Conflict Resolution Versus Conflict Management

Conflicts in organizations are the products of differences in opinions, personality, skills and knowledge within working teams. To the Abilene Paradox, conflicts arise from the bad decisions, made by a group, as team members decide to take a course which counters the preference of others. In this theory, conflicts result from a lack of communication, as individuals fail to raise objections in fear that their preferences counter those of the group (Harvey, 1988). Organizations are advice to handle conflicts either through resolution or management. The resolution of conflicts is the resolving of any deep rooted problems or issues that exists in a conflict. On the other hand, conflict management is defined as the actions taken to prevent conflicts from escalating. Unlike conflict resolution, management does not solve the issues or problems of the conflict or try to find a solution to the problems, but rather keeps it under control. By properly defining the differences and similarities between conflict management and resolution, organizations can effectively handle conflicts.

Conflict management then implies the creation of a working environment where teams can work, and in case conflicts arise, managers must intervene. Conflict resolution on the other hand, will seek to intervene, mediate between parties since there is a breakdown of communication. The differences between conflict management and resolution can therefore be derived from the definition of the terms, the approaches used in each and the concepts employed. The word management implies the use of approaches like the creation of procedures and policies that make it possible for management to effectively handle conflicts. On the other hand, conflict resolution implies the utilization of immediate human resource tools that will resolve the dispute or conflict. Conflict management differs from conflict resolution in that, management approaches take up a long term position like training, education and team building. Conversely, conflict resolution makes use of short term approaches that handle the causes of the dispute, deals with the grievances of the parties and solves all interpersonal disputes.

On one hand, conflict management approaches try to achieve a win-win situation that will deal with the disputes while conflict resolution approaches must achieve total resolution of the disputes. This is because management mainly seeks to create a supportive environment where members can disagree and work effectively with conflicts, laying down rules to prevent conflicts and separation of individual interest from work position (Harvey, 1988). However, for conflict resolution, management has the task of winning the situation through clearly defining the issues, identify the needs of parties, provide possible solutions, evaluate generated options and create an action plan to deal with the issues. Resolution therefore seeks to completely handle all issues that may be present during a conflict, while management seeks ways to effectively work with the conflict.

Looking at the differences between the two approaches, it is evident that one common aspect emerges as defined by Abilene paradox. To this paradox, conflicts arise mainly from the lack of effective communication. Therefore, the theory proposes the use of effective communication approaches to handle conflicts. Therefore, since the central issue that emerges concerning conflicts is communication, both management and resolution address communication in their approaches. This presents the main similarity between management and resolution as both must use communication, listening skills, vertical and horizontal approaches of communication to handle conflicts.


Harvey, J.B. (1988). The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement. Organizational Dynamics, American Management Association, 17-43.

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