Conflict Resolution: An Observation Study
Conflict resolution is an essential process in the corporate as well as the social environment in the contemporary times. Business model sustainability is based on the soundness of the conflict resolution process in an organization. One of the key roles of elders in an organizational environment is to resolve conflicts. Because of the importance of this responsibility, organizational leaders are usually encouraged to embrace rather than fearing conflict as it is part of what constitutes the difference between leaders and non- leaders in any organization. The ability, to recognize, understand and bring quick resolution to any conflict can be of great importance to any leader. Conflict resolution skills are also necessary in other environments as long as they involve interpersonal relationships. As a leader in one of the groups I participated in for a school project, I had the opportunity to experience various conflicts and subsequently take part in active conflict resolution practices.
Conflict resolution is essential and can take various approaches to be effective. The efficacy of the selected approach to conflict resolution determines the outcomes from the process. According to Myatt (2012), conflict is an inevitable part of any organizational or social settings. The main challenge associated with conflicts is the choice of how to deal with it. Selecting the right approach to conflict resolution can help avoid negative outcomes. Practices such as concealing, ignoring or avoiding conflicts can be damaging to interpersonal relationships in both social and corporate settings, and can result in withdrawal, resentment and factional infighting within the context of the organization. In the organizational context, various causes are linked to ego, pride, opposing ideologies, power struggles and performance discrepancies among others. As a leader, the choice of a conflict resolution approach affects the perception of the followers about one’s skills. Diverse experiences in a social environment can enhance interpersonal interactions while solving conflicts effectively helps in problem solving, which fosters the development of strong relationships, trust and confidence within a social setting.
Alternative Dispute Resolution strategies are available that can be used to enhance communication within social groupings. The approaches seek to understand all the facts of a given conflict in order to increase the probability of each of the conflicting parties being satisfied with the resolution outcomes. As a group leader, it was my responsibility to identify the sources of group conflict and to select from among the conflict dissolution strategies, which would be most beneficial for the conflicting parties. The alternative dispute resolution approaches solve conflicts in ways different from the manner in which courts solve conflicts. The most common conflict resolution strategies include: conciliation, facilitation and mediation, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Conflict resolution approaches when applied effectively; result in various benefits for the associated parties and the social grouping as a whole. One of the benefits of conflict resolution is that it results in higher productivity. Other benefits include reduction of the rates of group disintegration, faster and better complaint resolution, and reduced conflict related absenteeism (Oni- Ojo, Iyiola, & Osibanjo, 2014). As a group leader, it was imperative that I become the uniting factor between the different group members by putting in place strategies for effective conflict resolution based on the nature and cause of conflict. In return, the level of trust among group members increased and I was able to direct them towards the group objectives.
Information about group dynamics and conflict resolution approaches at the group level was obtained using participant observation as the method of study. The process entails activity within the target group setting. Participant observation as a methodology for qualitative research, underscores the role of the researcher within the social setting that they intend to study (Crabtree, 2006). As the researcher, my role was not only to perform my leadership function appropriately but also to take records of all the happenings in the group. This included developing templates to guide the observation recording process, developing theories and concepts based on the templates used for data collection and the data obtained through them (Crabtree, 2006). I engaged in all these and I believe that the findings obtained through the process are instrumental in making decisions pertaining to conflict resolution process.
In most cases, the observations were not restricted to the conflict situations entirely but on the general atmosphere of the social environment. As a participant observer, my objectives in data collection were to:
- To understand the potential causes of conflicts within the social grouping and how they escalated.
- To come up with a conflict resolution process that would be applicable in all the various ADR processes.
Observations for the project were conducted during over a one week project duration, in which group discussions were held at least four times in the week. During that period, the objective was to find out as much information as possible about the behaviors of people in a social setting during conflicts and the outcomes of different conflict resolution approaches. One of the key observations was that conflicts rarely arose because of big issues. In three of the meetings held, there were conflicts of different magnitudes between at least two members each. In the first meeting, there arose a conflict concerning the recommended group meetings schedule. One person recommended only two meeting in a week while the other person recommended six meetings in a week. The main cause of contention was that the individual who recommended six days a week responded negatively to the recommendation for people to meet twice a week. For this conflict, it was difficult to control people’s reactions and emotions as group members took sides.
In another instance, two members collided over penalties for failing to be punctual to group meetings without prior information. In that case, it was possible to bring people together in a negotiation strategy, through which all group members participated and came up with a solution to punctuality issues in the group. Compared to the first case scenario, the second one was better managed and the outcomes more acceptable and satisfying to all the parties to the conflict.
Similar cases occur recurrently in the corporate and the social contexts. From the first conflict experience, I realized that solving conflicts in a social context can be more effective where there has been a plan to solve the conflict. However, in the case of our first conflict, there was no time for preparation since people were charged through the disorganized information exchange stage without considering the facts of the case. With proper planning, an approach such as negotiation can be very effective towards managing social context conflicts. The best process for conducting a successful negotiation would begin with preparation, information exchange, bargain and conclusion. For a contract negotiation process, preparation involves development of the contract documents and offering them to the contract parties (Watershed Associates Inc., 2018). At the social level, preparation may entail selecting understanding the cause of the problem and stating the expected outcomes from the perspective of each of the parties involved. During negotiations on the social front, each of the parties to the conflict should be ready to compromise and reduce their demands.
Since I understood the nature of conflicts and their potential to reduce productivity, the second conflict scenario caught me more aware and prepared psychologically. It was therefore easy for me to guide the other group members into a team activity of understanding the reason for contention, discussing the benefits of punctuality and how failing to be punctual affected our performance in the group. From then, it was possible for everyone to agree on the way forward. We all understood that it was important for us to be punctual. At the same time, we understood that someone may be held up in due to other unavoidable circumstances. We therefore agreed to be strict yet lenient in case of such unavoidable circumstances.
Conflict resolution is one of the inevitable elements of social and corporate environments. As a leader, I have learnt that having strong conflict resolution skills can be the distinguishing factors between effective and ineffective leadership. I have had the opportunity to experience cases requiring conflict resolution within a schoolwork group setting and I realized that conflict resolution required preparedness, and that sometimes negotiation demands for compromise among the conflicting group members.
Crabtree, C.D. (2006). Qualitative research guidelines project. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from www.qualres.org/HomeObse-3594.html
Myatt, M. (2012, February 22). 5 keys of dealing with workplace conflict. Forbes. Retrieved from www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/02/22/5-keys-to-dealing-with-workplace-conflict/#5c7aba7a1e95
Oni- Ojo, B.B., Iyiola, O.O. & Osibanjo, A.Y. (2014).Managing Workplace Conflicts in Business Environment: The Role of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). European Journal of Business and Management, 6(36), 74- 82. Retrieved from eprints.covenantuniversity.edu.ng/8422/1/17353-19953-1-PB.pdf
Watershed Associates Inc. (2018). Negotiation stages introduction. Watershed Associates Inc. Retrieved from www.watershedassociates.com/learning-center-item/negotiation-stages-introduction.html