Conflict Management Made Easy

Article excerpt

Conflict Management Made Easy The Conflict Survival Kit: Tools for Resolving Conflict at Work By Cliff Goodwin and Daniel B. Griffith. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall (, 2007. Softcover. 352 pages. $45.

Is conflict bad? If the image of war-torn Baghdad, or of protesting monks in Tibet, comes to mind, then your answer is most likely going to be "yes." But authors Cliff Goodwin and Daniel Griffith say that while some conflicts are inherently bad, most conflicts we experience on a daily basis are neither good nor bad. "It is the perception that conflicts are bad instead of opportunities for change and positive outcomes that leads to ineffective responses," write Goodwin and Griffith, who both teach at Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University, a research and academic center that grants degrees from both Indiana and Purdue Universities.

In many cases, it is the perception and the belief that one's interests are incompatible with the other party's interests that sets the stage for conflict. In managing conflict, the best methods are generally those that focus on collaborative problem solving and meeting the needs of all parties, the authors advise.

This book was written as a classroom text and an on-the-job guide for managers and supervisors in corporate settings who have not been trained formally in conflict management. It provides practical strategies that can be applied immediately in the workplace. For students and teachers of conflict management, this book provides case studies and role plays for practicing problem-solving techniques.

In a chapter devoted to lessening the potential for conflict, the authors say that creating and maintaining a positive environment by addressing employees' needs is a baseline standard. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate conflict, it can be contained. The authors suggest two ways of doing this. One is looking for triggers to evolving conflict, and the other is responding appropriately before conflict escalates.

The Opportunistic Employee

In a chapter focusing on difficult situations in the workplace, the authors define an "opportunistic" employee as someone who "operates at a low level of maturity and generally does not possess the capability to engage in meaningful, collaborative conflict resolution processes. …