Conflict resolution is an important term that is well discussed in many circles. The workplace not being the least of them; conflict resolution comes up at home and I dare say any place where human beings come together to relate, associate for any given purpose.

So what is conflict? I would opine that conflict is any difference that comes up between two people or two groups of people; it is a pointer to the fact that as humans we are not all alike, as a matter of fact I sometimes joke that if I had to live with myself, and myself being for this illustration in the form of another human entity, we probably would have disagreements sometimes. This shouldn’t be surprising considering the amount of negative self talk so many of us have to overcome from time to time! So we see conflict is a very much part of our existence!

The point I believe is not whether or not conflict occurs but what to do with it when it does. Is conflict a negative occurrence or is it a positive thing? For some the word conflict has a negative connotation because it seems to signify discomfort, uncomfortable discussions, disagreements and in extreme instances, aggression.

Conflict does not have to be associated with negativity, I believe we can say that conflict is neither negative nor positive, it’s the manner conflict is handled that turns out to be positive or negative. Conflict can be seen as a pointer to the inner issues that may not come to the surface otherwise.


People may be reluctant to tell you what their expectations are in approaching any type of relationship be it personal or business.  When conflicts arise, these expectations tend to come to the surface quite readily. So should conflict be encouraged? Well Yes, but only when you are well prepared to handle and process it.

There are several ways people approach conflict, some would readily avoid conflict all together, a condition of denial if you may, a situation one neglects to attend to the issues that have come to the fore; not that this is not understandable, as when the time is insufficient to really address the concerns it may not be feasible to address these conflict areas.

This is not bad as long as the issues are not “wished away” and there is a plan to come around to address the concerns. The problem I think is when people attempt to play the ostrich and pretend that what may be festering does not exist at all!

Conflict as we know exists between two individuals or groups; so usually for conflict to exist between say me and someone else then we must have certain matters we do not agree on.

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Let’s then attempt to differentiate on the types of conflict that may arise, first is the situation where one person accepts and makes concessions concerning the other person’s issues with no thought to his or her objections at that time. At face value only one person wins while the other concedes. This is called accommodating.  When this happens, in most instances it can be used as a strategy to “soften” the other person. As it makes the other person indebted and would most likely concede to favours requested in the future.

Another scenario is when one person champions his own interests with disregard to the other person’s concerns; this is the classic win-lose situation. This is called competing. This is not an ideal situation and is bound to lead to more conflict; as usually the other person secretly plans a “come back” and begins to be preoccupied with getting back for the wrong experienced. Usually this shows up in open conflict or subtleties like sarcasms and the like.

The next is when there is compromise; both parties simply gloss over the sticky situation and attempt to get along none the less. This may be achieved by making surface adjustments simply to patch the differences without getting to the root of the conflicts and proffer solutions. This does not help because both people are unsatisfied in the long run and sooner than later there would be another break down in communication.

By far the best situation is when both individuals approach this conflict with the end of understanding the root cause of the situation. For this to be successful both have to understand the goal and benefits of this resolution process. When they see what needs to be gained, there is a motive to succeed. It should also be pointed out what stands to be lost if a common ground is not reached.


When the process of conflict resolution is clear to the parties, it also contributes to creating interest in the resolution. It is about the process of fairness which helps in resolution. It is instructive to realize that in many cases this process of conflict resolution is best done by a third party which In this case could be the leader, manager or supervisor.

Conflicts occur in a number of areas; we have conflict of opinions, a conflict of personalities, a conflict of ideas. It is then important to analyze conflict situations and make a separation between conflict of personalities and a conflict of ideas or opinions.

It is easier to deal with a conflict of ideas than it is to solve a conflict of personalities as these have deeper roots in anger, hurt and other negative emotions. In practice however it is not that easy even to separate the issue of persons from the issue of ideas. This is because when someone’s idea is countered it is quite difficult to not to also take this personal. But an attempt should be made to separate both for the parties to see.

Conflict management and resolution is an important skill a manager should have when dealing with conflict between subordinates. Let’s not forget that a conflict can also occur between the manager and a subordinate. In this situation the responsibility is usually that of the manager to resolve. This is because aside from the negative vibes unresolved conflicts have on the organization; it is an opportunity for the manager to model the right response in such situations.

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