There are many definitions of conflict, but in a basic essence we can say that conflict is a clash of interest. (Baker, 2018) It is a disagreement between two objectives or attitudes. Conflicts can occur in various situations, as exemplified by common scenarios of people arguing on a road or shouting at each other in a traffic jam. Another most popular conflict zone is at work where the ideology of the boss and the employee differs. It is usually common knowledge that where interests clash, a conflict will occur. However, it is also important to mention that the meaning of interest isn’t limited to ‘wants’. Conflicts also occur due to lack of resources, differences in opinions, values or the desire for an influential power position.
To explain things in a more transparent way, different theorists have divided conflict into different parts as per their perspective and ideology. For this article, let’s divide conflict into 3 types, individual, group and organisation.
Conflicts at individual level can be further categorized into two types, intrapersonal and interpersonal. Intra- personal conflicts are the ones which occur within oneself. Although quite frequently experienced by all, it is hardly given enough importance. It is more of a psychological conflict that involves questioning/ provoking of thought, emotion, beliefs or values that one is brought up with. For example, the nurse in the healthcare environment may face intrapersonal conflict while deciding whether to give up on a personal break or to work for the extra step which may have the possibility of bringing a smile on the patient’s face. Both the outcomes may seem desirable, but a conflict is generated by not being able to choose one.
Interpersonal conflicts are the ones that occur between two individuals. This normally happens because of difference in opinions or attitudes of both the persons. An example of such a situation in the healthcare sector could be a conflict between two nurses about the approach to be maintained while dealing with a particular patient. One may appreciate asking personal questions to make the client feel at home while the other may strictly advocate professional approach and not bear extra responsibilities.
Group and Organization conflicts, both can be further divided into two parts – inter-group conflict and intra-group conflict. Inter-group conflict is the one that occurs between two different groups. In the healthcare scenario, there may be disagreements between the newly employed staff and the group of old staff or the group of management.
Intra-group conflicts on the other hand, are the conflicts that occur within a group. In continuing the above mentioned example of the social scenario, intra group conflict would be a conflict that happens between the individuals of the same group, say between the newly employed nurses.
Conflicts of all stature often disrupt the balanced psychological well being of an individual or even an organization. According to a human resource article, (Mayhew, 2019), conflicts within an organization result in behaviors of discomfort at the workplace, employees tend to take more leaves and don’t find happiness in the team’s success. These employees may also fail to maintain proper communication with each other which may result in less sales and increase in customer dissatisfaction. Working in healthcare sectors tend to be more demanding and can be worsened by extended work hours and teams competing for resources. (De Dreu and Gelfand, 2013)
In a society as well, we see if a conflict is not properly managed or given a balanced solution to, it may result in draining an individual psychologically. This mental burnout may serve to decrease the productivity of a person which can further spiral into more conflict with say the spouse or children or with the boss at work. In the example provided here, we see that Peter has grown quite frustrated and is at his wit’s end to not find the new care staff having the same standards as the previous one.
One of the most famous models that people refer to when talking about conflict resolution is the Thomas Kilmann model. Thomas Kilmann developed an instrument to understand 5 different types of responses that people have towards conflict, which further helps us understand different resolution techniques that can be used, based on the approach group that one falls under. (Assessments, Tests and Assessment, 2019) The model assesses an individual’s behavior along two dimensions – assertiveness and cooperativeness.
A person who is highly assertive and scores very low on cooperativeness is called ‘competing’. The ones’ who score very high on cooperativeness and very low on assertiveness are called ‘accommodating’. ‘ Avoiding’ are the one who score very low on both the components. The ones who are exactly the opposite and score very highly on assertiveness as well as cooperativeness are called the collaborators. The last, are a group of people who fall under ‘compromising’.
Competing people are often very selfish and tend to focus on getting their view justified at the expense of the team’s. They are always at a defensive position and seek to ‘win’. People exactly opposite to the, the accommodating ones, tend to let go of their opinions without satisfying or being concerned about their own. These people are often seen as selfless individuals who care more about others rather than about what is right.
People who fall into the category of avoiding are the ones that rarely face an argument. They usually run away from the issues, ignore them or choose to side-step rather than face them to bring a solution. They are the ones who would do whatever the organization tells them to and simply disappear or ignore if there is an issue. The people falling into the opposite group are the collaborators. These people are often termed to have one the best conflict resolution strategy since they look for win for both parties. Collaborators tend to dig deep into the issue, identify the wants and needs of both the parties and reach a solution that is agreed upon by all the involved groups.
