Models for Handling Dysfunctional Conflict

2298 words (9 pages) Essay in Management

23/09/19 Management Reference this

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“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

 Ronald Regan.

Table of Contents



Functional Conflict

Dysfunctional Conflict

Model of handling dysfunctional conflict




To nie konflikt jest źródłem nieporozumień i walki między ludźmi, lecz sposób jego rozstrzygania

 Wojciech Haman, Jerzy Gut (2001)

Translation of the above quotation from Polish:

This is not a conflict that is a source of confusion and a struggle between people, but a way of settling it.”

In any culture and any location in the word, definition of conflict would be very similar with the one main indication – conflict is a part of modern person life. It does not really matter if they like it or not, conflict will emerge in an individual personal and professional life a number of times. It is only up to them, to understand it and to learn how to deal with it.

Being able to understand the conflict is highly influenced by the way how person is seeing the nature of conflict. It could be perceived as negative or positive process. It can be distinguish as a natural experience, for some it would be unnecessary stress factor and others will consider it as a part of professional and personal development.

With this being said, the main tasks of this assignment are to explain the broad definition of conflict, to demonstrate how conflict works by explaining its dynamics. Another objective of this paper is to distinguish two types of conflict – functional and dysfunctional. The aim of this paper is to help readers to understand why the functional conflict should be encouraged and the dysfunctional conflict properly managed. Lastly, this assignment will take into accounts one of available models of handling dysfunctional conflict and discuss it.


The definition of the word conflict came from two Latin words: conflictus and confligre. In literal translation they mean a collision. Each person in their life will experience a collision of a two different: behaviours, concepts, interests, ideas, goals, values, needs, preferences or just the different way of perceiving the reality. In situation where named above differences are not accepted by one of the sides, conflict is being born. Opposite to popular belief conflict is not about fighting per se, it is any situation, where participants have different opinions.

The conflict will occur when two sides, which depend on each other, are facing some differences or misperceptions. Without approval or at least participation of the other side opponents cannot achieve their goals. They are standing on each other way to reach the target.

There are some signals, which can precede conflict in organizations:

  • Diversity of employees.
  • Introduction to change.
  • Dynamic career choices.
  • Work tasks divided to teams.
  • Globalisation, which will trigger cross-cultural contact.

Symptoms of Conflict involve poor communication between people and hiding their feelings, which will dissolve in frustration. This is triggered by low morale, a desire to become better than others and jealousy.

It is impossible to exclude conflict from personal or professional life – it is a natural phenomenon. Built into organizational attitudes and roles or evolving over a lack of resources. Conflict can be interpersonal, personal or between coalitions or rival groups. It arises because of the differences between people and dynamics of their relationships, which is named diversity.

Diversity is great. It creates new ideas and patents. Difference between people is strengthening organisations but, at the same time can cause frustration, gaps and conflicts. People are different based on their age, gender, place where they were born and raised, their education and working environment, material status and many more. Individuals do not think the same. It is not necessarily a bad thing but effectively, variances of characters are triggering conflicts.

Everyone is handling conflict in their own way. Some people are easy-going and personal or professional relations with them are uncomplicated. They would back out from any conflict situation and agree on anything suggested to them. Unfortunately others could be opposite – difficult and hard to deal with. This type of people would react emotionally in any type of confrontation. They are getting offended or aggressive easily, what would end any further cooperation.

Disagreements are making people uncomfortable, which is a negative emotion. This is a first sign that conflict is starting. There are two types of issues:

  • Substantive issues, which could be caused by competition. Individuals are trying to get the same resources or they have different understanding of roles in company. This type of conflict could be resolved by mediation of a third party.
  • Emotive issues, which are negative feelings. This type of conflict needs honest conversation and exchange of feelings between parties. Conciliation intervention of the third party would be appreciated.

Most of people associate conflict with something negative, but it can be positive occurrence in organization. It can bring good changes, improve current situation or show future solutions. With this being said there are two types of conflict: functional and dysfunctional.

