5 Stages of Conflict Process: How it Work in Organization

Organizational conflict arises when the goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and those individuals or groups block or thwart one another’s attempts to achieve their objective. Conflict Process shows how conflict works within the organization.

We can identify the stages that a conflict born and grows in an organization. In this post, we will look at the stages of a conflict covering the birth, rise, and ending in it.

5 Stages Conflict Process are;

  1. Potential Opposition or Incompatibility.
  2. Cognition and Personalization.
  3. Intentions.
  4. Behavior.
  5. Outcomes.

Conflict Process consists of five stages that show how conflict begins, grows, and unfolds among individuals or groups with different goals, interests or values of the organization.

These stages are described below;

5 Stages of Conflict Process

Stage 1: Potential Opposition or Incompatibility

The first step in the conflict process is the presence of conditions that create opportunities for conflict to develop. These cause or create opportunities for organizational conflict to rise.

They need not lead directly to conflict, but one of these conditions is necessary if the conflict is to surface.

For simplicity’s sake, these conditions have been condensed into three general categories.

  1. Communication,
  2. Structure, and
  3. Personal Variables.

These 3 conditions cause conflict are explained;

1. Communications

Different words connotations, jargon insufficient exchange of information and noise in the communication channel are all antecedent conditions to conflict.

Too much communication, as well as too little communication, can lay the foundation for conflict.

2. Structure

In this context, the term structure is used to include variables such as size, the degree of specialization in the tasks assigned to group members, jurisdictional clarity, members/goal compatibility, leadership styles, reward systems and the degree of dependence between groups.

The size and specialization act as forces to stimulate conflict. The larger the group and the more specialized its activities, the greater the likelihood of conflict. Tenure and conflict are inversely related.

The potential for conflicts tends to be greatest when group members are younger and when turnover is high.

In defining where responsibility for action lies; the greater the ambiguity is the greater the potential for conflict to the surface. Such Jurisdictional ambiguity increases inter-group fighting for control or resources and territory.

3. Personal Variables

Certain personality types- for example, individuals who are highly authoritarian and dogmatic- lead to potential conflict. Another reason for the conflict is the difference in value systems.

Value differences are the best explanations of diverse issues such as prejudice disagreements over one’s contribution to the group and rewards one deserves.

Stage 2: Cognition and Personalization

Conflict must be perceived by the parties to it whether or not the conflict exists is a perception issue, the second step of the Conflict Process.

If no one is aware of a conflict, then it is generally agreed that no conflict exists. Because conflict is perceived does not mean that is personalized.

For example;

A may be aware that B and A are in serious disagreements but it may not make A tense or nations and it may have no effect whatsoever on A’s affection towards B.

It is the felt level when individuals become emotionally involved that parties experience anxiety, tension or hostility.

Stage-2 is the place in the process where the parties decide what the conflict is about and emotions play a major role in shaping perception.

Stage 3: Intentions

Intentions are decisions to act in a given way, intentions intervene between people’s perception and emotions and their overt behavior.

Using two dimensions cooperativeness (the degree to which one party attempts to satisfy the other party’s concerns) and assertiveness (the degree to which one party attempts to satisfy his or her concerns) five conflict-handling intentions can be identified.

5 Stages of Conflict Process: How it Works within Organization

5 Conflict-Handling Intention

There are 5 conflict-handling intentions;

  1. Competing (I Win, You Lose),
  2. Collaborating (I Win, You Win),
  3. Avoiding (No Winners, No Losers),
  4. Accommodating (I lose, You win), and
  5. Compromising (You Bend, I Bend).

These are also known as conflict-handling styles and orientations which are discussed below:

1. Competing (I Win, You Lose)

When one person seeks to satisfy his or her interests regardless of the impact on the other parties to the conflict, he is competing.

The competition involves authoritative and assertive behaviors.

In this style, the aggressive individual aims to instill pressure on the other parties to achieve a goal. It includes the use of whatever means to attain what the individual thinks is right.

It may be appropriate in some situations but it shouldn’t come to a point wherein the aggressor becomes too unreasonable.

Dealing with the conflict with an open mind is vital for a resolution to be met.

2. Collaborating (I Win, You Win)

A situation in which the parties to conflict each desire to satisfy fully the concerns of all the parties.

In collaborating, the parties intend to solve the problem by clarifying differences rather than by accommodating various points of view.

Collaborating aims to find a solution to the conflict by cooperating with other parties involved.

Hence, communication is an important part of this strategy.

In this mechanism, the effort is exerted in digging into the issue to identify the needs of the individuals concerned without removing their respective interests from the picture.

Collaborating individuals aim to come up with a successful resolution creatively, without compromising their satisfaction.

3. Avoiding (No Winners, No Losers)

A person may recognize that a conflict exists and want to withdraw from it or suppress it. Avoiding included trying to just ignore a conflict and avoiding others with whom you disagree.

