Leadership Studies


WEEK 6  Negotiating Conflict   CHAPTERS 8 AND 9

Write a paper that answers the following questions:

o          Consider the group that is the focus of your final paper or another group that has faced a conflict. Think about a time when members of the group had conflicting viewpoints. Discuss the nature of the conflict.

o          What were the interests of the opposing parties?

o          Was the conflict an example of constructive controversy, consensus-seeking, debate, or something else? Explain.

o          How did each group member behave during the conflict? For example, were group members searching for compromise, withdrawing, or trying to smooth over the conflict?

o          Did those involved in the conflict attempt to understand opposing viewpoints?

o          How was the conflict eventually resolved?

o          What could have been done to improve the process for resolving the conflict? Include a minimum of two sources


Negotiating Conflict

In the recent past, I have experienced many situations where members of a group have expressed conflicting viewpoints, leading to a heated debate. A case in point is the ten-member group where I am a member, in which we engage in various start-up business projects. Upon project completion, we calculate the profits realized and share the proceeds depending on one’s capital contribution. Our first business venture yielded losses, and members were discussing how to move on to the next business venture as well as how the losses would be shared. Members who had contributed the highest capital levels felt that they would be at a position of disadvantage if the losses were shared equally. To promote equality, they felt that their contributions to the first project should be calculated and recorded in the group’s books as share capital. In their view, it was only fair for their share capital level to be relied on when sharing profits arising from subsequent business ventures. Opponents of this view argued that that the first project had been dispense with and thus should not be used to determine the profit-sharing formula for future investments. This paper sets out to analyze this conflict in terms the interests of the opposing parties and how the conflict was eventually resolved.

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In this conflict, the opposing parties were seeking to protect their respective interests. The members who had made the highest contributions to the first project felt they stood to incur higher financial losses compared to their counterparts who had contributed lesser amounts of capital. To address this problem, they demanded that their capital contributions be tabulated into share capital for use in determining the overall number of shares held with the investment group. This way, their capital contribution in the first project would influence their share of profits for the second project. In contrast, opponents of this idea argued that the two projects were unrelated, and that and a framework for addressing the issue had been outlined in the investment group’s constitution. The constitution stipulated that profits would be shared based on group members’ contributions while losses would be shared equally among members. However, the constitution was silent about the issue of share capital.

This conflict was an example of concurrence-seeking approach, best explained by groupthink theory (Schafer & Crichlow, 1996). This is because inasmuch members freely explained their reasons for holding a particular view, everyone was seeking concurrence, and this is how a quick decision was reached. Groupthink promotes concurrence seeking in the sense that participants tend to drift towards converging opinions (Hart, 1991). Everyonepromoted agreement when the chairperson subjected the issue to a vote. During deliberations, majority of the members argued that the outcome of the first project should not influence that of subsequent projects, differences in capital contributions notwithstanding. However, when the issue was subjected to a vote, majority voted in favor of a decision to factor in contributions to the first project when sharing dividends for the second project. This was simply because members did not want to appear to be humiliating their colleagues for making the most significant contribution to the investment group’s first business venture in terms of capital outlay.

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All members initially held hardline views regarding the conflict. However, after the vote, they all joined hands in trying to smooth over the conflict in order to focus on upcoming projects. They embarked on a successful search for compromise, and everyone seemed satisfied that the issue had been exhaustively discussed.

There was a genuine attempt by members to understand opposing viewpoints. In fact, it was on the basis of this understanding that several members proposed the creation of a special category of shares to be allocated for those who had made the highest capital contributions to the first business venture. The conflict was eventually resolved when the chairperson of the investment group subjected the matter to a vote.

I think a better outcome may have been achieved if members decided to use the constructive controversy approach to resolve the conflict. Using concurrence-seeking, many views, beliefs, and ideas were expressed but were not factored into the final decision. This is because members were keen to gross over issues with a view to preserve relationships.

Through constructive controversy, all members could have evaluated the problem from both perspectives, leading to a high quality decision (Johnson & Johnson, 2013). Members would have focused solely on the viability of alternative courses of action instead of getting preoccupied with the need to conform to the dominant view. Unfortunately, it seems that the outcome of the conflict was essentially a false consensus. In concurrence-seeking, it is common for the most powerful group member to exert the greatest influence on the outcome (Johnson & Johnson, 2013). Indeed, the outcome of the conflict in our group was heavily influenced by the chairperson’s views. He was the leading proponent of the share-capital concept, having made the greatest contribution to the investment group’s first project.

In conclusion, concurrence-seeking is an excellent approach for resolving conflict in situations where members do not want to harm the existing relationships. However, the approach is advantageous because it can lead to false consensus by emphasizing agreement at the expense of a candid appraisal of all alternative courses of action. To achieve the best outcomes in such situations, it is advisable for groups to use the constructive controversy method.


Hart, P. (1991). Irving L. Janis’ Victims of Groupthink. Political Psychology, 12(2), 247-278.

Johnson, D. & Johnson, F. (2013). Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills, Eleventh Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Schafer, M. & Crichlow, S. (1996). Antecedents of groupthink: a quantitative study. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 40(3), 415-435.

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