How to resolve a conflict situation at work: analysis of proven methods

What is conflict management and resolution?

The settlement and resolution of conflicts is usually understood as a system of measures aimed at preventing conflicts and finding optimal ways out of them. For many years, this problem has not received due attention either in the theory of social psychology or in its practice. Only in recent years have communities of conflictologists and various organizations involved in applied conflictology begun to form, and thematic literature has also begun to be published. However, even now it is impossible to talk about the fact that there is any effective system in the field of conflict resolution. We can even speak with confidence about the opposite state of affairs, because when resolving conflicts, a number of mistakes are often made.

Main mistakes in conflict resolution

When resolving conflicts, people usually make the following mistakes:

  • Failure to timely implement appropriate conflict resolution measures
  • Attempts to resolve conflicts without finding out their actual causes
  • The use of exclusively aggressive methods and punitive measures or, on the contrary, purely diplomatic methods in resolving conflicts
  • Using template schemes to resolve conflicts without studying their types and features.

Another, and quite significant, omission is that proper attention is not paid to the prevention of conflict situations, because how can one talk about influencing them without having information about their occurrence, without knowing what they can develop into, etc. . We have already touched on this topic in more detail in the last lesson, but given that all aspects of conflictology are closely intertwined, we should still return for a moment to the issue of conflict prevention and recall what their prevention is.

Compromise style

Mom suggests that the future applicant study for three hours every day. He actively objects (I also want to play on the computer), but asks her to cook her favorite pies several times a week. Mom doesn’t agree, because she’s watching her figure, and she doesn’t have much time. As a result, they converge on two hours of classes, and the pies go into the oven much more often.

Or your partner asks you to go on the night shift on December 31st in a few days. If you’re against it, the family won’t understand, and guests have arrived from Chelyabinsk. However, then you want to switch with him in January in order to catch an important match. He refuses (“You won’t meet me halfway, why should I?”). As a result, you agree to go out on Christmas night, as well as on Epiphany (when your partner, according to tradition, goes to plunge into the ice hole), and he lets you go to the match.

This is a compromise strategy of behavior - both make mutual concessions. Let's say you go on a popular program to demonstrate your ability to cut with a jigsaw not in the name of fame, but only by the will of the wife who sent you - so as not to quarrel and at the same time receive a certain amount as a prize. But the wife finally agrees to spend money on a vacation not on some pampered beaches of dull warm seas, but at the best ski resort in Europe.

Conflict Prevention

Conflict prevention is mainly about predicting them, for example, the severity of the consequences or the time of onset. Carrying out conflict prevention activities is only possible using methods such as expert surveys, experimental and mathematical modeling, extrapolation, etc. In addition, prevention should be carried out at all levels: personal level, micro level, average level and macro level.

Conflict prevention measures should be related to the elimination of conditions conducive to the emergence of conflicts. The basis here is such measures as eliminating the deformation of social relations, dividing society into social strata, social psychohygiene and social protection of the population, psychotherapy (individual, group, mass), psychoprophylaxis, as well as training in social interaction, education, education, etc.

All these nuances must be taken into account, because It is much easier to eliminate a problem in its bud than to deal with it later, resorting to all sorts of methods, techniques and tricks. But, of course, there are no methods that 100% guarantee that conflict will not arise, and conflicts should be perceived as an integral part of human life. And if problems arise, then you need to be fully armed, i.e. be prepared for them and be able to resolve them. So what does conflict resolution mean? How does this happen and how to learn it?

Competition style

My main attitude is: “I see a goal and go towards it,” I don’t accept concessions or compromises.

Your small company selling toilets and other plumbing fixtures has only two competitors in the city. But you don’t want to meet them halfway, you set dumping prices and don’t listen to their requests. Be prepared for trouble. And black PR may be just the beginning.

This style (competition) is chosen if you absolutely need to remain a winner and there are reasons to persistently move in a certain direction. Although sometimes confrontation is initiated with the expectation of suppressing the enemy - right up to the complete destruction of the latter.

