Conflicts are frequently perceived as an unavoidable negative aspect of personal relationships between people that could have adverse consequences. Even though the aspect of conflicts being an inevitable component of people’s relationships is sourced in a sociocultural character of human nature, it does not necessarily have a negative character. Conflict consequences could be tracked to positive outcomes through effective management, use of specific strategies and tactics, and provide a basis for personal growth and further positive development of relationships. This paper is designed to define conflict and negotiations, explore the basic tactics and strategies that could improve the conflict outcomes, and explain why conflicts are important for organizations.
Definition of Negotiation and Conflict
Conflicts are inevitable in any social setting that involves human interactions, as the conflict itself means a clash of opinions. According to Lewicki et al. (2020), conflicts could be explained as potential consequences of relationships caused by different needs experienced or expressed by a party or from misunderstandings and misperceptions. Conflict is defined by Pruitt and Rubin as “sharp disagreement or opposition, as of interests, ideas, etc.,” that occurs as a result of “divergence of interest” or from the inability of simultaneous achievement of current aspirations (as cited in Lewicki et al., 2020, p. 18). Alternatively, Hocker and Wilmot stated that conflicts could be defined as interactions of independent people with incompatible goals that interfere in each other’s process of achieving goals (as cited in Lewicki et al., 2020, p. 18). Thus, one could define conflict as a touchpoint of interests, opinions, or ideas that occurs due to misunderstanding, dissonance, or intersection of aspirations.
In exploring the aspects of conflicts, two factors could be used to characterize conflict and its severity – the conflict level and its functions and dysfunctions. The dysfunctional character of conflict in organizations implies destructive disagreements that negatively affect the organization’s productivity (Eketu, 2018). According to Lewicki et al. (2020), there are four levels of conflicts determined by the number of participants in the conflict and their relations. The four levels include intrapersonal conflict within an individual, interpersonal conflict, intragroup conflict within one group of people, and intergroup conflict (Lewicki et al. 2020). Many factors could add to the conflict’s dysfunctional character, including a competitive aspect of the conflict, biased opinion, emotional context, absence of two-way communication, blurred frames of conflict, escalation, etc. Summarizing the information about additional factors that take part in the conflict and cause dysfunction could be useful in the process of choosing the right strategy and tactics for conflict resolution and negotiations.
Negotiation is an essential part of the conflict that could be used as a tool for effective management and productive resolution of conflict. According to Pruitt, negotiation presents a form of a decision-making process that features the conversation between two or more parties that focuses on making an effort in resolving the parties’ opposing interests (as cited in Lewicki et al., 2020, p. 3). Even though most people associate negotiating with bargaining, bargaining is a technique or a strategy used for negotiations with a win-lose outcome. On the other hand, negotiation presents a process that focuses on achieving a solution where everyone benefits, or a mutual agreement, for all conflict participants.
Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Strategies and Tactics
Handling interpersonal conflicts could utilize five different conflict resolution styles, with each style being different from others by the approach to the concerns about outcomes from both participants. The five styles include contending and yielding, avoiding conflict, problem-solving and compromising. Based on the situation and information about the conflict’s additional factors, each conflict-handling style could be utilized to end the conflict. In organizational conflicts and negotiations, on the other hand, the resolution requires a more complex approach that could not be fulfilled with the use of conflict-handling styles.
There are two widespread strategies and tactics of negotiation/conflict resolution available for negotiators: distributive bargaining and integrative negotiation. Distributive bargaining equips an approach that focuses on setting the opening, target, and resistance points. The strategy implies an early assessment of goals and in advance to the negotiation and establishing resistance points that define the bargaining range for the participants. In addition to the strategy, several hardball tactics could be utilized to reach the agreement. The tactics include alternating negotiators with a strict and lenient approach, using extreme offers, focusing on low-priority items to distract from the important ones, and adding emotional contexts such as anger and fear (Lewicki et al., 2020). Distributive bargaining presents a case of conflict where participants pursue their own goals but prefer to hide information to maintain their invulnerability from other participants.
On the other hand, integrative negotiation concerns both party’s interests and makes efforts to achieve a mutually beneficial agreement in conditions where it appears that such resolution could not take place. Integrative negotiation is achieved through cooperation and commitment, meaning that parties provide context to their decisions and goals and contribute to the process by identifying their interests and needs and providing alternative solutions. The strategy is based on the tactic of free flow of information and implies concerns about the outcome of both parties and trustful relations between participants (Lewicki et al., 2020). The decision-making is performed thru brainstorming processes that focus on finding and assessing the best alternative solutions that would fulfill the needs of both sides of the conflict. Integrative negotiations are hard to achieve in reality, but their process could be facilitated through some factors, such as common objectives or goals shared by the negotiators and faith in problem-solving approach and mutual respect.
Conflict as an Opportunity for Growth and Transformation
It is essential to deprive the conflict of its negative personal or emotional context and focus on the growth opportunities presented by the conflict. As conflicts present a clash of personal opinions, interests, and goals, they could base an interpersonal or intergroup connection that would expand the perception boundaries for both parties and provide an opportunity for personal growth. In the organizational context, the conflicts occurring indicate weak organizational aspects that require improvement. Thus, with its transformational character, conflicts open an opportunity for growth for both individuals and organizations.
Influence from Effective Conflict Resolution on Organizations
One of the critical aspects of organizational success, effectiveness, and profitability is effective communication. Managing conflicts by providing an effective response and contributing to conflict resolution in organizations plays a significant role in attaining effective communication. According to Ciprian and Aurelian (2021), managers frequently favor the development strategy of external communication with customers, disregarding internal connection and its importance. Despite that, conflicts in the organization indicate weak points that require improvement; following improvements could also directly or indirectly contribute to the shape and direction of the organization’s future activities. Moreover, good internal communication allows alighting the employee goals and objectives with the company’s mission and strategy, facilitating the implementation of future managerial decisions and adjustments (Ciprian & Aurelian, 2021). Thus, conflict management and resolution effectiveness significantly influence the organization’s overall effectiveness and success.
In conclusion, this paper explored the definition of conflict and negotiations and different aspects of conflict handling. Despite its frequent negative message and emotional context, the term conflict describes an intersection of different opinions or interests. Depending on the conflict-handling styles, strategies, and tactics, conflicts could result in improved relations between the participants and increased productivity and effectiveness when used within an organization. Conflict and effective conflict resolution are essential for the company as they determine the effectiveness of internal communication that contributes to its success.
Barry, B., Lewicki, R. J., & Saunders, D. M. (2020). Negotiation (8th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.
Ciprian, C., & Aurelian, C. (2021). The role of communication in the prevention of organizational conflicts. Theoretical and Applied Economics, 28, 89-96.
Eketu, C. A. (2018). Dysfunctionality of personality-based conflicts in organizations. International Journal of Social Sciences and Management Review, 1(1), 50-59.