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Managing Conflict. Bernard L. Erven Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics Ohio State University . Conflict is inevitable . Whenever two or more people work together, there will be conflict.

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Managing Conflict

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Managing conflict l.jpg

Managing Conflict

Bernard L. Erven

Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics

Ohio State University


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Conflict is inevitable

  • Whenever two or more people work together, there will be conflict.

  • The manager’s challenge is how to manage the conflict not how to avoid it.


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Conflict: negative or positive?

  • Conflict may lead to improved relations and solutions to problems, i.e. be positive.

  • On the other hand, conflict may destroy relationships and cause additional problems, i.e., be negative.


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Working to avoid, bury or deny conflict results in continuation of its underlying causes.

  • Conflict can continue indefinitely without resolution.

  • The underlying causes of conflict often hinge on perceptions rather than facts.

  • Thus, conflict may be the unrecognized root cause of failure to resolve a problem.

  • The challenge is to manage conflict in a way that it turns a problem into an opportunity for improvement.


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  • Getting to Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Roger Fisher and William Ury, Penguin Books ISBN 01401.57352), a widely recognized authoritative book, provides the basis for the following guidelines on conflict management.

  • The guidelines incorporate key conflict management principles.

  • The guidelines center on the basic premise for successful conflict management – collaboration works best.


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Guidelines for collaboration

  • Don’t bargain over POSITIONS.

  • Separate the PEOPLE from the problem.

  • Focus on INTERESTS, not positions.

  • Invent OPTIONS for mutual gain.

  • Insist on using OBJECTIVECRITERIA.


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1. Don’t bargain over POSITIONS

  • Produces unwise agreements.

  • Creates inefficiency.

  • Endangers an ongoing relationship.

  • Encourages giving in or being nice for the wrong reasons.


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Outcomes from bargaining

  • Win/Lose  One demands major concessions from the other.

  • Lose/Win  One makes major concessions to the other.

  • Win/Win  Both find an alternative that does not require onerous concessions from either.


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2. Separate the PEOPLE from the problem

  • Make people the priority.

  • Recognize both substance and relationship interests.

  • Deal directly with people problems.

  • Consider perceptions, emotions and communication barriers.


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3. Focus on INTERESTS, not positions

  • Reconcile interests, not positions.

  • Seek to understand the other person’s interests.

  • Ask, “Why?”

  • Ask, “Why not?”

  • Be hard on the problem, soft on the people.


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4. Invent OPTIONS for mutual gain

  • Be creative.

  • Broaden the options beyond the obvious

  • Brainstorm.

  • Consider unusual, nontraditional and even surprising options.

  • Look for mutual gain.

  • Make the other person’s decision easy.


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5. Insist on using OBJECTIVECRITERIA

  • Use fair standards.

  • Make the procedures fair.

  • Reason and be open to reason.

  • Never yield to pressure.


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Strategic Business Planning for Commercial Producers


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