Conflict resolution

When starting a conversation about conflict resolution, it should first of all be emphasized that the very concept of “conflict resolution” has two meanings:

  • Resolving conflicts by their subjects themselves
  • Conflict resolution based on identifying their causes and neutralizing them, as well as taking measures to prevent open conflict between subjects

Conflict resolution, as a serious practical tool, cannot be carried out without knowledge of its features. And even this does not always guarantee that the problem situation will be resolved successfully. And this depends not so much on how specific each individual situation is and what this specificity is, but on what measures should be taken to resolve the conflict. And here we should strive to ensure that measures aimed at dealing with the fact of conflict correspond to the scheme below:

  • Analysis and determination of the causes of conflicts and the reasons for the conflict behavior of their subjects (conflict cartography);
  • Making a decision to enter into a conflict, taking into account its outcome;
  • Implementation of a decision to enter into conflict.

In practice, in resolving a conflict, everything depends on the position of the subjects resolving it. This position can be expectant, authoritative, negatively competent, leading to escalation, rational, or based on a deep understanding of the causes of the conflict. The point of conflict resolution is to influence both its causes and its participants.

Methods for resolving conflicts can be completely different, from eliminating their causes and containing the situation to reorienting the attitudes of the participants, the purpose of which is to form in them the conviction that it is necessary to abandon destructive conflict interaction. Methods can also be socio-psychological, administrative or complex. If we consider the issue of resolution, we can distinguish between seemingly resolved conflicts, partially resolved conflicts and completely resolved conflicts.

And given the fact that conflict in the abstract cannot exist in nature, there are no universal methods of settlement and resolution suitable for any type of conflict. To resolve an interpersonal conflict, some methods are used; to resolve a family conflict, others are used; to resolve a military conflict, others are used. Approaches to conflict resolution are selected depending on their theoretical understanding.

The problem of conflict resolution and resolution today is very relevant in many countries around the world, and therefore it receives great attention. Particularly acute is the question of the role and functions of civil services, situations related to terrorist attacks, strikes and other movements that are potentially dangerous to humans, as well as the question of law and order in the army. In this regard, state governments are even developing special technologies for conducting operations to resolve conflicts and systems of behavior in conflict situations. For example, in the USA there is even a position of conflict manager.

It should also be said that the terms “resolution” and “settlement” of conflicts should not be identified with each other.

Conflict resolution is a set of measures aimed at eliminating the source of conflict interaction and ultimately satisfying the needs and interests of the subjects of the conflict. In the social aspect, this process can last for many years.

Conflict resolution is work aimed at stopping aggressive actions and achieving compromises that suit them, which will be more beneficial for them than continuing conflict interaction. Moreover, conflict resolution through negotiations, arbitration and mediation is used in practice much more often than resolution, and is achieved many times faster than it.

EXAMPLE: The most unproductive and primitive method of resolving a conflict is considered to be the use of force (for example, the start of hostilities), because in this case, there is a high probability of significant losses by all subjects of the problem situation and even escalation of the conflict. For this reason, in addition to this method, the truce method is used.

The conclusion of a truce is largely a tactical technique or an element of strategy. A form of truce can be a renunciation of aggressive actions through intermediaries (for example, the media), a withdrawal from the line of interaction between the parties to the conflict, a temporary renunciation of aggressive actions (for example, a temporary cessation of shelling), etc.

But the truce method is not very effective, because it is only temporary, the parties do not give each other any obligations, and no sanctions are established for violating the truce.

The most suitable method for eliminating a conflict is the conclusion of an agreement to end hostility (for example, a peace treaty). But reaching agreement is quite problematic, because... may be required to be competent in certain issues: political, cultural, economic, etc.

However, along with less effective or more radical methods, there is a better way to resolve conflicts in many aspects - negotiations, to which we will pay special attention. But before we move on to talking about negotiations, we should say a few words about how a conflict situation should be analyzed, because without knowing its features, hoping for success is, at a minimum, naive and ridiculous, and at a maximum, impractical and dangerous.

Avoidance style

If your father dreams that after graduating from school you will follow in his footsteps by becoming a cook, and you have long signed up for acting courses, but do not want to start an endless and meaningless argument early and do not voice your decision, then it is reasonable to choose the method of silence, avoiding open conflict. A lot can change in a couple of years, but there is no point in breaking spears aimlessly. Therefore, you happily gobble up your father’s delicious dishes on both cheeks and silently assent to him, gnawing on the juicy bones with a crunch (and Vaska listens and eats, not forgetting about Hamlet’s monologues).