Functional Conflict

Encouraged and monitored by company, so it would not get out of hand. It is healthy, constructive disagreement. Stimulation of this type of conflict will cause creativity and movement in organisation. It will improve group curiosity and quality of decision made. Aim of this practice is to clear the air and keep employees motivated by introducing the competition. It will be helpful when the team is becoming stagnant. Functional conflict is supporting the goals of organisation by improving it performance. Results of this type of practice are deeper and better relationships and new perspectives and ideas. It involves listening to others and will help people to learn how to compromise and respect each other’s ideas. Individuals have a chance to speak their thoughts without being interrupted; they are given freedom of speech in work environment.

Dysfunctional Conflict

Waste of time and energy of parties involved and mediators. It will have disastrous and destructive consequences for communication, relationships and organization performance. This type of conflict should be eliminated or resolved in the early stages, before causing stress and aggressive situations. Dysfunctional conflict is not supported by management, as its cost is expected to be higher than possible benefits. It is motivated by all the wrong reasons – competing workers egos. Managing this type of conflict is crucial. Company Managers should adopt the perspective of each of the sides and try to obtain all information to fully understand the conflict therefore being able to resolve it.

“$359 billion in paid hours or the equivalent of 385 million working days are lost each year to workplace conflict”

 Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive.

Model of handling dysfunctional conflict


K.W. Thomas and R.H. Kilmann – Five Conflict Handling Methods.

1)     Competing (Win – Lose approach) based on quick decisions. This method is appropriate in emergencies, when time is essence, decisions need to be quick and people affected by them should be aware and supportive. It is extremely assertive way of achieving goals. Person is not trying to cooperate with opponent. Competing will be useful, when decisions are made for the group wellbeing – decision maker knows that he is right.

2)     Accommodating (Lose – Win), when person is aware that is wrong and able to admit it, therefore will listen to other side and cooperate to a high-degree. This could happen at his own expense. It will work against his objectives, planned outcomes and goals. This type of approach is highly effective in situation where other party is an expert or can offer better solution, person can learn from his own mistakes. Perhaps individual is not that interest in discussed issue as opposite party, this way he is getting “social credits” for different issues and maintain effective future relations with opposite side.

3)     Avoiding (Lose-Lose) when person does not help other party to reach their goals but at the same time not trying to reach his. This is good approach when small issues are involved, when there will be more necessary issues soon or when person knows that he has no chance to win. Avoiding could work as well, when sorting the issue will be simply too costly. It would be great approach when atmosphere is heavy and emotional so it is better to just avoid any discussion. People can only hope that someone else can resolve conflict better but they should “fight their own fights” – hope does not count as a strategy. It can help temporarily but it is not a long-term solution.

4)     Compromising (Lose-Lose) neither party achieves everything that they wanted. It would happen, when opponents has equal power and level of assertiveness and cooperation. It is good enough temporary solution, where both sides goals have the same level of importance. It is risky – collaboration could produce more benefits but after unsuccessful collaboration it is consider an easy way out.

5)     Collaborating is pairing up with other party to achieve what they want, the “Win-Win” scenario. This solution requires reasonable level of cooperation and assertiveness and it is a way to break free from “Win-Lose” and try to achieve “Win-Win”. It is appropriate when both sides have equally important goals. It is a great scenario to accommodate everybody’s ideas but it requires high degree of trust to opponent and it is time consuming. However it is not a waste of time, as it is beneficial for both sides.


In conclusion conflict is not necessarily unfavourable, while managed properly. In this assignment several conflict advantages was indentified. Creating healthy competition is bringing great results for company performance, is enhancing communication, increasing professional and personal growth and producing new and better ideas. It is creating possibilities to identify the issues and talk about what is important to both sides of the conflict, in effect clearing the atmosphere. People are spending great amount of time at work and thereafter with their close once, it will always create some level of frustration – talking about it is a key!

However there is another side of disagreement – it can tear company or relationship apart, when not effectively managed. Great challenges for managers are to maintain the intensity and right balance of conflict by understanding its dynamics and learning the proper resolution. Productive engaging in disagreement is priceless. Majority of people are interested is solving their own conflict, therefore they need to have appropriate set of skills. Without knowledge how to approach conflict, most people would try to avoid it, without facing the problem. Unfortunately this is not an answer, avoiding conflict results in conflict escalation and feelings became stronger and more negative.

Summarising what was written in this paper, people are different but there are many similarities which should be outlined, while managing conflict. To supervise conflict properly, participants need to think what they have in common and what can bring them together. Nevertheless that would never happen if they do not listen to others and try to force their own opinion.


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