Competitive Conflict Style
- Describe the competitive conflict style and explain why a competitive conflict is hard to resolve.
- Identify reasons why it is better to focus on interests rather than positions in a negotiation.
- Describe the factors to consider when choosing a conflict style.
- Explain why the collaborating style may not be the best choice for all situations.
- In union negotiations with management, both sides take an initially "tough" position, yet, after a few weeks of negotiation, a new contract is agreed upon by both parties. Explain why this is an effective conflict style in this situation.
Competitive conflict style is where each of the conflicting parties is interested in satisfying its own concerns and disregarding others' concerns. In addition, while the conflicting parties are often aggressive and outspoken, many time their true motives are hidden. This means that the underlying reasons behind aggression is difficult to understand, even when the parties are openly antagonistic. Needless to say, a resolution in this situation is difficult to achieve. First, the openly aggressive stance means that there is a great deal of pride involved, which means it is difficult to convince individual parties to 'back down'. Second, not always knowing the reasons behind the hostile behavior means that a complete picture of conflict is not understood.
Parties' positions are based on several factors which includes a societal expectation that they 'should' take a particular position. However, interests are the core reason for conflicts. Focusing on interests of these parties would be better because it would give them a productive way to resolve conflicts, while positions would leave no room for a compromise unless the other party agrees to change theirs.
When making a decision to choose a conflict style the first factor to be considered is the immediate goals, whether it is to consider one's own needs only or other party's needs only or satisfy the interests of both parties. The second factor is the long-terms consequences of choosing a style. Third factor is an assessment of the present situation in terms of variables such as time pressure and degree of trust between the parties. The fourth factor is the ethical impact from various perspectives while choosing a particular conflict style.
Despite academicians and scholars touting collaborating styles as the best among conflict styles with a host of advantages, it may not be the best choice for all situations. The goodwill created because of a collaborating style creates a false impression that all their goals will be fulfilled which may be an incorrect impression given the fact that the goals of each parties shift during the conflict. Dissatisfied parties may shift to a competitive style midway through the conflict resolution process, exacerbating a situation. This would obviously be a problem in an office scenario where there is a lot of conflict. Further, the approach is also time-consuming and may not be a good solution for a situation where there are strict time pressures.
The initial 'tough' position by both parties makes it clear to both the parties that their individual stances are important to them as are the issues put forth. This also makes it clear to the other party that they have the power to maintain a tough stance and create a problem if their demands are overlooked. However, during the negotiation process each of the party 'concedes' to the demands of other parties, not just compromising but also showing the other party their magnanimity in doing so. This not only solves the conflict but also creates an good environment for working without any of the parties 'conceding' or 'losing' in front of the others.