Human relations constitute the basis of communication, collaboration and progress. At times, these positive outcomes of human relation interactions can suffer breakages, which generate conflicts. There are various causes and sources of conflicts and their effects are varied, but there are also effective strategies for managing the conflicts.
In their study, “Business Communication”, Shwom and Snyder dedicate an entire chapter, entitled “Working with others. Interpersonal, Intercultural, and Team Communication”, for identifying the causes and sources of conflict as well as for presenting ways and strategies to manage conflicts.
Communication is composed of two segments: speaking and listening and both segments can lead to conflicts if improperly utilized. While listening, the communication partners can be interrupted by other thoughts or ideas, can find difficulties in comprehending the language used or in hearing the speakers, which are the causes of passive listening (Shwam & Snyder 36). This form of listening can be a cause for conflicts, because it can lead to misinterpretations or incorrect evaluation of speakers, sign of ineffective communication (Shwom & Snyder 40).
For addressing passive listening, it is recommended to train for active listening, making efforts to understand the speaker, to focus on what the person is communicating, paraphrasing for testing that the message perceived was the one intended by the speaker, and to evaluate the message received without biasing or preconceiving the speaker. Showing respect and clear understanding of what the speaker communicates results in shared respect and addresses the potential conflict.
Speaking can be a cause of conflicts, when it is biased, accusatory, unclear, ambiguous or provocative (Shwom & Snyder 41-44). The receivers of these negative communications can feel angry, frustrated, confused or frightened and their response to the received message will be a reflection of their feelings, which is unsupportive for an efficient communication, causing a conflict between the communication partners involved. Similarly, gendered communication is also a cause for conflicts, because, as Shwom and Snyder (45) indicate, while men tend to interrupt more and impose themselves in the conversation, women are sociologically found as more assertive and hesitant, which suggests the lack of self-confidence. Men’s attitude can be considered intimidating, while women’s hesitant temper can be considered weakness, and not worthy of being taken serious, and this causes gendered conflicts (Shwom and Snyder 45).
For the ineffective communication models, described above, there are communication strategies meant to avoid negative communication, hence, avoid the conflict. Using clear, concrete and unambiguous language or framing negative comments positively, are strategies meant to provide a professional working environment while assuring effective communication (Shwom & Snyder 44).
The sources of conflicts are also varied, and they can be identified as corresponding to either one of the two broad categories: cognitive conflict (generated because of differences in understanding content or tasks) and affective conflict (reflecting differences in personalities and relationships) (Shwon & Snyder 45).
Competing goals, differences of opinions and faulty assumptions compose the cognitive conflicts, while relational issues and ego issues indicate the affective conflicts; the cognitive conflicts can have positive outcomes, if properly and timely addressed, but the affective conflicts generate tensions and lead to organizational costs for solving interpersonal differences (Shwom & Snyder 46).
The competing goals, which are likely to generate cognitive conflicts, indicate the existence of different organizational goals between employees, each following the goals specific to their job profile, which can be conflicting with their colleagues’ goals. For managing this type of conflict it is recommended for the communication partners to address their superior for deciding which goal has priority, following that both sides of the cognitive conflict to work together towards achieving the priority goal.
Although the goal was established, a cognitive conflict may still arise due to differences of opinions on the modality of achieving the goal, which can generate into a unwanted affective conflict; the key to manage the differences of opinion resides in applying a rational decision-making process, including compromising (Shwom & Snyder 47).
The faulty assumptions can generate conflicts and unwanted negative consequences. The key to manage such conflict is to clearly communicate the intentions and the reasons of required actions, for letting no room to misinterpretations (Shwom & Snyder 47-48).
In an affective conflict where the source is a relational issue, the actors of the conflict are concerned about arguing each other because they have different opinions, which brought them to dislike each other. Besides being frustrating for the employees, such a conflict is costly and ineffective for working environment. For managing such conflict it is recommended applying assertive communication (using neutral tone rather than accusatory), active listening and the mediation from supervisors (Shwom & Snyder 48).
Yet another time consuming and costly conflict is generated by the ego issues, wherein employees insult or harass other employees, leading to avoiding themselves. Shifting the focus back to business and taking a mature, conciliatory approach is the recommendation for managing this type of conflict (Shwom & Snyder 49).
- Conflict avoidance, not recommended, because conflicts remain unsolved;
- Accommodation, allows the opportunity to change the opinion, if later convinced it was incorrect, but not recommended for sacrificing principles for the sake of the groupthink;
- Compete to win, encourages finding fault and blaming, results in momentarily solutions, but can lead to relational conflicts;
- Compromise, effective in achieving workable solutions as a result of shared sacrifice;
- Collaborate to find the best solution, provides the setting for conflicting parties to work together, identifies best solutions and strengthens the relationships between parties (Shwom & Snyder 49-50).
Shwom, Barbara & Snyder, Lisa, Gueldenshoph. Business Communication. 2nd edition. Chapter 2: “Working with Others: Interpersonal, Intercultural, and Team Communication”. Boston: Pearson. 2014. 36-63. Print.