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Conflict management strategies

Created on 15 September 2007 Written by Jean Binder
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 Considerable theory and research have been devoted to identifying ways in which interpersonal conflict may be handled. Much of this literature is centered on two dimensions originally proposed by Blake and Mouton (1964):

(1) satisfying self-interest (assertiveness); and
(2) satisfying the concerns of the other conflict party (cooperativeness).

Graphing these two dimensions, Blake and Mouton (1964) and others have generated five corresponding conflict management strategies:

Compromising behaviors seek to find a middle-ground alternative. Individuals are frequently willing to "give a little to get a little''.

(2) Avoiding (withdrawal) occurs when parties choose to ignore the conflict, try not to get involved or give in easily.

(3) Smoothing (accommodating) strategies play down differences and stress the importance of common goals.

(4) Confronting (problem solving, integrating, or collaborating) tactics consist of facing the conflict directly and examining possible solutions.

(5) Forcing occurs when one insists, or refuses to consider the other party's position

Smith et al (2000) suggest the use of humour in intercultural conflict management: "In today's increasingly diverse and competitive workplace, conflict management skills and having a sense of humor are becoming requisites for every worker, not just managers (...) The results suggest that humor is related to different types of conflict management strategies (CMS) and that diversity issues tend to moderate this relationship."

Morris et al (1998) surveyed young managers in the USA, China, Philippines and India to test hypotheses reflecting the obstacles which cultural differences form in the resolution of conflict between joint venture managers. The authors discover two patterns of differences between US and Asian managers in conflict management style: Chinese managers tend to adopt an avoiding style whereas US managers are more competitive; and country differences on value dimensions are more pronounced than the country differences in conflict style.


Blake, R.R. and Mouton, J.S. (1964), The Managerial Grid, Gulf, Houston, TX.

Smith, W.J., Harrington, K.V. and Neck, C.P. (2000), “Resolving conflict with humor in a diversity context”, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 606-21

Morris, M.W., Williams, K.Y., Leung, K., Larrick, R., Mendoza, M.T., Bhatnagar, D., Li, J., Kondo, M., Luo, J.-L. and Hu, J.-C. Conflict management style: accounting for cross-national differences Journal of International Business Studies (Canada), 1998 Vol 29 No 4: p. 729

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Last Updated on 31 July 2012

Books on conflict management at work

Created on 30 March 2008 Written by Jean Binder
Hits: 2249
Last Updated on 31 July 2012

Conflicts and global projects

Created on 07 July 2007 Written by Jean Binder
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Conflict management can be seen as a process that begins when two or more parties have a different viewpoint on the same topic, hindering or improving the project performance.


Most projects involve conflict, created by resource availability and by different priorities on costs, time, scope and quality. Global projects add the differences in country and organisational cultures to this list, which increases the probability of having stakeholders with diverse views on customer satisfaction, different reactions to change and various approaches to risk management.


The reduced amount of face-to-face interactions increases the likelihood of negative conflict and aggravates the conflict resolution process. The deployment of solid communication techniques (described in the chapters 6–10 of the book) and collaborative tools (explained in the chapters 16–25 of the book) can reduce the occurrence of conflict due to misunderstandings and facilitate the resolution process.


On the other hand, conflicts are a ‘necessary evil’ that foster creativity, increase innovation and avoid a climate of apathy and stagnation. The optimal level of conflicts allows a positive movement towards the project goals, a good problem-solving environment and quicker adaptation to project changes. The main task for the program and project managers is to avoid conflict from degenerating into a breakdown in communication and collaboration, and to stimulate conflicts that can bring benefits to the project.


In the chapter 4 of the book, I discuss the types and sources of conflicts specific to global projects, and provide some ideas on how to identify conflicts during risk analysis, how to foster functional conflicts (which support the project goals and improves its performance) and how to identify and resolve dysfunctional conflicts (which can hinder project performance).

Last Updated on 31 July 2012

A mindmap on conflict resolution

Created on 22 October 2007 Written by Jean Binder
Hits: 2604

Download a mindmap that can help you to define your own strategies to resolve conflicts among cross-cultural and distant team members.

Click here to download a mindmap on Conflict Management

Last Updated on 31 July 2012
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