Tracking Managerial Conflict Adaptivity

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Albert Einstein once said “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” But years of research have found that those in position of powers (leaders and managers) tends to get stuck in dominating and controlling approaches to negotiation and conflict. When leaders and managers operate from a way of general dominance, they fare less well in negotiations, undermine relationships, foster less commitment to their decisions, and cultivate negativity and rancour of subordinates. And as the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Importance of adaptation was largely neglected in the scholarly approaches to conflict management in an organization. Coleman and Kugler tried to present a new approach to measuring the conflict competencies of managers through assessment of conflict adaptivity in their research. By combining five approaches to conceptualizing interpersonal conflict resolution, namely: (1) social interdependence theory (Deutsch, 1973; Johnson& Johnson, 1989, 2005; Tjosvold, 1991), which focuses on how differences in cooperative and competitive goal interdependence effect conflict dynamics; (2) social motivation theory (De Dreu et al., 2007; Van Lange, De Cremer, Van Dijk, & Van Vugt, 2007), which emphasizes how prosocial and pro self-motivational orientations influence conflict processes and outcomes; (3) dual-concern theory (Blake & Mouton,1964; Pruitt, Rubin, & Kim, 2004; Rahim, 1983, 1986; Thomas, 1976), which stresses how combinations of different types and degrees of self-other concerns in conflict situations influence different responses to conflict management; (4) power dependence theory (Gerhart & Rynes, 1991; Kim & Fragale, 2005; Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Mannix, Thompson, & Bazerman, 1989; Ng, 1980; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959), which focuses on how differing degrees of relative interdependence effect power and conflict dynamics in negotiations; and (5) game theory (Schelling, 1960; Von Neumann & Morgenstern, 1944), which formulates conflicts of interest in precise mathematical terms and emphasizes how the rational, interdependent nature of disputants’ interests, behavior, and fates effects conflict outcomes, Coleman, Kugler, et al. (2012) propounded a situated model of conflict in social relations.

A Situated Model of Conflict in Social Relations

According to Deutsch Psychological orientations (PO) are composed of the following component orientations: cognitive, motivational, moral, and action. A strong tendency for a fit between the type of social relation and type of psychological orientation has been deduced. The lack of fit ( compatibility of a person's temperament with the features of their particular social environment.) produced a drive to change so that fit occurs. For example, the PO one applies when negotiating “up” with a member of the board of directors will differ drastically from that employed when arguing with a colleague over the preferred room temperature. In shaping the various POs for the settled model, Coleman et al. (2010, 2012, 2013) targeted on the foremost extreme regions of the conflict stimulus field and identified through previous analysis the subsequent 5 primary POs: (1) benevolence; (2) dominance; (3) support; (4) appeasement and (5) autonomy.

As per the analysis once participants were conferred with the same conflict (in terms of the problems involved), they delineated different experiences perceptions, emotions, values, and behavioural intentions—across the five situational regions. when accosted a “high-power, cooperative, high-interdependence” situation, participants represented a more active-cooperative PO to conflict than most alternative regions—where participants aforesaid they valued taking responsibility for the matter, taking note of the opposite, and expressed real concern for his or her low-power counterpart (benevolence). In distinction, “high-power, competitive, high-interdependence” situations were found to induce a more threatening and resistance approach to the opposite party, less concern for the opposite, and heightened issues for his or her own power (dominance). “Low-power, cooperative, high-interdependence” situations afforded more of a PO of appreciative support than the other regions, wherever individuals with all respect wanted clarification of roles and responsibilities, worked harder to make amends, and felt concern for his or her superior within the conflict (support). This was in distinction to the reactions determined to “low-power, competitive, high-interdependence” situations, that evoked higher levels of stress and anger, a powerful ought to tolerate things, and a need to seem for prospects to sabotage the opposite party if the chance conferred itself (appeasement). “Low interdependence” situations of any kind in comparison with the others afforded a less intense expertise of the conflict, wherever individuals most popular to easily act severally to satisfy their goals, move on, or exit the dispute altogether (autonomy).

