Career & Leadership Market Research | Review #3


Conflict Management: A Literature Review and Study
By Sally Erin Howell

Based on the article published in, in September, 2014

Review Summary by Khushi Modani
Market Research Intern, Adaptive Instruction

I am Khushi Modani, a student pursuing BBA in PES University, Bengaluru. I have a keen interest in Human Resource Management and Marketing. In my free time, you can catch me reading a book, or binging on my favorite web-series. I am also passionate about theatre and writing, and was the editor for my school magazine. Currently, I am working for Adaptive Instruction as a Market Research Intern.

This is a summary of a paper published by Sally Erin Howell, the Lead Radiologic Technologist at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, Los Angeles. The article focuses on commonly employed strategies used to resolve conflict. Conflict management is the behavioral strategy used to resolve conflict. It makes a large impact in the effective functioning of organizations, and the social, cultural and personal development of human beings. Effective conflict management encourages enthusiasm and boosts morale; it is imperative for both individual and organizational growth.

Models to manage conflict

Two prominent models used to manage conflict are Thomas and Killman’s MODE instrument, and Kraybill’s five responses to conflict. The former is characterized by the five modes of conflict management being categorized by how assertive and how cooperative the participants are; on the other hand, the latter categorizes the responses to conflict by how much they address the agenda, and how much they address the relationship between the conflicted parties.

Mode Instrument

The methods of dealing with conflict in Thomas and Killman’s model are competing (high focus on assertiveness and low focus on cooperativeness), collaborating (high focus on both assertiveness and cooperativeness), compromising (medium focus on both assertiveness and cooperativeness), avoiding (low focus on both assertiveness and cooperativeness), and accommodating (high focus on cooperativeness and low focus on assertiveness).

Five Responses to Conflict

In Kraybill’s model, there are five responses to conflict, which are directing (high focus on agenda, low focus on relationships), cooperating (high focus on both agenda and relationships), compromising (medium focus on both agenda and relationships), avoiding (low focus on both agenda and relationships), and harmonizing (high focus on relationships and low focus on agenda). For this study, modes in Thomas and Killman’s model and corresponding responses in Kraybill’s model are considered to be the same.

One has to factor in the following four situational issues when choosing the method to resolve conflict – namely the importance of the issue that the conflict has raised, the importance of the preservation of the relationship between the conflicted parties, the power to deal with the issue, and the time in which the conflict must be resolved. For example, if one were to prioritize achieving the common goal of the conflicted parties and the time taken in doing so, at the expense of the relationship between the parties, then competition is the ideal method of resolution of conflict.

Surveys and Experiments Conducted

In a previous study of nurse managers, education level showed to play a part in the conflict management style used by nurses. Nurses with master’s degrees or a bachelor’s degree with specialized diplomas were shown to use a compromising conflict management style. The nurse managers having only a bachelor’s degree with no specialized diploma used an integrating style, and the nurse managers with only a diploma used a dominating conflict management style.

A survey of 219 radiologic technologists was recently conducted, of which 37 completed the survey. The survey aimed to identify the preferred method of conflict management for the technologists, in two different parts – the “calm” section which dealt with the respondent’s conflict management style in the initial stages of the conflict, when feelings had not escalated, and the “storm” section which was used to determine the respondent’s conflict management mode when the conflict had become heated and gotten stronger.

In contrast with the studies conducted in the past, the survey showed a gravitation towards cooperation and compromise as the preferred methods of conflict resolution in the “calm” stage, and cooperation as the preferred method of conflict resolution in the “storm” stage. Also, the responses seemed to be largely independent of the level of education of the respondent – however, it is important to note that 15 of 37 survey participants were educated up to a bachelor’s degree. In the previous studies too, nurses with bachelor’s degrees tended to use compromise more as a method of conflict resolution.


In conclusion, the study shows that education does not have a significant impact on the preferred method of conflict resolution used by the technologist nurses. However, education in the field of conflict management and its various methods is beneficial to individuals, because it enables the individuals to be flexible in their responses to conflict between two parties. Additionally, different conflict management strategies have their own merits and demerits.

Link to the original publication:
Conflict Management: A Literature Review and Study