Behavior in conflict situations

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Dealing with conflicts is important for the project’s success. Conflicts will inevitably arise, there is only the question of how to deal with them. Common sense often has it that there is only one way to a solution. In most cases there are in fact several ways of how to deal with a conflict. Which one to choose depends on the particular model of management and coordination and to which ‘conflict type’ one belongs. Equal teams should consider this.

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[edit] Dominance and escape

A typical conflict pattern has already been mentioned above: One person dominates another. The latter gives in or subordinates. In intercultural teams, this kind of conflict often occurs less consciously. “The representative of the dominant culture is perhaps not aware of the conflict at all, since he considers his value as normal, especially when the dominant culture is also ‘dominant’ in quantitative terms.”

[edit] Avoidance

Another possibility is to avoid an open conflict. A team member of a project does not participate in discussions anymore or withdraws from the project, perhaps not because he is not in the mood, but maybe in order not to jeopardize the personal relation to the project manager or because he does not feel well. Avoidance can also be a good and positive strategy: “If it happens intentionally and for a short time, it can have a de-escalating effect. It is problematic when it represents an unconscious reaction to a dominant culture.” The difference between ‘escape’ and ‘avoidance’ lies in a deliberate and conscious choice.

[edit] Compromise

Compromises signal that one attaches more importance on the common work than on having one’s will and they strengthen the collective identity. But differences also have to be admitted. Only searching for a compromise, while not discussing the actual problem, is not effective. This way the problem will not be solved.

A situation in a voluntary seminar shall serve as an example. One person wants to work on the subject of ‘PR’ with small exercises, in which participants train their behavior and provide feedback to each other. Another person considers it more important to provide many facts and expert knowledge. It takes them one hour to find a compromise: A little bit of practice and a little bit of knowledge. But then they recognize that time is getting short in order to realize the compromise. What happens next is crucial: If the team decides to let one person have its will, but does not consider the other’s argument, then it is merely a superficial compromise and, in fact, a solution of the conflict by means of dominance and escape. “Sometimes a compromise produces two losers, both of which feel dominated.” Basic requirement for the readiness to compromise is a position that is willing to understand the position of others, but also a confidence in the assumption that the other wants exactly the same.

[edit] Literature

Andreas Foitzik: Konfliktbearbeitung in interkulturellen Gruppen - Fortbildung für Seminarleiter im Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg, 2003

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