Each of the five POs outlined in the situated model has its explicit utilities and edges, costs, and consequences, betting on the psychological makeup of disputants, the POs of different parties, and also the nature of the situations faced. Repeated experiences in situations with similar structures are thought to give rise to habitual response patterns that on average yield good outcomes (Kelley 1983; Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003). These habitual patterns can eventually reside within persons, particular relationships, and/or group norms, and therefore lead to more automatic, chronic conflict responses. When this occurs, people may find it emotionally distressing when situations change and require that they adopt a different approach (McClelland, 1975; Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003). Ironically, this is often notably true for individuals in positions of high power like higher managers, who become more and more comfortable with high-and-mighty approaches to disputes.

Conflict Adaptivity

In essence, adaptation is the developmental or evolutionary process by which a unit becomes better suited to its habitat or environment. Thus, adaptation equals modifications toward fit. People develop the capability to use differing types of POs as they become necessary in different situations. However, if people develop robust, chronic POs, they will use POs that are somehow inconsistent with thecase. Within the context of conflicts, this suggests that people will tend to approach conflicts in an dependable manner notwithstanding what could also be thought of applicable in any given scenario.

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Although specific POs are also helpful and more fitting in particular situations, issues usually arise for people after they become fixated on any one PO or once individual’s chronic PO(s) fits poorly with the particular demands of situations.

Therefore, conflict adaptability: the capacity to identify and respond appropriately to different conflict situations or relevant changes in conflict situations by employing the different POs of the situated model and their related strategies in a manner consistent with the demands of the presenting situation, is a critical competency for managers working in a dynamic, mixed motive world of work. According to Van de Vliert effective individual rarely employ particular conflict-handling styles, instead they employ more blended approaches. Managers spends between 25 percent and 40 percent of their time at work in managing conflicts (Wayne, 2005). Therefore, conflict adaptivity becomes important for them. Conflict adaptivity needs disputants to be bound to the demands of situations and capable of gleaning what's relevant and unsuitable to the conflict. For testing the managerial conflict adaptivity assessment Coleman and Kugler presented three studies,

STUDY 1: Through study 1, Coleman and Kugler want to generate conflict situations that managers encounter at work and then have the participants to categorize the scenarios along the three dimensions of the situated model of conflict in social relations (i.e., relative power, type of goal interdependence, and degree of goal interdependence). By this study they assessed how many dimensions a particular behaviour fit with the respective conflict situation. Each behaviour could fit on one dimension (i.e., low conflict adaptivity), on two dimensions (i.e., medium conflict adaptivity), or on all three dimensions (i.e., high levels of conflict adaptivity). Participants in the positive conflict condition were expected and found to be more adaptive than participants in the less conflict adaptivity. Hence it suggests that being adaptive in conflict situations is associated with more satisfaction with conflict processes.

STUDY 2: Through study 2, Coleman and Kugler wanted to calculate the content validity of the scenarios in study 1 with the help of content validity ratio (CVR). It is suggested that all the scenarios had a content validity of more than 75 percent.

STUDY 3: The objective of this study was to test the relationship between adaptivity and satisfaction with conflict processes and well-being at work. As per the study conflict adaptivity is positively related to satisfaction with conflict processes as well as well-being at work, assessed with satisfaction with co-workers (positive correlation), and job-related affective well-being (positive correlation) and intentions to quit (negative correlation). A supplemental analysis indicated that a higher frequency of use of more cooperative behaviours (i.e. benevolence and support) was not related significantly to satisfaction with conflict processes and well-being at work. This result contradicts many theoretical and empirical approaches highlighting cooperation as the best choice in conflict situations, and provides an important area for future research.

General Conclusion

This article highlights that the managers should be more adaptive in conflicts so that conflict resolution, higher levels of satisfaction and well-being at work is achieved. Mangers who responded to the conflict situations in a more feasible manner according to the situated model of conflict in social relations were considered to be more adaptive. However, for constructive relations, adaptive individuals must hold the capacities to act in a cooperative manner more likely to lead to positive outcomes for all parties, such as trust, respect, affection, self-esteem and open exchange of information. At last it is necessary for managers to be adaptively flexible in new or changing situations.

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Tracking Managerial Conflict Adaptivity. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
“Tracking Managerial Conflict Adaptivity.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
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