In general, interpersonal relationships can give rise to many problems when the student-teacher confrontation or age restrictions often prevent you (being in a subordinate role) from expressing your disagreement openly (“Teach your little spiders better!”).

It is appropriate to choose an evasion style if one of the parties is under the pressure of an authoritarian or difficult personality; going to confrontation is more expensive for oneself - for example, a domestic tyrant or a tyrant leader (tyrant) strives to constantly show force in order to subjugate “lower ones” (some cannot do without exist) - and at this stage you do not have the opportunity to resist. For example, your boss, a person of the old school, says that your supposed absent-mindedness and sloppiness come from an incorrect lifestyle and laziness. And all because you don’t go to bed at 22.00, don’t read classics and don’t wipe yourself with cold water. You understand that in order to develop a successful career, you only have to endure a year in this department and there is no point in starting a generational dispute, so to the boss’s formidable question: “Did you run this morning, Desdemona?” You answer with a vague nod.

Avoidance is also appropriate if you feel that your opponent is right, but due to laziness, calculation, the inability to make public objections, etc., you stand your ground, preferring not to enter into dialogue, but how your silence will be interpreted (as consent, submission, a sign of intelligence or lack thereof, unwillingness to object) is not your problem.

Analysis of a conflict situation

Analysis of a conflict situation in the process of conflict resolution is based on the following points:

  • Analysis of the sources of the conflict, namely: its historical, economic, social, national and other prerequisites; subjective or objective experiences of subjects; moral and humane aspects; as well as the depth of the conflict: contradictions in the views and opinions of the parties, their positions or complete confrontation;
  • Analysis of the so-called “biography” of the conflict: its history and the background against which it developed; growth; priority methods of struggle of subjects; moments of crisis and turning points; victims and other consequences;
  • Analysis of the subjects of the conflict, i.e. people, groups, organizations. The indicator of the social complexity of the conflict is determined by calculating the number of participants and their real strengths;
  • Analysis of positions and relationships of subjects: formal and informal, private and general; the scale of relationships, the roles of individuals and groups in the conflict; features of personal relationships between the parties - leaders and ordinary participants;
  • Analysis of attitudes towards the conflict, in other words, analysis of the question of whether the parties to the conflict have the desire to resolve it, whether they plan to do this independently or rely on external influences and factors; what the parties to the conflict expect, what they hope for, what conditions they put forward, etc.

Only after sufficiently analyzing the conflict situation does it make sense to conceive negotiations and try to exert some influence on the opponent/opponents.

Collaboration style

Before the end of the weekend, the offended wife asked to put up wallpaper for the arrival of her mother-in-law and father-in-law, and she herself was busy preparing a festive dinner. You decide to make peace with your wife, peel potatoes and beat meat, and in the evening she helps you put up wallpaper. As a result, the work was completed efficiently and ahead of schedule, both parties were satisfied, and you avoided a family crisis. However, in this case the conflict could be purely external. Who knows - maybe you have role-playing games that are then accompanied by a stormy and pleasant reconciliation of the parties?

Or: our party also wants to get its “goodies”, but there are not enough necessary resources. Let's unite with your party into a solid bloc, establish business ties and interact on a parity basis.

Often the choice of this style of behavior leads to the unity of the parties - for example, against a common “enemy”. Losses are minimal, everyone got what they were looking for.

Negotiations as the main method of resolving conflicts

To begin with, it is worth noting that agreement between the parties to the conflict is achieved without intermediaries only in very rare cases. Mediators serve in a conflict as arbitrators, peacemakers, equalizers of the balance of interests of subjects and parties conducting negotiations. The gradual improvement of the practice of resolving conflict situations in the world in general (let alone small-level conflicts) has become the beginning of the creation of innovative methods that are based on sudden changes in the qualitative state of problem situations. And in most cases, these methods involve the use of third parties or other methods of external influence. Let us give several examples to prove this.

