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Leadership Overview

Contact information:

Dr. Richard W. Scholl
36 Upper College Road
Kingston, RI 02881

p. 401.874.4347
f. 401.874.2954


Sources of Conflict

Substantive Conflict

Substantive conflict is defined as a breakdown in the decision making process. That is, an alternative cannot be chosen. Therefore, conflict manifests itself in a disagreement over alternatives (positions).

However, conflict has its roots causes in one of two types of disagreements:

  1. Criteria, interests, goals

  2. Cause/Effect beliefs, theories, assumptions

Emotive Conflict

While substantive conflict may be resolved when a decision is made, emotive conflict may still exist. Emotive conflict is the emotional or affective orientation to the other party resulting from the conflict over issues. It results in an affective orientation to the other party that is often stored long after the issues are resolved and forgotten. It manifests itself in we/they feelings, distrust, stereotyping, anger, information withholding and distortion and a general desire the "beat" the other side on future issues.

Methods of Conflcit Resolution

Roles in Conflict

Arbitrator- The arbitrator resolves the conflict by actually making the decision for the parties. Each party may advocate a position or interest to the arbitrator. A group leader may decide to take on this role to resolve intra-group conflict.

Mediator/Facilitator- A successful mediator attempts to re-focus the parties from positions to interests. The mediator starts by determining the true reasons (interest) why they are so committed to their given positions. Once the problem is defined in terms of interests, the mediator attempts to engage both parties in the process of generating new alternatives that satisfy the interests of both parties.

Advocate- The advocate attempts to influence the decision of an individual or group. The advocate either argues for a position (specific alternative) or interest (ensure that the choice satisfies a specific criterion). The successful advocate either operates from a strong base of power, thus reducing the importance of the specific issues, or uses powers of persuasion to effect the decision. In using persuasion, he or she either convinces the decision maker that a specific criterion should be added or given more weight or convinces the decision maker to change his or her theory. Knowledge of the decision maker’s actual criteria and theories (cause/effect beliefs) are important to the effective advocate.

Task - Relationship Tradeoff

One way to think about two dimensions, or outcome, of a conflict decision. These two dimensions are:

The chart below shows the relationship between Task and Relationship Importance and the type of conflict resolution mechanism likely to be used.Most conflicts are resolved below the red line.This line represents the perceived trade of between Task Accomplishment and Relationship Maintenance. It is only when we operate above the line (in the Problem Solving Zone) do we realize long term effectiveness.One will only operate in this zone when he or she places both high importance on the task and the relationship and is unwilling to sacrifice one for the other. It is through framing the conflict in terms of interests rather than positions that this increased effectiveness begins to be realized.