

  • Any solution is adequate.

  • You want to be harmonious and create good will.

  • You would lose anyway.

  • You want to gain time.

Forcing is also known as competing, controlling, or dominating style. Forcing occurs when one party goes all out to win it's position while ignoring the needs and concerns of the other party. As the intesity of a conflict increases, the tendency for a forced conflict is more likely. This results in a win-lose situation where one party wins at the expense of the other party. Forcing should be used when:

  • A "do or die" situation is present.

  • Stakes are high.

  • Important principles are at stake.

  • Relationship among parties is not important.

  • A quick decision must be made.

Avoiding is also described as withdrawal style. This approach is viewed as postponing an issue for later or withdrawing from the situation altogether. It is regarded as a temporary solution because the problem and conflict continue to reoccur over and over again. Avoiding should be used when:

  • You can not win.

  • Stakes are low.

  • Stakes are high, but you are not prepared.

  • You want to gain time.

  • You want to maintain neutrality or reputation.

  • You think problem will go away.

  • You win by delaying.

Conflict Management — Presentation Transcript


  • WHAT IS A CONFLICT? Opposition arising from disagreements due to inconsistent objectives, thoughts, or emotions within or among individuals, teams, departments or organizations.


    • Goal conflict

    • Cognitive conflict

    • Affective conflict


    • Negative view

    • Positive view

    • Balanced view


    • Avoidance

    • Smoothing

    • Forcing

    • Compromise

    • collaborative

  • CONFLICT MANAGEMENT STYLES Assertive Unassertive Uncooperative Cooperative Forcing Avoidance C ollaboration Smoothing Person’s desire to satisfy own concerns Person’s desire to satisfy concerns of others Compromise

  • AVOIDANCE STYLE I don’t have enough time I don’t have enough facts Perhaps the best way is to proceed as you think best Criticism: The conflict is not solved

    • Example situations where avoidance style is appropriate

    • Minor issues

    • Inadequate facts and power

    • Others can more effectively resolve the conflict

  • SMOOTHING STYLE If it makes others happy, I wont challenge their views I don’t want to hurt the feelings of others We should not risk our friendship, so let’s not worry too much about the problem, things will work out Criticism: It encourages individuals to cover-up or gloss over their feelings

    • Example situations where smoothing style is appropriate

    • Emotional conflicts

    • Talented employees

  • FORCING STYLE If you don’t like the way things are run get out If you cant learn to cooperate, I am sure others who will, can be hired Criticism: The subordinates’ interests are ignored. The conflict is not analysed

    • Example situations where forcing style is suitable

    • Inadequate time

    • Stopping people from taking advantage of him/her

  • COMPROMISE STYLE I let other people win something, if they let me win something I try to find out a position between theirs and mine Criticism: people may encourage compromise on stated issues rather than on real issues

    • Example situations where compromise style is acceptable

    • It is not possible to achieve a win-win agreement

    • When conflicts block important agreements

  • COLLABORATIVE STYLE I try to get all view points & issues out in the open Best alternatives must be arrived through analysing Criticism: It is not suitable when win-win situation is not possible

    • Example situations where this style is appropriate

    • The parties disagree over the best means to achieve the common goals

    • When there is a need for high-quality decisions


    • Inadequate time

    • When a manager is expected to be autocratic


PMBOK divides six general techniques for conflict.

As each one has its place and use, these are not given in any particular order:

  1.  Withdrawing/Avoiding

  2.  Smoothing/Accommodating. .

  3. Compromising.

  4.  Forcing.

  5. Collaborating.

  6. Confronting/Problem Solving.


Five conflict                 Result in                   Per. Goals                    Relation.

Forcing                         win-lose                        hi                                  low

Smoothing                    yield-lose                      low                               high

Withdrawing                  lose-leave                     low                               low

Compromising             comprom.                     med                              med.

Problem solving            integrative                    high                              high


Five conflict management modes


Temporary, Fails to Resolve

1. Withdrawal                2. Smoothing               

Provides Resolution

3. Compromising          

4. Forcing                    

5. Problem solving       


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