EXAMPLE: In world practice, quite effective ways of containing conflicting parties have already been developed. If these are micro-level conflicts (in families, at work, in a work team, etc.), then the role of mediators can be played by friends, colleagues, bosses, lawyers, etc. If these are mid- or macro-level conflicts (wars, uprisings, strikes, pickets, etc.), then army forces, police, riot police, special forces, the UN, etc. can act as mediators.

EXAMPLE: Since the UN was created in 1945, there have been over a hundred large-scale conflicts around the world, with a total death toll of approximately 20 million people. In most of these conflicts, the Security Council has resorted to the use of the veto, a power that allows an individual or group of individuals to unilaterally block any decision. But over time, the number of appeals to the UN has increased, and this mechanism for ensuring security with its help has become part of the arsenal of the main methods of conflict resolution, as well as their prevention.

The UN armed forces, whose activities are aimed at maintaining peace, are represented by various troops provided by UN member countries. The purpose of these armed forces is to contribute in every way to the prevention of hostilities, as well as to restore and maintain law and order, and ensure a favorable environment. Initially, they were assigned the powers to conduct negotiations, persuade opposing parties, conduct observations and all kinds of investigations.

Any activity aimed at resolving conflicts must proceed, first of all, from the premises of humanistic psychology. The position of the parties occupies a particularly important place here. Conflict resolution must be approached not from the position of “victory-defeat”, but from the position of such a mentality, the basis of which is a non-violent picture of the world, a “win-win” scheme, the desire to achieve agreement and personal growth. After all, the main task of conflict resolution is to achieve peace, stop aggressive confrontation, and find a compromise.

EXAMPLE: After the collapse of the USSR, violent conflicts arose on ethnic grounds in Tajikistan, Transnistria and South Ossetia, between Abkhazia and Georgia. To resolve conflicts, special models (Transnistrian, Georgian-Abkhaz, South Ossetian) of peacekeeping processes were developed. And their peculiarity was that Russia assumed the functions of a neutral force.

EXAMPLE: Resolving conflicts that resulted in strikes is also important. Russia has extensive experience in this regard. More specifically, the Russian government often resorts to the practice of social partnership, the purpose of which is to find and conclude acceptable solutions. The most important role in the process of resolving industrial conflicts is played by the organization of negotiations.

In addition, a special mechanism for the consideration of collective labor disputes has been developed and operates in developing and developed countries. It is provided by the ILO (International Labor Organization). For example, ILO Convention No. 154 of 1981, entitled “Collective Bargaining”, applies to all sectors of economic activity. It proclaims the main provisions for conducting negotiations within the arbitration or conciliation mechanism.

Resolving conflict relations involves carrying out certain preparatory work to ensure that the conflict is resolved not by aggressive, but by peaceful means. And the first thing you need to pay attention to here is the extinguishing of emotional intensity.

EXAMPLE: If a national conflict flared up and then turned into open armed confrontation, attempts to arrange negotiations between the conflicting parties will be useless. First of all, it is necessary to reach an agreement (for which a mediator must be used) on a cessation of hostilities, even if only temporarily.

Direct exchange of points of view will be effective only if the conflict has not yet reached the peak of its intensity, and also if the subjects have common ground.

For this reason, if there is an escalation of the conflict, the main task will be to try to prevent its parties from making direct contact, and also to, using an intermediary, begin to establish communication between the parties and exchange information between them.

But here it is very important to keep in mind that the “cold period” between the parties to the conflict should not be very long. If this condition is not met, the parties to the conflict (or at least one of them) may regard this as an unwillingness to solve the problem, as a result of which the situation may worsen and the parties will come into direct contact.

By and large, all researchers who study the problem of analysis and organization of negotiations have one common point of contact - these are the stages of the negotiation process.

The negotiation process should consist of the following stages:

  • Preparing for negotiations
  • Conduct of negotiations
  • Analysis of negotiation results
  • Implementation of agreements

And the process of finding solutions to resolve the conflict should include the following stages:

  • Mutual clarification of the positions, points of view and interests of the subjects of the conflict;
  • Discussion of the positions, points of view and interests of the subjects of the conflict;
  • Coordination of subjects' positions and development of agreements.

