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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Conflict management

This section purposely focuses on conflict management rather than on conflict resolution. This is because conflict, disagreement, and differences of opinion are universally present in every sort of organization. It is inevitable, and it is often difficult, if not impossible, to resolve. Some conflict and diversity of opinion might contribute positively to organizational performance, although too much probably can be as bad as too little. In managing conflict, it is usually useful to determine its source. Conflict typically is associated with one or more of these four sources:

  • Personal differences
  • Informational deficiency
  • Role incompatibility
  • Environmental stress

Everyone knows about thumb wrestling. It's a kid's game where you try to wrestle down or squash your opponent's thumb under your own. Asking students in a class to thumb wrestle for one minute is a wonderful, if slightly devious, way to illustrate the basics of negotiations. Think for a moment, without reading ahead, how you would approach this game if you were asked to do so, with the winner being determined by how many times you beat your opponent within the 60 seconds allowed.

The four different strategies or styles for resolving conflict tend to emerge immediately among the various thumb wrestlers:

  1. The challengers, or the “I win and you lose” style
  2. The accommodators, or “I lose and you win”
  3. The nonplayers, or I don't want to play this stupid game, “I lose and you lose”
  4. The negotiators, or “I win ...

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