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Conflict Management Defined

Conflict Management

What is Conflict Management?

Conflict management involves implementing strategies to limit the negative aspects of disputes and accentuate the positive ones. The idea behind conflict management is not to remove all conflict from a situation but to minimize some conflict and leave "positive" conflict in place. The idea is that some conflict is beneficial to an organization and helps to create better group outcomes.

What is the difference between positive and negative conflict?

Conflict management breaks up conflict into two types. These are known as substantive conflict and affective conflict. The general philosophy is that substantive conflict is positive whereas affective conflict is negative.

Substantive conflict deals with disagreements among members of a group and the specific tasks being performed. This comes about when different ideologies come into play and different parties within the group have different viewpoints and strategies.

Affective conflict deals more with the interpersonal ideologies of the group members. Attitudes, viewpoints, culture and many other differences can cause conflict among group members. Affective conflict, if unresolved can be detrimental to a group dynamic.

What is the difference between Conflict Resolution and Conflict Management?

Conflict resolution involves the reduction and, hopefully, elimination of conflict in a given situation. This takes the form of negotiations, mediation and arbitration. The purpose is to resolve differences between the parties.

Conflict Management, on the other hand, tries to eliminate certain types of conflict and accentuate others. Some forms of conflict are beneficial in a business environment. For example, in a conflict over substantive issues, disagreements over what avenues to take to solve a problem result in brainstorming and thinking about an issue in a greater and deeper context. It promotes learning in the environment. When substantive conflict exists it can often result in a better solution than if everyone agreed on the same plan.

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