The negotiations themselves will look something like this:

Preparatory stage

Before actors begin to develop agreements, they must find out and discuss each other's points of view. Experts consider negotiations as a special process during which information uncertainty is removed through the understanding of opposing positions by the subjects. This process is most intense at its beginning. For this reason, it is conventionally called research.


First stage

At the first stage, the search and finding of common ground by subjects is of particular importance. But here we need a clear understanding that under the same definitions, formulations and terms, subjects mean the same things. Otherwise, the agreements and agreements reached by the subjects may be disrupted, and the conflict situation may worsen, as a result of which the confrontation will intensify. Negotiations should begin with introductory words and explanations, which are voiced by the mediator. He is also obliged to voice the purpose of the negotiations and outline their rules.


Main stage

After the mediator has brought the parties to the conflict up to date, the main stage of negotiations begins. The subjects of the conflict are given the opportunity to express their point of view in order of priority. Next, there is a step-by-step discussion of the problem, the adoption of specific decisions and agreements, first on specific issues, and then on the general topic.


Results of negotiations

The successful completion of negotiations depends on whether the following rules are observed:

  • You should not discuss those aspects of the problem that do not bring concrete results.
  • The main problem must be broken down into smaller issues and discussed step by step.
  • During the negotiation process, you need to follow the established order of discussion of issues
  • During the discussion, it is necessary to move from small agreements to more serious ones, as well as draw conclusions, sum up, summarize
  • It is necessary to respond to any positive aspects and constructive actions and proposals of the parties
  • It is necessary to attract the attention of the parties to those points that can unite them
  • It is necessary to make references to agreements already reached
  • It is necessary to establish agreements regarding general principles of interaction

At the main stage, when the problem is discussed, the attention of the participants is directed mainly to expressing their own position, and this stage will be of greatest importance if the subjects of the conflict (or at least one of them) are focused on resolving the issue, which will ensure realization of their own interests. In this case, a heated discussion may flare up, which may be replaced by the so-called “deaf time”, during which the natural course of negotiations is suspended.

EXAMPLE: During the negotiation process, the parties may begin to demonstrate their disinterest in meetings, contacts and any other interaction. As a result, there may be talk that the negotiations will be stopped altogether.

In such a situation, it can be effective to take a break so that each party can assess the situation, consider alternative courses of action and solutions to the problem, hold meetings with “their” people, or generally just take a break from the conflict resolution process. In addition, informal consultations and meetings may be helpful.

If the “deaf time” is successfully overcome, then the negotiation process will return to its natural rhythm. It is here that subjects most often begin to coordinate their positions. It is important to note that depending on what issues are being discussed, agreement on positions can be understood as either compromise concepts or issues that were previously discussed, but could become part of the final solution.

However, the coordination of positions is not yet an agreement, but serves only as a general “outline”. Moreover, the approval process has two phases: searching and defining a general scheme, and further discussion of details. Finding a general outline most often means establishing the framework of the agreement, and discussing the details means editing the agreement in order to formulate its final version.

This approach is very effective when applied to many negotiations, especially when the negotiations are planned to be complex and multifaceted. It can reduce the time it takes to come to a compromise, reach agreements, and also makes the discussion more productive. By developing a general scheme of negotiations and resorting to its detailing, the participants take turns going through the main stages: clarifying each other’s positions, discussing them and agreeing on them.

Of course, the marked stages do not have to strictly correspond to the presented order. When clarifying positions, participants can immediately come to agreement on some issues or discuss their points of view, or they can move on to clarifying individual nuances at the end of the negotiations. Although, speaking in general, the sequence that we talked about above must be followed, because otherwise, negotiations may be delayed or even broken down. It all depends on the specifics of each individual situation: sometimes one stage can take only a secondary place, while another can occupy a central place, and vice versa.

Along with the negotiation method, there are a number of methods for resolving and resolving conflicts that can be used if negotiations are not possible.

Other methods of conflict resolution and resolution

Other methods of conflict resolution and resolution depend on the characteristics of each problem situation and should be used based on this situation.

Intrapersonal methods. They have an impact on an individual and imply adequate organization of his behavior.

