Conflict, Systems, and Approaches to Conflict Management: An Overview

Conflict, Systems, and Approaches to Conflict Management: An Overview

Jose Pascal Pascal da Rocha (School of Professional Studies, Columbia University, USA) and Emily Babakanian Frazier (Northeastern University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1726-0.ch001
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Leaders, managers, and high potential talents navigate all kinds of conflicts and situations, whether during organizational change, the implementation of a new organizational culture, negotiating with shareholders and suppliers, or just regular business operations. Oftentimes, conflicts are simple and easy to access and to address. But of recent, the advent of technology; the need to lead through innovation; and the drive to leaner, more matrixed organizations leads to new kinds of disruptions and conflictual situations. Thus, to navigate through the ebb and flow of communication and situations, the adaptive and flexible manager needs to have the right diagnosis of the conflict, foresee the prognosis of unresolved or resolved conflicts and implement the right therapy. Understanding conflict and the many ways on how conflict is enacted and addressed is an art. Therefore, this chapter addresses the plethora of conceptual framework around the notion of conflict, explores the intercultural dimensions of conflict, dissects the in- and out-group nature of conflict to finally offer a simple, yet effective framework to address even the most intractable of conflicts.
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Being a manager is not only to ensure the operational and functional viability of a unit or an organization that fulfills objectives. The 21st century manager also manages through value-based leadership, constantly providing a safe space of his/her employees and using a range of soft skills in order to navigate differences and conflict. S/he more or less uses mediation skills such as the management of a process, the use of superior communication skills and interpersonal mastery to anticipate, prevent, reduce and manage conflict. Managing conflict allows the manager to focus on what needs to be done in the current day-to-day management of modern, interconnected business: Lead. S/he can do this best through the use of mediation.

Mediation is about bridging differences through meaningful interactions, facilitated by a reputable and credible third party. These interactions between conflicting parties can often be long and dangerous. The process is led by a neutral and unbiased third party whose goal is to help the conflicting parties understand the “how” and “what” of their discordances. Mediation, though, may not always be the most effective manner to address and resolve conflict; depending on the context of the conflict there may be other resolution methods which are more suitable. According to the Thomas-Kilman instrument and the Dual Concern Model (Rhoads and Carnevale, 2006), conflicting parties are able to adjust their attitude towards conflict by adjusting their behavior. This type of conflict regulation is an intentional and voluntary process whose goal is to de-escalate violence and to prevent it from happening again. The paramount aim of mediation is to create rules which call for compromise and to incentivize the parties in continuing working towards change in a non-violent manner at various levels and stages of the process. Under the umbrella of conflict regulation is conflict management, which is where the control and reduction of violence takes place, though generally with the intervention of force (e.g sanctions, verification mechanisms, boundaries, etc.).

Conflict regulation is different from conflict resolution. Conflict regulation is a leveled and sequenced process whereas conflict resolution is a broader process. Conflict resolution encompasses not only the plan for change, but also the processes by which said change is made. The mediation manager’s main duty to draw out compromises between the conflicting parties. The ways in which to do this include creating a sense of cohesion between the parties, creating and allowing confidence-building measures, and heightening communication. Thus, there is a visible and intricate link between the mediator’s style and the conflicting parties’ adherence to the resolution goals.

New research is materializing and exploring the various aspects of mediation. To better understand the scope and magnitude of said research, the theoretical section will focus on those models that allow us to understand and address group conflict resolution. The conceptual frameworks are linked to Tötösy de Zepetnek’s concept of inter-disciplinarity (Tötösy de Zepetnek, 2002), Cook’s post-positivist paradigm (1985) and Boudreau’s multiplex methodology (2003). The conceptual framework is grounded in a meta-model of mediation, interdependence theory, game theory, and peace studies.

The identified intercultural context within which current managerial models of leadership are located is being described by Berger’s term of ‘Pluralism’ (2014) as:

“The process of modernization, which by now has fundamentally affected virtually every society on earth, has as one of its most important consequences the situation commonly called pluralism. The term means quite simply that people with different beliefs, values, and lifestyles come to live together in close proximity, are forced to interact with each other, and therefore are faced with the alternative of either clashing in conflict or somehow accommodating each other’s differences”.

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