Most social conflicts (and particularly the more difficult ones) are up and down the hierarchy of power and authority. They can take place in different settings, from families, to organization, communities, nations and entire countries. In this project, we are working on characterizing and developing tools and assessments, based on decades of research and practice, taking into account a specific set of strategies that have proven to be key in navigating and managing social and organizational conflict.
We have identified seven main conflict management strategies: Support, Appeasement, Autonomy, Dominance, Benevolence, Compete and Cooperate. To these we add Adaptivity, the ability to leverage all of the different strategies when necessary, and Revolution, the capacity to break the rules as a last resort. The main objective of this project is to identify and test 1) the personal, developmental and cultural tendencies that draw people to the strategy, 2) its values, benefits and merits (when it’s good and should be used), 3) a catalogue of artful tactics that can be learned and employed, 4) the consequences of using the strategy too much or inappropriately (what happens when it gets stuck), and 5) the competencies and skills needed to develop and employ the strategy effectively.
Our approach stresses the importance for leaders of developing the capacity to adapt: to be able to employ various strategies and tactics for conflict management and influence effectively in organizations – in order to marshal their potential energy and avoid pitfalls.
Research has found that although many negotiators and leaders tend to get stuck in one approach to negotiating conflict (often domination), our more effective leaders and negotiators are more nimble. They read situations more carefully, consider their short and longer-term objectives, and then employ a variety of different strategies in order to increase the probabilities that their agenda will succeed. Our upcoming new book, Conflict Intelligence: Harnessing the Power of Conflict and Influence provides step-by-step instructions for developing skill in applying these strategies and tactics and enhancing competencies for adaptivity in conflict.
Since Darwin, adaptation to change has been associated with survival and fit. Yet despite this, leaders and managers often get stuck in dominating approaches to conflict, and few scholars have examined the role of adaptation in managing conflicts effectively over time and across changing situations. Four studies are presented based on a situated model of conflict in social relations, which contribute to the development of a new measure (the Smart Conflict Assessment Tool – SCAT) for assessing conflict adaptivity at work. The model suggests that more adaptive approaches to conflict – those that allow for the use of varied strategies that are in line with the demands of situations and effectively meet disputant’s needs– will result in higher levels of satisfaction with conflict and work. Results support our hypotheses. Individuals who responded to fundamentally different conflict scenarios in a manner not inconsistent with the demands of the situations they faced reported higher levels of general satisfaction with conflict processes, relationships and outcomes at work, and with greater work satisfaction. Limitations and implications of the research are discussed.
The field of conflict resolution is fractured. Despite many decades of fine research, we still lack a basic unifying framework that integrates the many theories of conflict dynamics. Thus, the findings from research on conflict are often piecemeal, decontextualized, contradictory, or focused on negative outcomes, which contributes to a persistent research-practice gap. In this article, we describe a situated model for the study of conflict that combines separate strands of scholarship into a coherent framework for conceptualizing conflict in dyadic social relations. The model considers conflict interactions in the context of social relations and employs prior research on the fundamental dimensions of social relations to create a basic framework for investigating conflict dynamics. The resulting model is heuristic and generative. We discuss the theoretical context and main propositions of this model as well as its implications for conflict resolution practitioners.