The last, compromising group of people are the ones that tend to moderate between assertiveness and cooperation. They tend to find a solution that only partially satisfies both parties. These group of people neither avoid the situation nor they satisfactorily resolve it. They diplomatically reach an ‘in-between’ ground that both sides can temporarily agree upon.
Understanding of this model helps us better evaluate the situation that peter is facing. There are several levels of conflicts that must be assessed and resolved. A collaborative approach of conflict resolution is the goal that one must reach. For the nurses and the institutional authorities involved, a personal understanding of whether one sulks, avoids or effectively approaches a problem can help them prevent or manage the conflict more effectively. Jones L et al (2019).
However, there are also certain flip sides or the shortcomings of Thomas Kilmann model. It has a forced choice question format which doesn’t allow the users to opt for ‘neither’ option. They are compulsorily required to opt for an option even though they may not be using either of the option in reality. The model also fails to take into consideration the cultural aspect. For example a person’s response to the same conflict with the boss and to an elder in the family will be different. Another common issue that most self report models face is the social desirability bias. People sometimes tend to report their answers wrongly in order to be seen in a certain way, thereby affecting the true results.
It is also important to look at the situational contexts that are causing or worsening the conflict. It may not always be the individual who is at fault but the organization.(Dattner, 2014) Like in the case of Peter’s scenario, hiring staff that is not well versed with their duties like using the hoist are bound to mess it up, causing the recipient to feel distrubed. Therefore, just assessing the personality of a person may not provide accurate results. It is also important for the organization to aptly value the staff that they are hiring and develop conflict resolution systems wherein managers which seek their opinion and do not undermine their authority in practice. (Faragher, 2015; Stanford, 2005)
The phenomenon of conflict is quite well known to a lot of people. It is the disagreement that results between two parties due to a difference in opinion, attitude or an ideology. If not resolved properly or addressed as required, it can have far reaching consequences which may result in hampering the productivity, creativity and the psychological well being of an individual or a group. (Balandzio, 2010)
In layman terms, Advocacy refers to gaining public support for a particular cause, policy or even an ideology. It helps support and empower people to understand and express their views. It enables them to give a voice to their opinion in the different contexts that they have to deal with. (Age, 2019) Conflict advocacy refers to the different approaches and strategies which are used to resolve the conflicting situation. These strategies are devised in a way to minimize the violence and achieve the desired change for the beneficiaries involved.
The first step or strategy to resolving a conflict is to establish the relevant and reliable facts. It is not very difficult for a conflicting situation to escalate to more conflicts and tangle to establishing other complicated situations involving spreading of rumors or establishing of stereotypes. Therefore, it is important to first take a thorough check into the reliability of the information available. Local advocacy service like Catholic Agency for Overseas Development rely on civil society networks to gather and spread reliable information to combat rumor and prejudice.(Cafod.org.uk, 2019) To resolve the example given, the first step Sean could take is to assess whether the conflict has any sound basis. He can check whether there are any loopholes or discrepancies in the information provided by the elderly clients, the care staff and the information reported by the family members. From this, he can filter out the relevant information and check how reliable it is. This step will help filter out the intensity and the reliability of the conflict.
Another important step is to analyze the people in position of power and the stakeholders who have the ability to influence the conflict. The main stakeholders can be determined once the relevant facts are placed in order. (The Open University, 2017) The stakeholders in the example given are family members and elderly clients against the care staff. It is necessary to analyze the capacity of the influence of all given parties to prevent exertion of violence or bullying by the beneficiaries. A deeper understanding of what shapes their attitudes, beliefs or motivations for the actions may help resolve the conflict in a more healthy manner. There is a good chance that the conflict between the elderly clients and the caretakers result due to a discrepancy in the ideology due to the generation gap. However, since the elderly are the clients, it may be a motto of ‘We care Nursing Home’ to be of service selflessly. Thus, analyzing the different stakeholders in a given conflict may help clarify the purpose and the nature of the conflict. It may also be the case that the elderly clients demand unreasonable service that the care staff is unable to provide, resulting in conflict.
