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Integrated Conflict Management . 25 June 2008. Lynda O’Sullivan Ken Lechter Office of the Air Force General Counsel (Dispute Resolution Division). Conflict. Is conflict bad ? Is conflict inevitable? Can good things come out of conflict?. What is Conflict?.

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integrated conflict management

Integrated Conflict Management

25 June 2008

Lynda O’Sullivan

Ken Lechter

Office of the Air Force General Counsel

(Dispute Resolution Division)

  • Is conflict bad ?
  • Is conflict inevitable?
  • Can good things come out of conflict?
what is conflict
What is Conflict?
  • Conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values, and interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) or external (between two or more individuals).
  • Conflict as taught for graduate and professional work in conflict resolution commonly has the definition: "when two or more parties, with perceived incompatible goals, seek to undermine each other's goal-seeking capability".
some causes of conflict
Some Causes of Conflict
  • Organizational Factors
    • Hierarchical relationships (supervisor/employee); allocation of resources; goal differences; interdependence (mission cannot be accomplished without cooperation among departments); jurisdictional and accountability ambiguities; specialization and territory

Personal Factors

    • Conflict management styles (avoidance, competition, compromise, collaboration); cultural differences (organizational, ethnic, religious, generational); emotions; perceptions; personalities; values and ethics
another way to look at conflict
Another Way to Look at Conflict
  • Conflict is neither good nor bad—it is an opportunity
  • If properly managed, conflict can be more productive than consensus. “Are we all in agreement here? That’s not good.”
  • Good conflict management creates trust. Trust leads to collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation.
basic principles of conflict resolution
Basic Principles of Conflict Resolution
  • From the beginning of time, there have been three basic approaches to resolving conflict:
    • Power-based
    • Rights-based
    • Interest-based
power based conflict resolution
Power-Based Conflict Resolution
  • Example: Military chain of command and control—orders must be followed
  • Downsides in most organizations:
    • Communication is one way—can lead to bad decisions
    • No buy-in/sabotage/conflict goes underground
    • Bad morale, absenteeism, reduced productivity
rights based conflict resolution
Rights-Based Conflict Resolution
  • Example: Litigation in the courts, by-the-rules managers
  • Downsides in most organizations:
    • Can only result in winners and losers—but in many conflicts there is no right or wrong
    • Employees will evade the system if they feel their interests and needs are not being met
interest based conflict resolution
Interest-Based Conflict Resolution
  • Example: Any time the relationship is important
    • Focus on interests, not positions
    • Explore options for mutual gain
    • Separate the people from the problem
  • Upsides: motivated workforce, superior productivity, culture of mutual respect and trust, innovation, progress
what is an integrated conflict management system
What is an Integrated Conflict Management System?
  • It is an organizational strategy
  • With two main components:
    • 1st component emphasizes conflict management and dispute prevention through interest-based dialogue and problem-solving
    • 2nd component is a robust ADR program to creatively and efficiently resolve disputes that haven’t been prevented
integrated conflict management system
Integrated Conflict Management System
  • Elements of the ICMS:
    • Choosing negotiation procedures based on interests
    • Choosing procedures that will do no harm to (and hopefully improve) continuing relationships
    • Ensuring that conflicts are resolved at the earliest possible stage and at the lowest possible organizational level
integrated conflict management system12
Integrated Conflict Management System
  • Elements (cont.):
    • Clear organizational statement of expected behavior engendering mutual respect and trust
    • Systematic training and rewards ensuring that employees have the necessary communication and negotiation skills
    • Conflict competence as a key element of the expected leadership skill set—leaders set the tone
contact information
Contact Information
  • R. Philip Deavel, Deputy General Counsel for Dispute Resolution, USAF--(703) 588-2211,
  • Lynda T. O’Sullivan, Assistant Deputy General Counsel for Dispute Resolution, USAF—(703)588-2210,
  • Kenneth Lechter, Associate General Counsel, USAF—(703) 588-2208,