Page 1 2 3 4

Analysis

1. It may be appropriate to contend on the basis of the above ranking that response to conflict may be sequential selection rather than a random choice. This analysis also supports that individuals employ a mix of strategies than a single strategy (Rahim 1985; Vliert, Euwema and Huisman 1995). The choice of response may be depended more upon the nature and length of conflict. It may also be plausible to suggest that individuals do not take extreme actions at the start of the conflict. Velkome and Bergmann (1995) agree that individual may act in more socially accepted manner than one’s own style. Individuals’ behavior can vary if the conflict is unresolved for a long term. Following hypothetical story of two individuals, Zed and Lee, may illustrate better to understand as to how individuals might traverse from one choice to another when they are in conflict.

Zed and Lee developed a conflict at work. The first step is to comprehend and evaluate the nature of conflict, for example, intensity, importance and consequences of the conflict. It may be helpful to talk to others to comprehend the nature of conflict cognitively. So, they went back into their own groups and talked about the conflict (third-party sense-making-ranked 1st).

After third-party sensemaking, they are left with three options to get on with their routine life: (1) problem solving, (2) avoidance (3) and forcing. Forcing is generally not, normatively or/and legally, accepted at the first instance unless a person is very authoritarian or the problem demands immediate attention (see Rahim (19) for information when authoritarian style is appropriate). Similarly, avoidance is also not possible in organizational life because it cannot only hamper productivity but also would not be permitted by the organization. Practically, they are left with an option to initiate a dialogue with each other.
So, as a second step, it seems it is more appropriate for Zed and Lee to begins to talk about their conflict (Problem Solving-ranked 2nd). However, it is understandable that negotiations do not always succeed. We assume that this is the case with Zed and Lee. In this case, so, they should either avoid or force each other to settle the issue (see Rahim for information when avoidance is appropriate).

It is possible that Zed and Lee might prefer to avoid (ranked 3rd) each other, if circumstances allows. Avoidance (ranked third) serves multiple purposes: (a) give time to rethink; (b) give time to cool down the tense atmosphere; (3) and enable to reorganize the conflict cognitively.

In organizations, individuals are inter-dependent and they cannot avoid each other for a long time. We assume that Zed and Lee work in the same department on key positions and they cannot pending decision for a long time.  So, the time has come either Zed or Lee consider to take strong actions to force the other to find a solution or follow a response from the exit strategy.  In most of cases, either transfer or leaving the job is not an easy decision. Therefore, we assume that the fourth would-be rational step for Zed and Lee is to adopt behaviour from the forcing category (forcing-ranked 4th).

The literature on conflict shows that forcing brings a win-lose situation. If Zed and Lee involve themselves in the forcing strategy, it is very likely that one of them would lose and the other wins. The loser may follow a response from the exit strategy (ranked 5th) if he is highly dissatisfied with the situation.
Let us suppose it is not possible to follow the exit strategy due to some reasons. This situation can break the loser, emotionally. It would not be a surprise, if the loser chooses a response that falls in the emotive category (ranked 6th).

2. The difference between Velkoma and Bergmann’s study of conflict responses and the ‘five style model’ of resolving conflict is that the model of resolving conflict treats styles of resolving conflict as static strategies and consistent behavior of individuals to resolve conflict. Velkoma and Bergmann (1989, 1995) have registered individuals’ responses that they have shown during an event. Moreover, they do not discuss consequence of each response on individuals’ intrapersonal relationship or/and organization.

3. Although, the third-party sensmaking category is ranked at the top, it is still debatable whether or not this category should be treated as a conflict resolving technique. It does not include any response, which can be considered as a method to handle conflict. The response ‘talking with others’ is a natural human reaction either to reduce stress or to gain time to assess available options to handle conflicts. It does not resolve conflict. Volkema, Farwuhar and Bergmann (1996) agree that the third-party sensmaking provides other functions such as cognitive organizing about conflict, reduces ambiguity, and behavioural adjustment in conflict situations.

4. Whether or not emotive reactions should be considered means to handle conflicts is also a question. It may be plausible to argue that these responses are abrupt and uncontrolled emotional reactions about on-going situation. There is hardly any evidence in the literature that individuals use these responses to handle conflicts in organizations.

