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Strategies of Conflict Resolution

in Commonwealth Secretariat (1993)
Better Schools; Module Three; Personnel Management

A popular way of describing conflict resolution strategies is in terms of winning and losing. These strategies can be broadly described as follows :


Win - Lose

The outcome of this strategy is that one party loses and one wins. In most cases this strategy is unsatisfactory as the loser is unhappy and conflict will break out again later.

Lose - Lose

In this case both parties lose - nobody wins; this happens when the focus is on beating your opponent rather than on solving the problem. This is wasteful and often destructive.

Win - Win

In this case both parties are satisfied with the outcome. This happens when the focus is on solving the problem rather than on defeating each other. The process will involve negotiation and possibly compromise on the part of both sides.

As human beings it is instinctive for us to oversimplify situations into them v us categories and into either/or choices and then to get emotional and perhaps violent in defence of the side that we are on.

As managers/leaders, however, it is often necessary for us to rise above these basic instincts to make rational decisions based on a cool appraisal of the facts and a desire to find acceptable solutions which will be beneficial to everybody in the long term.

This can take great moral and intellectual strength if your 'opponent' insists on behaving in an emotional and perhaps violent way. The best way to approach a win-win situation is to stay cool as this will have a calming effect on all those concerned.

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