Conflict Management



What is Conflict: (n.d.) defines conflict as:
  • an open clash between two opposing groups (or individuals)
  • a disagreement or argument about something important
  • a state of opposition between persons or ideas or interests
  • opposition between two simultaneous but incompatible feelings
"An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind" ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Is conflict good or bad?

According to the National Institute for Advanced Conflict Resolution, up to 30% of a typical leader’s time is spent dealing with conflict. Further research found that over 65% of work performance problems are due to strained relationships as a result of conflict. CEOs and senior vice presidents reported they spend up to 70% of their time on conflict. (OrgLeader, 2014).

As evident from the article above, conflict is natural and will be part of our everyday lives – even in our personal/relational lives. It is not wise to tag conflict as either good or bad, but rather to focus on how is the conflict currently being handled or was handled (Vandersteen, 2014).

Conflict is good when? 

  • Your perspective is broadened regarding the disagreement or struggle
  • It brings positive change
  • It strengthens relationships
  • It leads to the creation of various solutions that one did not think of
  • It brings understanding of one another through the sharing of ideas and different perspectives

Conflict is bad when?

  • Relationships are ruined & there is long-term division
  • It leaves emotional/psychological wounds
  • One starts to bully the other into resolution of getting your own way
  • It becomes the only manner in which you can communicate
  • You intimidate/overpower/bully to get heard

Conflict Handling Strategies

Conflict resolution is considered as the best coping strategy that may reduce the conflict between two parties. Effective conflict resolution may bind two parties in a long-term relationship/friendship with positive feelings attached to it (Khan & Khan, 2018).

Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann in 1974 developed an assessment to determine an individual’s conflict handling style. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) assesses an individual’s behaviour in conflict situations—that is, situations in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible.

In conflict situations, we can describe a person’s behaviour along two basic dimensions:

  • Assertiveness, the extent to which the individual attempts to satisfy his or her own concerns
  • Cooperativeness, the extent to which the individual attempts to satisfy the other person’s concerns

Individuals usually use one of these five (5) conflict handling strategies during conflict:


Conflict Style



  • Assertive and uncooperative: You try to satisfy your own concerns at your teammate’s expense.
  • Competing is used by people who go into a conflict situation planning to win.
  • This method is characterised by the assumption that one side wins and everyone else loses.
  • It doesn’t allow room for diverse perspectives into a well-informed total picture.
  • Competing might work in sports or war, but it’s rarely a good strategy for group problem solving.


  • Assertive and cooperative: You try to find a win-win solution that completely satisfies both your concerns and your teammate’s concerns.
  • A group may learn to allow each participant to make a contribution with the possibility of co-creating a shared solution that everyone can support.
  • An individual attempts to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both.


  • Intermediate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness: You try to find an acceptable settlement that only partially satisfies your concerns and those of your teammate.
  • The concept is that everyone gives up a little bit of what they want, and no one gets everything they want.
  • The perception of the best outcome when working by compromise is that which “splits the difference.”
  • Compromise is perceived as being fair, even if no one is particularly happy with the final outcome.


  • Unassertive and uncooperative: You sidestep the conflict without trying to satisfy your concerns or those of your teammate.
  • Avoiding is when people just ignore or withdraw from the conflict.
  • They choose this method when the discomfort of confrontation exceeds the potential reward of resolution of the conflict.
  • This method does not really contribute anything of value to the conversation and may be withholding worthwhile ideas.
  • Nothing gets resolved here.


  • Unassertive and cooperative: You attempt to satisfy your teammate’s concerns at the expense of your own.
  • Accommodating is a strategy where one party gives in to the wishes or demands of another.
  • This may appear to be a gracious way to give in when one figures out s/he has been wrong about an argument.
  • It’s less helpful when one party accommodates another merely to preserve harmony or to avoid disruption. Too much accommodation can result in groups where the most assertive parties commandeer the process and take control of most conversations.

 (, 2020; The participation Company, 2016)

Wheel of Choice

Sometimes it is difficult to make a decision on the spot. One can use a decision wheel to assist you in making an effective decision that will produce positive outcomes for all parties involved. You can make your own decision wheel or look at the options below:


Resolving Conflict

Here are a few tips to take into consideration when resolving conflict: (Blink, 2018; Kappel, 2017; Myatt, 2012; Segal, 2019)

Know your personal pitfalls when it comes to conflict. Every individual has certain things that triggers them, make sure you know yours so that you can be pro-active in dealing with them.

 Additional Reading Material/Resources/Posters/Other Languages


Books to read:

  • Confronting without offending by Deborah Pegues
  • Introduction to Conflict Resolution: Discourses and Dynamics by Sara Cobb, Sarah Federman, Alison Castel

Online e-books

Click HERE for the Poster

Click HERE for the Podcast

YouTube Video

References (2018). How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace. Retrieved from

Kappel, M. (2017). 6 Strategies to Resolve Conflict at Work. Retrieved from

Myatt, M. (2012). 5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict. Retrieved from (2020). Conflict Management - Essential to Organizational Performance. Retrieved from (2014). Is Conflict Good or Bad? Retrieved from

Segal, J. (2019). Conflict Resolution Skills. Retrieved from

The Participation Company. (2016). 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies We All Use. Retrieved

Vandersteen, S. (2014). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Dealing With Conflict in the Workplace. Retrieved from

Vocabulary.Com. (n.a). Definition of conflict. Retrieved from


Compiled by Juan-Ri Potgieter (Industrial Psychologist @Thuso1777, Potchefstroom Campus)

Updated June 2020