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Functional and Dysfunctional Cooperation and Competition

Functional conflict can benefit your organization. When maintained at an ongoing minimal level, functional conflict results in innovation, teamwork and cooperation.

Dysfunctional conflict can hurt your organization. When managed effectively, however, the detrimental effects can actually be turned around and get your organization back on track. 

Dysfunctional conflict results from many different factors. They may be interpersonal conflicts based on emotion. They may be interdepartmental conflicts based on competition for limited resources. They may be structural conflicts based on needs for recognition. Whatever the source, dysfunctional conflict must be detected and resolved in its earliest stages.

As a manager, your immediate response to dysfunctional conflict and your correct approach to addressing it will deliver positive results for your company. Let’s look at five different methods that you might implement for successful conflict management.

First, be competitive when you know you’re right. At times you may have to impose your opinion when unpopular programs or enforced discipline are necessary for the company’s benefit. Remember also, some of your colleagues may take advantage of noncompetitive behavior and could end up taking the floor while you remain in your chair.

Second, be collaborative when both sides have concerns that are too important to be compromised. Listen to insights from people with perspectives that differ from your own and synthesize them. Work towards building a consensus and getting commitment from all parties involved.

Third, be evasive when issues are trivial or when you are pressed with more important issues. Your hesitation may allow others to cool down and the conflict may resolve on its own. You also allow yourself the luxury of more time to gather information when contemplation supersedes the need for an immediate decision.

Fourth, be accommodating when you are wrong. Allow those with better ideas to take the floor, and demonstrate how diplomatic and reasonable you are. When issues are more important to others than they are to you, give leeway. Allowing others to benefit from your accommodation builds credit that you can use later on. Conceding to others with better opinions also helps to develop your subordinates, who learn from your occasional mistakes.

Finally, be compromising when goals are important, but the collaborative effort may be disruptive. Compromise for temporary settlements and as a backup when competition or collaboration have been unsuccessful.

As a manager, knowing how to choose the best method to manage dysfunctional conflict makes you one of your company’s most valuable assets.

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