Therefore, a thorough understanding of the stakeholders and their engagement helps reduce the influence of plausible tyranny resulting from unfair ideology of the powerful players. (Brauer and Er-rafiy, 2011) Sometimes, certain actors in the community may choose to join forces with the powerful elites like the government to exert more authority. However, a way can be worked around in such situations by empowerment of the other group and by increasing interaction between both the parties. An increase in interaction may help in breaking down any unjust stereotypes and through workshops or community training sessions, attempts can be made to make the parties step into each other’s shoes.
In some cases,or even in the current case of conflict, the underlying root of a certain may be misplaced prejudice or a stereotype that the party has no conscious knowledge of. Getting into a deeper understanding of the situation and cross questioning them might lead to a healthy confrontation which helps define the aim and the vision which will in turn help reach a beneficial conclusion during a conflict. On cross questioning the staff for example, Sean may find certain beliefs that they hold about the elderly which shapes their behavior and approach, but may not necessarily hold true for all the clients.
It is very useful to identify allies and neutral or common grounds on which the conflict can be addressed. Addressing the benefits for both the parties or turning the conflict into a common goal is one of the key signs of successful advocacy. Shared beliefs are key predictors for policy network beliefs. (Weible, 2005) If both the groups are empowered enough to place their opinions in a straightforward manner with the patience to listen to the other side, most of the conflicts can be solved. There are independent local organizations which help empower individuals to develop and express their opinions in a more organized way.
Different national and local services are established to help resolve conflicts in different sectors. According to a book by national academic press, state, municipal governments and NGOS are providing a broad range of social services to prevent family violence and empower individuals who are victims of it. (Violence in Families: Assessing Prevention and Treatment Programs, 1988) They are providing alternate living arrangements, alternate guardian relation, educational programs for those at risk of being abused and they provide intensive care and counselling for those who require it. Therapeutic social intervention like education and counselling helps individuals get back on their feet and earn a living for themselves. This also equips them with enough strength and courage to face the difficulties if they are ever placed in a position of unforeseen risk.
Larger advocacy services like government can provide help on a much larger scale. They may provide for housing services, medical checkups at minimal costs, support household income by creating job opportunities for them and much more.
Another strategy is to identify and rear a local leader. A quality local leadership is known to have one of the strongest influences in effecting change. A charismatic social leader is bound to draw respect and favour of different groups. It is therefore, extremely fruitful to recognize, nurture and support leaders who display the leadership qualities of successfully leading a group. On national level, advocacy and empowerment is promoted through leadership. It is effective in empowering those who can develop faith in the leader and align their vision with his.
It is often said that conflict escalates long before the first guns are fired. Devising proper advocacy and empowerment strategies can help resolve or avoid this conflict. Local and national organizations have developed quite a few strategies for it, which I mentioned in brief above. I have also included my opinions on what a good strategy for resolving conflict could be and what steps it can start from. In conclusion, it is also important that I mention, Advocacy responses need to be flexible and adaptable as the situation requires and calls for. The strategies need to be re- evaluated constantly and upgraded to keep in with the trends/ the rapidly changing situations. Relying on just the existing knowledge bank may stump the required action needed.
- Age, I. (2019). Independent advocacy. [online] Independent Age. Available at: https://www.independentage.org/information/support-care/taking-action/independent-advocacy [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].
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- Brauer, M. and Er-rafiy, A. (2011). Increasing perceived variability reduces prejudice and discrimination. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(5), pp.871-881.
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- Faragher J (2015) Touch the Gary Barlow poster again and I’ll see you in court. People Management; March: 25-29.
- Jones L et al (2019) Workplace conflict: why it happens and how to manage it. Nursing Times [online]; 115: 3, 26-28.
- Mayhew, R. (2019). Negative Effects of Conflict Within an Organization. [Blog] https://bizfluent.com/. Available at: https://bizfluent.com/how-does-5407144-employee-motivation-impact-organizational-performance-.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].
- Stanford N (2005) Organization Design: The Collaborative Approach. Abingdon: Routledge.
- The Open University (2017). Humanitarian Advocacy.
- Violence in Families: Assessing Prevention and Treatment Programs. (1988). National research Council, p.pg. 93.
- Weible, C. (2005). Beliefs and Perceived Influence in a Natural Resource Conflict: An Advocacy Coalition Approach to Policy Networks. Political Research Quarterly, 58(3), pp.461-475.