5. The analysis of Velkoma and Bergmann 1989 and 1995 also depicts that rating of responses is likely to change when more responses are added in the research. This may also be likely to change when respondents of the study are changed. The tables 8 and 9 demonstrate that ranking of the responses changed in both studies. One of the reasons could be that they increased number of responses in their later study.

6. It is debatable whether or not all responses in Velkoma and Bergmann (1989) should be considered as styles to resolve conflicts. For example, a response ‘crying’ can be taken as spontaneous overwhelmed reaction of a person instead of taking it as a chosen response to resolve conflict. The responses such as ‘discuss the conflict with the co-worker, discuss conflict outside, and talk behind the person’ are similar responses, which they have treated differently. Again, they should have treated ‘take a drink or pill and forget about it’ as two different responses instead of treating them as one.
Conclusion

The author has ranked the conflict strategies and responses by using statistics of Velkoma and Bergmann (1989; 1995). It is argued that employing of strategies or responses can be sequentially related, which has not receive adequate attention from the researchers in the past. In addition, some shortcomings and methodological errors of Velkoma and Bergmann ‘s (1989; 1995) studies have also pointed out.

It may be plausible to suggest that the adoption of strategies to handle conflict is also related to vicarious learning, which is not investigated in the studies of conflict. According to Bandura (1977), individuals learn through observation and other’s experiences to maximize favourable outcomes. Similarly, studies on organizational culture support the argument of vicarious learning. These studies show that organizational culture develops through individuals’ interaction (Schein 1985; Roche 1994). These theories imply that human beings learn and imitate each other. So, it may be useful to study as to how organizational culture and structure influence the individuals’ choice of choosing a strategy to resolve conflict.

References

Blake, R.R. and Mouton, J.S. (1964) The mangerial grid: key orientation  for achieving production through people. Houston; Gulf Publishing Co.
Blake, R.R. and Mouton, J.S. (1964) The new mangerial grid Houston; Gulf Publishing Co.
Bandura, A (19770: Social Learning theory. Englewood Cliff; Prentice-Hall.
Deutsch, M (1994): Constructive conflict resolution: principles, training and research. Journal of Social Issues. Vol.50;no.1;p.13-32.
Hirshman, A.O. (1970): Exit, oice, and loyalty: responses to decline in firms, organizations and states. Cambridge;Harvard University Press.
Rahim A. M (1985): A strategy for managing conflict in complex organizations. Human Relations; vol.38;no1; p.81-89.
Robbins, S.P (1993): Organizational Behaviour (6th ed.) New Jersy, Prentice Hall.
Roche, de C.P (1994): On the edge of regionalization: management styles and the construction of conflict in organizational change. Human organization; vol.53;no.3;p.209-219.
Rubin, J.Z. (1994): Models of conflict management. Journal of social issues; vol.50;no.1;p.33-35.
Schein, E.H. (1985): Organizational culture and leadership. San Francicco; Joss Bass Publishers.
Thomas, T.W. (1976): Conflict and conflict management. In M.D. Dunnette: Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology. Chicago; Rand McNally.
Thomas, T.W. (1992): Conflict and negotiation process in organizations. In M.D. Dunnette and M.H. Leaetta, : Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (2nd Ed. Vol.3.) Palo Alto; Consulting Psychologists Press. Inc.
Tjosvold, D and Chia, L.C. (1989) Conflict between managers and workers: the role of cooperation and competition. The journal of social psychology; vol.129; no.2; p.235-247.
Vliert, Van de E., Euwema, M.C., Huisman, S.E. (1995): Managing conflict with a subordinate or a superior: effectiveness of conglomerated behaviour. Journal of Applied psychology. Vol.80; no. 2; p.271-281.
Volkema, R.J. and Bergmann, T.J. (1989): Interpersonal conflict at work: an analysis of behavioral responses. Human relations, vol. 42; no.9; p.757-770.
Volkema, R.J. and Bergmann, T.J. (1995): Conflict styles as indicators of behavioral patterns in interpersonal conflicts. Journal of social psychology. vol.135; no.1; p.5-15.
Volkema, R.J., Farquhar, K. and Bergmann, T.J. (1996): Third-party sensemaking in interpersonal conflicts at work: a theoretical framework. Human Relations; vol.49; no. 11; p. 1437-1454.