Conflict management refers
to the long-term management of intractable conflicts.
It is the label for the variety of ways by which people
handle grievances—standing up for what they consider
to be right and against what they consider to be wrong.
Those ways include such diverse phenomena as gossip, ridicule,
lynching, terrorism, warfare, feuding, genocide, law,
mediation, and avoidance. Which forms of conflict management
will be used in any given situation can be somewhat predicted
and explained by the social structure—or social
geometry—of the case.
Conflict management is often considered
to be distinct from conflict resolution. In order for
actual conflict to occur, there should be an expression
of exclusive patterns, and tell why the conflict was expressed
the way it was. Conflict is not just about simple inaptness,
but is often connected to a previous issue. The latter
refers to resolving the dispute to the approval of one
or both parties, whereas the former concerns an ongoing
process that may never have a resolution. Neither is it
considered the same as conflict transformation, which
seeks to reframe the positions of the conflict parties.
When personal conflict leads to frustration
and loss of efficiency, counseling may prove to be a helpful
antidote. Although few organizations can afford the luxury
of having professional counselors on the staff, given
some training, managers may be able to perform this function.
Nondirective counseling, or "listening with understanding",
is little more than being a good listener—something
every manager should be.
Sometimes the simple process of being able
to vent one's feelings—that is, to express them
to a concerned and understanding listener, is enough to
relieve frustration and make it possible for the frustrated
individual to advance to a problem-solving frame of mind,
better able to cope with a personal difficulty that is
affecting his work adversely. The nondirective approach
is one effective way for managers to deal with frustrated
subordinates and co-workers.
There are other more direct and more diagnostic
ways that might be used in appropriate circumstances.
The great strength of the nondirective approach (nondirective
counseling is based on the client-centered therapy of
Carl Rogers), however, lies in its simplicity, its effectiveness,
and the fact that it deliberately avoids the manager-counselor's
diagnosing and interpreting emotional problems, which
would call for special psychological training. No one
has ever been harmed by being listened to sympathetically
and understandingly. On the contrary, this approach has
helped many people to cope with problems that were interfering
with their effectiveness on the job.