Conflict Management at Workplace

Conflict Management at Workplace

Well, have you ever been a part of a situation or a scenario where people have been disagreeing in a very active manner? If yes, then you have been a part of conflict situation. Each and every one of us have at some point or the other been a part of a conflict. In this article we will talk about how to manage conflicts better. Agenda will revolve around topics related with conflict management at workplace.

Conflict Definition

The term conflict was coined in the early 15th century. It is a Latin word which means “to strike hard”. This term is being later turned into conflict in the Indian ideology, and the term conflict really means “simple disagreements between people”.

Well no two people in the world are the same are they? So what we really mean to say is, conflict means “how to diffuse the kind of disagreements between people”, and people have different opinions, different ideas and ideologies. So this is the meaning of a word conflict.

Understanding the Causes of Conflict

Why Do Conflicts Arise?

Are there reasons for conflicts? Yes. Conflicts are bound to happen, whether you are at a workplace or whether you are at home. Within everybody conflicts tend to rise, and why do they rise, simple reason, people are different. People come from different backgrounds, people come from different ideologies, people have different perceptions in life and because of all of these things, conflicts arise.

When two people are walking towards the same goal in an organization, conflicts are bound to happen. Reason being they come from  different mindsets. So let’s understand certain reasons or causes why conflicts arise.

Causes of Conflict

Diverse colleagues arguing in office

There may be multiple causes of conflicts, some of them are:


People have different needs, they have been brought up in a different scenario a different mindset because of which the needs of people are different, this may be a cause of conflict.


Values of people are different. Again we are talking about people from different cultures having different values and because of which conflicts might arise.


People respond very differently to pressures. Some people really crack under pressure, whereas certain people are able to resolve things under pressure in a very nice manner.


People have different perceptions or rather, people have different evaluation systems. People perceive things in a different manner because of which conflicts might arise.

Styles and Policies

People have different principles, policies, ideologies and because of all of these reasons conflict may arise.

Those are the root causes of conflict.

Mapping the Conflict

When you are in a conflicting situation you should not make a mountain of a mole and this really happens when two people are stuck in a conflicting situation. So how do we map a conflict? let’s understand.

Defining the Issue

it’s important first and foremost to define the issue. The reason why a conflict arises when to understand the crux of the matter, or really understand the issue why people are conflicting with each other.

Identify Who is Involved

it’s important to identify the kind of people or the number of people involved in a conflict. The person who is being involved in a conflict, that person might be present at that particular position or he might not be around at that particular time. So it’s important to identify who exactly are the people involved in the conflict.

List the Major Needs and Concerns of Each Party

Next, let’s down the major needs and concerns of each party. Understand when there are two people conflicting with each other. Everybody has a different need why they’re conflicting and it’s important to understand, what do they bring onto the table, what is their need or what is their concern, and each party has a different concern

Reading the Map

It’s important in a conflicting situation that you should stick to the agenda on which the conflict is there. So it’s important to be within the time frame or within the map area of a conflict and not go out of the context.

Words Which Instigate a Conflict

Angry boss saying bad words to woman colleague

There are certain words which really instigate a conflict, certain words which are negative words. When you hear these words, you somehow flare up, or somehow you just want to have a conflict or a disagreement with a person. These negative words need to be avoided.

You Never

Saying something like you never did this again instigates conflict. So avoid using “you never”.

I Told You

Again, is a negative word, which instigates a conflict.

Whatever or I Never

“Whatever” or “I never did that” or “You never did that again”, again, instigates a conflict.

Never Mind or Good For You

Again, negative phrases that provokes a conflict.

Well, if you use such negative words be sure that the other person is bound to misjudge you, and take the situation out of control in a conflicting manner.

Well how do we counteract that by using positive words and phrases which will help a person defuse a conflict. So what are certain words or positive phrases. let’s see that.

Words Which Defuse a Conflict

Might I Suggest

Using words like “Might i suggest”, sounds very positive.

If You Can Do That

“If you can do that”, …let’s do that together. Again is a very very positive way to propose a resolution.

One Option Is

One option is, …continue on that.

We Can Help You To

“We can help you to” come to a consensus or a conclusion. again is a positive phrase.

Let Me Explain

“let me explain” that in a better manner, again, is something which people like hearing.

We Understand That

“We understand that”, …taking it forward from there.

Well, if you use such positive words and phrases, conflicts can be diffused, and the words that you use, the tone which you use them, again, can either lead to a very major conflict or can defuse the conflict at a very initial or a nascent phase.