In this approach, there is withdrawal from the conflict. The problem is being dealt with through a passive attitude.

Avoiding is mostly used when the perceived negative end outweighs the positive outcome.

In employing this, individuals end up ignoring the problem, thinking that the conflict will resolve itself. It might be applicable in certain situations but not in all.

Avoidance would mean that you neglect the responsibility that comes with it.

The other individuals involved might think that you are neglecting the problem. Thus, it is better to confront the problem before it gets worse.

4. Accommodating (I lose, You win)

The willingness of one partying a conflict top lace the opponent’s interest above his or her own.

Accommodation involves having to deal with the problem with an element of self-sacrifice; an individual sets aside his concerns to maintain peace in the situation.

Thus, the person yields to what the other wants, displaying a form of selflessness.

It might come as an immediate solution to the issue; however, it also brings about a false manner of dealing with the problem.

This can be disruptive if there is a need to come up with a more sound and creative way out of the problem. This behavior will be most efficient if the individual is in the wrong as it can come as a form of conciliation.

5. Compromising (You Bend, I Bend)

A situation in which each party to a conflict is willing to give up something.

Intentions provide general guidelines for parties in a conflict situation. They define each party’s purpose.

Yet people’s intention is not fixed. During the conflict, they might change because of re-conceptualization or because of an emotional reaction to the behavior of another party.

Compromising is about coming up with a resolution that would be acceptable to the parties involved.

Thus, one party is willing to sacrifice their own sets of goals as long as the others will do the same.

Hence, it can be viewed as a mutual give-and-take scenario where the parties submit the same amount of investment for the problem to be solved.

A disadvantage of this strategy is the fact that since these parties find an easy way around the problem, the possibility of coming up with more creative ways for a solution would be neglected.

When to use the Five Conflict-Handling Orientations

5 conflict-handling orientations are not universally applicable. Its uses vary from time to time, person to person even situation to situation.

When it uses appropriate are given below:

Conflict- Handling OrientationBest Scenario to Use Conflict- Handling Orientation
  • When quick, decisive action is vital.
  • On important issues where unpopular actions need implementing.
  • On issues vital to the organization’s welfare and when you know you’re right
  • Against people who take advantage of non¬competitive behavior.
  • To find an integrative solution when both sets of concerns are too important to be compromised.
  • When your objective is to learn.
  • To merge insights from people with different perspectives
  • To gain commitment by incorporating concerns into a consensus.
  • To work through feelings that have interfered with a relationship.
  • When an issue is trivial, or more important issues are pressing.
  • When you perceive no chance of satisfying your concerns.
  • When potential disruption outweighs the benefits of resolution.
  • To let people cool down and regain perspective.
  • When gathering information supersedes immediate decision.
  • When others can resolve the conflict more effectively.
  • When issues seem tangible or symptomatic of their issues.
  • When you find you are wrong to allow a better position to be heard to learn and to show your reasonableness.
  • When issues are more important to others than yourself to satisfy others and maintain cooperation.
  • To build social credit for later issues.
  • To minimize loss when you are outmatched and losing.
  • To allow subordinates to develop by learning from mistakes.
  • When goals are important, but not worth the effort or potential disruption of more assertive modes.
  • When opponents with equal power are committed to mutually exclusive goals.
  • To achieve a temporary settlement to complex issues.
  • To arrive at expedient solutions under time pressure.
  • As a back-up when collaboration or competition is unsuccessful.

Stage 4: Behavior

This is a stage where conflict becomes visible. The behavior stage includes the statements, actions, and reactions made by the conflicting parties.

These conflict behaviors are usually overt attempts to implement each party’s intentions.

When most people think of conflict situations, they tend to focus on Stage 4.


Because this is a stage Where conflict becomes visible. The behavior stage includes the statements, actions, and reactions made by the conflicting parties;

These conflict behaviors are usually overt attempts to implement each party’s intentions. But these behaviors have a stimulus quality that is separate from intentions.

As a result of miscalculations or unskilled enactments, overt behaviors sometimes deviate from original intentions.

It helps to think of stage 4 as a dynamic process of interaction.

Stage 5: Outcomes

The action-reaction interplay between the conflicting parties results in consequences.

These outcomes may be functional in that the conflict results in an improvement in the group’s performance, or dysfunctional in that it hinders group performance.

Conflict is constructive when it improves the quality of decisions that stimulates creativity and innovations encourage interest and curiosity among group members to provide the medium through which problems can be aired and tensions released and foster an environment of self-evaluation and change.

Conflict is dysfunctional when uncontrolled opposition breeds discontent, which acts to dissolve common ties and eventually leads to the destruction of the group.

Among the more undesirable consequences are a retarding of communication, reductions in group cohesiveness and subordination of group goals to the primacy of infighting between members.

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