Thursday, 3 May 2012

Interpersonal Conflict Management Styles in the Turkish Organizational Context

The term “interpersonal conflict management style” is used to denote specific reactions and behaviors demonstrated by individuals for managing with a conflict status quo. Conceptual differentiation between interpersonal conflict management styles dates back to 1920s; and since then researchers have developed
numerous different typologies that have relied upon dichotomous, triple, quartette, and pentad distinctions between styles. However, several studies have stated that a five style model of conflict management is a better and more appropriate conceptualization for explaining interpersonal conflict management phenomena. Henceforth, this thesis research is also founded upon a five style typology of interpersonal conflict management styles.

The five style conflict management typology is first suggested by Follet (1940) who differentiates between three main ways of handling conflict, which are domination, compromise and integration, in addition to two supplementary ways – avoidance and suppression. Blake & Mouton (1964) also propose that there are five styles of interpersonal conflict management. According to these authors’ managerial grid approach, the dominant interpersonal conflict management style used by managers can be identified by assessing the levels of their concerns over production and over people (id est. over employees’ needs). Thomas (1976, 1992) has converted the two dimensions offered by Blake & Mouton (1964) into assertiveness and cooperativeness, where the former refers to the level of attempts to satisfy one’s own concerns and the latter refers to the level of attempts to satisfy other parties’ concerns. Rahim & Bonoma (1979) and Rahim (1983a, c) use the very similar dual concern model to identify five interpersonal conflict management styles with respect to individuals’ concerns for self and others.

Below the definitions of five interpersonal conflict management styles used in this research are provided. All of these definitions are based upon the dual concern conceptualization of Rahim & Bonoma (1979).
Integrating or problem-solving conflict management style – as can be traced in the upper figure, indicates high concern for self and for others, a desire for parties’ mutual satisfaction. In game theoretic terminology, this style can be associated with positive sum, win-win approaches, where both parties’ needs are met. Rahim (1994) indicates that “this style involves collaboration between the parties for problem solving. This requires trust and openness so that the parties can exchange information and analyze their differences to reach a solution acceptable to them”.

Obliging – sometimes referred to as accommodating, indicates low concern for self and high concern for others, a state of satisfying other party’s needs at the expense of own personal concerns. This style embodies zero-sum thinking and is distributive in nature, where the obliging party loses and the other wins. According to Rahim (1994); “this style is associated with attempting to play down the differences and emphasizing similarities to satisfy the concerns of the other party. It may take the form of self-sacrifice, selfless generosity, charity, or obedience to another person’s wishes”.

Dominating – sometimes referred to as competing or forcing, indicates a high concern for self and low concern for others, a desire to satisfy personal needs at the expense of others’. It is associated with zero-sum thinking and distributive behavior, where the dominating party wins and the other loses. Rahim (1994) states that; A dominating or competing person goes all out to win his or her objective and, as a result, often ignores the needs and expectations of the other party. Dominating may mean standing up for one's rights and / or defending a position that the party believes to be correct.

Avoiding – sometimes referred to as withdrawing, refers to a low concern for self and for others, a state of ignorance, indifference or suppression of the conflict status quo. This style is zero-sum in nature, producing lose-lose results where none of the parties needs and expectations are met. According to Rahim (1994) this style; ....may take the form of postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.… This style is often characterized by an unconcerned attitude toward the issues or parties involved in conflict. Such a person may refuse to acknowledge in public that there is a conflict that should be dealt with.

Compromising refers to an intermediate position with reference to own and others’ concerns; it resembles a desire to reach a middle point in between both parties’ aspirations. Rahim (1994) suggests that this style is neither zero-sum, nor exactly positive sum in nature as he puts it as “mixed” or “no-win / no-lose”, and states that;
This style involves give-and-take or sharing, whereby both parties give up something to make a mutually acceptable decision. It may mean splitting the difference, exchanging concession, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.
A compromising party gives up more than a dominating party but less than an obliging party. Likewise, such a party addresses an issue more directly than an avoiding party, but does not explore it in as much depth as an integrating party.

However, it is suggested here that compromising is more likely to resemble a distributive approach since this behavior incorporates contending to settlement at some point below the parties’ original aspiration levels and furthermore settling at a seemingly middle point may require one party to concede relatively more than the other in real case scenarios.

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