Effects of Conflict

Good versus Bad Conflict

Conflict can have a positive or a negative effect on the people of organization. What it really depends on is how the conflict was handled. Some people have always thought that: “Conflict is always bad”, “Disagreements are bad”, “Having a different point of opinion is a bad thing”.

Let’s burst a particular myth over here. Not all conflicts are bad, conflict can also be good. Surprised to hear that? Well yes, it is important to know that conflicts can be good, because when people really express themselves, share their different points of opinion and thoughts, feelings etc. It makes them express themselves more and it is a good knowledge learning from other people. So not all conflict is bad, conflicts can also be good.

Conflicts Management Leads to

Two businesspeople collaborating in office

Conflict management can lead to a lot of good and positive results.

  • Collaboration between team members
  • Better working relationships
  • Improved productivity
  • Trust among colleagues
  • Enhanced engagement

Conflict management can lead to better collaboration, better understanding between team members. When teams are working together, having good discussion or collaboration really affect team spirit and team bonding. It leads to better working relationships. Definitely when you are having good change of thoughts, processes etc. it leads to better working relationship. Also improve your productivity and the team productivity goes up. When you share your different points of opinion trust increases between people and also that leads to enhanced engagement, you’re more motivated and more excited to work with your team if your conflicts have been managed well.

Stages of Conflict

Conflict goes through different stages. A conflict is just not blown out of proportion, or it just doesn’t boom there. It has to go through different stages and that is what a particular model and study shows. It goes through the stages such as:

  1. Latent stage (Participants not yet aware of conflict)
  2. Perceived stage (Participants aware a conflict exists)
  3. Felt stage (Stress and anxiety)
  4. Manifest stage (Conflict is open and can be observed)
  5. Aftermath stage (Outcome of conflict, resolution or dissolution)

The latent stage is a very nascent stage wherein people are not really even aware that there might be a conflict. So, people are left unaware they don’t know it is just the beginning of a conflict.

The second stage after latent stage is perceived stage, whereas in perceived stage people have started to become aware that there might be a conflict, that conflict exists. So the awareness comes in this particular stage which is perceived stage.

The third stage is the stage where in conflict is felt. So, there is anxiety, stress all of negative words where you feel that conflict is there now.

The fourth stage is the manifest stage. In this particular stage the conflict is manifested meaning that conflict is open and it can be observed.

You can come to know that conflict is in a manifested stage where an people show through the body, language show through, their words, the tone that they use that conflict is there, it’s observed, by other people who are not probably even involved in the conflict.

The next stage or the last stage is the aftermath stage which actually happens after the entire conflict has been done and dealt with. So, whether the conflict has any particular outcome whether it was resolved or whether it was not resolved is the last stage which is the aftermath stage. Each and every conflict that we have ever been has to go through these different stages, and that is what is important to understand.

Thomas – Kilmann Model of Conflict Management

Four Types of people getered around the problem

Now we are getting into a very important segment of conflict management, which is the model known as “Thomas-Kilmann Model“. It was coined by two gentlemen, Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann in the year 1974. This term “Thomas-Kilmann Model ”, came into being because these two gentlemen observed that conflicts are everywhere, and people behave in a different manner in these different situation. No two people are alike, and everyone has a different way of behaving in a conflict situation.

We will understand two terminologies:

  • Cooperativeness
  • Assertiveness

Conflict has these two dimensions, where on one hand or one dimension we will understand assertiveness, which is nothing but understanding how a person reacts when he is in a conflicting situation and cooperativeness, which means how or the extent to which a person is able to go beyond the call of duty or rather help out others by being cooperativeness.

So, assertiveness is thinking about yourself and cooperativeness is thinking about others in a conflicting situation.

According to Thomas – Kilmann Model, there four different types of people’s behaviors when comes to conflicting situation:

  • Competitive (Tough Battler)
  • Accommodating (Friendly Helper)
  • Avoiding (Impersonal Complier)
  • Collaborating (Problem Solver)
  • Compromising (Maneuvering conciliator)


Person who is very competitive, meaning in a conflicting situation, and his whole ideology is he’s very very assertive, high on assertiveness but low on competitiveness. Rather, he is somebody who wants to make people lose so that he can win.


On the exact opposite of competitiveness is accommodating, meaning it is low on assertiveness, don’t really have a saying things because he don’t feel like putting himself first, but at the same time have very high regards for the people. When we are talking about accommodating means “You try to let go of yourself” so that you can make somebody else happy in a conflicting situation.