EXAMPLE: The ability to justify one’s position, express an opinion or point of view without provoking a negative or aggressive reaction from another person or group of people, etc.

Structural methods. They influence the subjects of conflicts that arise due to incorrect distribution of responsibilities, rights or functions, as well as improper organization of work or an unfair remuneration system.

EXAMPLE: Clear explanation to the parties to the conflict of their functions and tasks; a specific table of rights and responsibilities; principle of unity of command, etc.

Interpersonal methods. They are considered in two aspects: external and internal. External implies the competent activity of a third party to resolve the conflict. Internal – the use of effective techniques in the process of conflict interaction and everyday communication by the subjects themselves.

EXAMPLE: Coercion, compromise, cooperation, confrontation, evasion, compliance, accommodation, empathy, etc.

Retaliatory aggression. Responsive destructive actions of one subject of the conflict in relation to another when a conflict situation arises.

EXAMPLE: Counterattack, bickering, unwillingness to make concessions, argument, etc.

Avoiding conflict. It is used when the conflict is unnecessary for one of the subjects or the problematic situation is completely banal, as well as in cases where it is necessary to solve more important problems, gain time, or collect missing information.

EXAMPLE: Smoothing, accommodation, inaction, procrastination, concessions, taking the opposite position.

Conflict suppression. It is used in cases where circumstances do not allow entering into an open conflict, it is impossible to involve the opposite party in the situation, or there is a risk of losing authority, image, etc.

EXAMPLE: Divide and conquer method, quick conflict resolution, hidden actions, etc.

This should also include a very interesting tool for conflict resolution. As such, it does not represent a method of resolution, but it serves as an indispensable assistant for any person faced with unfavorable circumstances within the framework of the topic we are considering. This tool is called a conflict resolution matrix. You can remember the matrix, write it down on a piece of paper and always keep it nearby, or you can simply understand its features. In any case, this will be useful, because... can be useful anytime, anywhere.

So, the matrix:

To understand the essence of the presented matrix, you just need to refer to the description of conflict resolution methods that we talked about at the end of the lesson. Evaluate their advantages and disadvantages, remember how they differ from each other. And in order to more accurately understand the probability with which a particular conflict is most often resolved, in brackets for each of the matrix methods there is a scheme (“win-lose”, “win-win”, etc.), which means the prospect of resolving the conflict for the party applying the method (first indicator) and for the party to whom this method is directed (second indicator). The matrix is ​​extremely easy to use, so mastering it will not pose any difficulties for you.

In conclusion, it remains only to note that the considered methods of resolving and resolving conflicts are not exhaustive or the only one of their kind. The most important thing is to come to the understanding that absolutely anything that helps ensure and maintain normal relations between people can serve as such methods; everything that strengthens their respect and trust in each other.

In our next lesson we will talk in detail about a topic that is one of the most relevant in conflictology and worries many people - intrapersonal conflict.

Let's go crazy

Conflicts, as well as ways to resolve them, can be very different. Having understood the motivation of the “opponents”, you can more easily understand the causes of the problem and develop further tactics. The final phase - analysis of the end of the conflict - involves studying the results and consequences and comparing them with those initially expected (including to prevent relapses).

If you are a master of crisis management, then it will not be difficult to understand any problem. But when you are an ordinary manager, a neighbor weakened by lack of sleep, or a tortured henpecked man who nevertheless does not want to part with his beloved wife... Maybe it makes sense to attend some kind of training like “Modern approach to conflict management”? You will learn to correctly develop a strategy, choose a style of behavior (which will simplify your life in the future) and understand that in one situation you should act tough, in another it makes sense to go to the bottom for a while, and in a third you need to actively fight for your rights. But do not forget about the biblical postulate: “And as you want people to do to you, do so to them.” As they say, it’s good when everyone feels good. Isn’t this what we were striving for?

Author Maria Nefedova

Test your knowledge

If you want to test your knowledge on the topic of this lesson, you can take a short test consisting of several questions. For each question, only 1 option can be correct. After you select one of the options, the system automatically moves on to the next question. The points you receive are affected by the correctness of your answers and the time spent on completion. Please note that the questions are different each time and the options are mixed.

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