House’s position is conflict—“I
don’t see any conflict; that’s your
The first step in resolving conflict
is gaining an understanding of the
sources of the conflict; the second is
to have the courage to confront the
conflict. Courage comes from a commitment and the knowledge that you
possess the requisite skills.
In figure 1, from the Thomas
Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument,
assertiveness is defined as the extent
to which the individual attempts
to satisfy his or her own concerns,
and cooperativeness is the extent to
which the individual attempts to satisfy the other person’s concerns.
So, someone who is being assertive and cooperative would be using a
collaborating mode. As you read the
following descriptions, you probably
will find one or two that you use most
frequently—that’s normal; skillful conflict managers have developed a wide
repertoire of responses and select the
approach that best fits the situation.
•;This combination of assertive
and uncooperative is appropriate
when a quick decisions and actions
are imperative. You may not face
many such situations except
in emergencies. It is also an
approach that may be appropriate
when implementing unpopular but
necessary changes in the organizational procedures or processes,
such as downsizing. Another use is
when you are certain you are right
but do not have the time to present a detailed explanation of your
reasons and the background.
•;When you combine assertiveness with cooperation, you have
the basis for a mode that, given
enough time and a sufficiently
important issue, may be the most
valuable approach to solving conflict. This is the method to use
when the issues are too important for compromise. You will
also learn about the interests of
the others involved. This is also
the mode that will help you work
through hard feelings that have
been interfering with interpersonal relationships. Perhaps most
importantly, this is the approach
that will lead to strong commitment to the decisions that emerge.
However, be cautious about moving into a collaborative mode when
other techniques are better suited
to the realities of the situation.
•;Being midway between cooperative and uncooperative and
between assertive and unassertive
leads to a compromising approach
to conflict management. It works
best when goals are important
but not overwhelmingly so.
Compromise may be necessary
when the people involved have
equal power and are strongly committed to mutually exclusive goals.
Compromise is also a good technique when you need a short- term
solution to a complex problem, or
when you need to reach a quick
solution and have a deadline. This
is also useful when other modes
have failed. However, remember
that in compromise, no one is
fully satisfied, so it should never
be used in vital issues with ethical
•;When you take on a stance that is
both unassertive and uncoopera-
tive, you are avoiding; this mode
does have legitimate uses—for
example, when an issue is insig-
nificant or of transient interest
or when spending time to resolve
the conflict would interfere with
more important issues. Avoiding is
also a reasonable mode when there
seems to be little chance of satis-
fying your concerns and when the
potential damage from confront-
ing a conflict outweighs the ben-
efits from resolving it. This is also
a valuable approach when people
need to cool down and return to
a rational emotional state. Delay
also makes sense when you need
to gather additional information
and when others are better posi-
tioned to resolve the issues.
•;Being unassertive and accommodating is the best combination when the issue is much more
important to the other person that
to you—when you need to build
up "points" to use later—or if your
long-term goal is to foster harmony and avoid disruption, and when
you realize that you are wrong.
This is a great technique to employ
when your primary interest is the
development of your staff.
Conflict resolution model
After uncovering the sources of
conflict and considering the options
available to get on with solving the
problem, all you need is courage!
There are several ways to build up
your courage. (Forget about the kind
that comes in a bottle.) The first is to
have successful experiences; the second is to have a plan or a model to use.
Here is a simple model to help you get
beyond the fear that often comes with
getting involved in a conflict.
1. Make sure the issues are clear.
2. Use active listening, restatement,
3. Understand the underlying causes
of the differences.