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"Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional."
- Saul Alinsky

Outcomes of Conflict

Conflict has the potential for both positive and negative impact on the organization as well as on the individual.

On the positive side, conflict can result in greater efficiency, better decisions, or more productivity. For example, as a result of a disagreement over the effectiveness of a particular workflow, we may learn that a different work flow improves efficiency and employee morale.

Potential positive outcomes may include:

  • Generation of a broader range of ideas
  • Identification of inaccurate or outmoded beliefs or assumptions
  • Increased involvement and support

Conflict can be dysfunctional if it is extreme or involves personal attacks.

Potential negative outcomes may include:

  • Increased stress
  • Decreased productivity and work satisfaction
  • Feelings of being defeated and demeaned
  • Lower morale
  • Increased turnover
  • Reduced cooperation and sense of teamwork
Another way to view the outcomes of conflict is from the perspective of gamesmanship or competition. From this perspective conflict has three possible outcomes.
  • Win-Lose (one party wins, the other party loses. Example: football game)
  • Lose-Lose (neither party wins. Example: nuclear war where both countries are destroyed)
  • Win-Win (both parties are satisfied with the problem solving approach and the outcome)
To achieve win-win outcomes requires that both parties reject the competitive model and adopt a problem-solving model where the goal is win-win whenever possible.
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