The third kind is avoiding. This type of people are low on assertiveness and also low on cooperativeness, which means to say that these are the kind of people who run away from conflict. Whenever they are placed in a situation where there are a lot of disagreements and difference of opinions, they just leave the situation and run away. These are people who completely avoid conflicts.


On the complete opposite of avoiding is the collaborating types of people. Collaborating people are very high on assertiveness and also very high on cooperativeness. Collaboration is a very good strategy or a very good behavior to have because it is a win-win situation.

If you must choose, you’ll like to put yourself on assertiveness side in high regard at the same time you like to think about others and lead or rather come to a consensus which makes both the parties happy.


In the middle is compromising, which is nothing but finding a middle ground. Compromising is very closely related with collaborative nature, because in this compromising situation also you try to let go of some of your things, so that another person can have a win-win situation.

Forms of Conflict

There are two forms of conflict, functional and dysfunctional.


  • Works towards the goals of an organization or group
  • Constructive conflict
  • Increase information’s and ideas
  • Encourage innovative thinking
  • Unshackles different points of views
  • Reduces stagnancy

In an organization when people are working together, there are bound to be difference of opinions. Functional conflict helps in certain way, because it helps to walk towards the goals of an organization or a group. When people involved in a conflict try to resolve the differences, the disagreements and opinions etc., that is what is functional conflict. Conflict which is constructive and helps to come to a consensus is known as constructive conflict and rather it is also helping in providing a solution to the problem. It increases the information and ideas because people share their points of view people share and express themselves which leads to having good information and ideas. It encourages innovative and creative thinking, and I am sure all of us agree that it’s important to have creativity when you’re working in an organization. Unshackles different points of views and also it reduces stagnancy. When we talk about reducing stagnancy, what we are really saying is that people think of fresh people think of a different point of opinion rather than the same.


  • Blocks an organization or group from reaching its goals
  • Gives rise to tension, anxiety, stress and low trust
  • Drives out low conflict tolerant people
  • Poor decision from lack of innovation
  • Increase stagnancy

Coming to dysfunctional aspect of conflict, is a kind of conflict wherein people only focus on the conflict and not on achieving a solution or working towards the goal of the organization. They are so involved in that particular conflict that it leads to bad behavior and not really achieve the goals of the organization. It blocks an organization or group from reaching its goals, it gives rise to a lot of tension, anxiety and people don’t trust each other, it drives out low conference or low tolerant people, poor decision making from lack of innovation, because people are not very innovative or creative in dysfunctional conflict. hence if they are not creative it leads to poor decision-making and it reduces or rather it increases stagnancy.

Conflict Management Strategy

Man in calm posture siting on chair in office

How do we manage conflict?

  • Remain calm
  • Let the other person do the talking
  • Genuinely consider the other person’s point of view
  • There’s power in the words “Yes, yes, I see exactly what you’re saying
  • If situation turns verbally abusive, put a stop to it
  • If you are wrong, quickly admit it and take responsibility
  • Use the power of visualization

Whenever you’re faced in a conflicting situation it’s important to just remain calm and composed. Do not blow up or do not kind of have an argument whenever somebody shouting at you or having a different of opinion. It’s important just remain calm. Secondly, let the other person do the talking. Let them vent out let them express themselves as much as they want and you just have to listen to them. Consider the other person’s point of view, it’s important to empathize. A person who’s in a conflicting situation might share a lot of things with you on a personal or a professional level, it’s important to really understand what they’re seeing and empathize with them. Next is understanding. There is a lot of power in these words which is known as “yes I understand what you are saying”. It’s important that when you are in a conflicting situation let the other person know that you are on their side, not on anybody else’s side. Using positive words is very important. If a situation turns wobbly abusive, please do not take it, completely put a halt or a stop to it. You have your own self-respect and never ever let anybody else put you down by wobbling abusing you. So if it gets really nasty put a stop to it right away. If you are wrong admit it quickly and take responsibility. There is no harm in saying “I apologized” or “I’m sorry”. Taking responsibility for your actions, if you are wrong – you’re wrong, just take responsibility for your actions. And last but not the least, use the power of visualization. Visualize that the conflict has resolved, visualize that the conflict has ended nice for a win-win situation for everybody.


To conclude this particular topic on conflict management, we have understood a lot in detail about conflict. Start using these principles, these theories and manage conflict in a better manner where there at home or at work.

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