Third Party Conflict Resolution

Organizational Negotiations – MGT/445

Third Party Conflict Resolution

            In the course of negotiations, because of interpersonal or extra personal reasons, conflict may arise that gridlocks the negotiation process.  At these times, it is important and sometimes necessary to introduce a third party into the negotiations to aide in conflict resolution.  Many intervention strategies are available, from mediation to integration.  Consideration of the pros and cons of each is needed, as well as having contingency or alternate conflict resolution strategies. For better understanding, it is useful to discuss these strategies in an example.

Case Summary

          At Seatcor Manufacturing Company, Joe Gibbons, vice president of a plant has excluded the assistant vice president, Charles Stewart, from the five-year upgrade plans for the plant. Joe is scheduled to retire in two years and Charles will step into Joe’s role, which makes this exclusion of Charles from the five-year plan disconcerting to him. Joe has a history of feeling threatened by talented associates and tightly controlling all decisions. Charles is upset that Joe excluded him from the decision-making process and is concerned that it is affecting his working relationship with Joe.

Joe and Charles must work together so Charles can take over Joe’s position in two years. Charles needs the training time with Joe, and Joe must be willing to turn over some control and share his experience and knowledge. Joe has been with the company for 38 years and has a plethora of information critical to the successful operation of the plant. Without their cooperation, the transition of Joe’s retirement and Charles’ promotion will be difficult at best.

As the senior vice president of operations and chief operating officer, Team A must decide how to intervene and negotiate by first reviewing the pros and cons of each strategy.

          Negotiation Styles

Avoiding:  Represents a low level of concern for both self and other.

  • Is often referred to as passive aggressive. People who habitually use this style dislike conflict. Rather than talk directly with you about the issue, avoid styles may instead try to take revenge without you knowing about it.
  • Used when the value of investing time to resolve the conflict outweighs the benefit or if the issue under negotiation is trivial (trivial to both parties).
  • Sometimes there is just not enough at stake to risk a difficult conflict situation. If there is a lot of emotion in a negotiation, it is pointless pushing through and hammering it out. Better to allow people to calm down first so that reason and rationality can reappear.
  • Avoid style negotiators are frequently seeking to avoid conflict, and their avoid style instead lands them in more conflict. When differences are eventually aired, emotions and negotiation positions are often more difficult and fixed than they need be.

Dominating (competing):  Represents a high level of concern for self and a low level of concern for other.

  • Dominating style negotiators pursue their own needs, even when this means others suffer.
  • They often use whatever power and tactics they can muster, including their personality, position, economic threats, brand strength or size or market share.
  • Used when you need to act or get resultsquickly. Dominating is critical when you are certain that something is not negotiable and immediate compliance is required.
  • Dominating can be an effective defense or counter balance to use against negotiators with a competitive conflict profile.
  • Dominating styles may overuse competition. This means that the other party knows exactly what behavior to expect and can prepare more easily. In a power imbalance negotiation, high compete behavior is very likely to lead to deadlock.
  • Parties are more interested in winning rather than reaching an agreement.

Obliging (accommodating):   Represents a low level of concern for self and a high level of concern for other.

  • Obliging is the opposite of the dominating style. For obliging style negotiators, the relationship is everything.
  • Obliging styles think hat the route to winning people over is to give them what they want.
  • Obliging style negotiators are usually very well liked by their colleagues and opposite party negotiators.
  • Use when you are at fault, repairing the relationship is critical, and if you have nothing else that would benefit the other side.
  • If you are in a very weak position then sometimes your best option is to give in gracefully.
  • Not recommended when negotiating against high compete styles. May be seen as a sign of weakness and taken advantage of.

Integrating (collaborating or problem solving):  Represents a high level of concern for both self and other.

  • The integrating negotiation style is associated with the most creative, effective, and efficient settlement outcomes (Pareto-efficient).
  • Parties are most protective of self-interest, while promoting a cooperative response in the other disputant. This is the style of choice when a choice is available. If all other things are equal, this is usually considered the best option.
  • Integrating allows the disputants to seek out and take advantage of integrative opportunities in bargaining, those opportunities that address the unique interests of each disputant to maximize creatively the gains of each.
  • Integrating builds relationships without self-sacrifice. A disputant can be cooperative without knuckling under. A negotiator can be tough without appearing nasty. All interests are acknowledged and made important.
  • There are several essentials needed to set the stage for integrating, including an interest analysis (concerns of both disputants), the ability to multitask cognitively, and some cooperation.
  • Integrating requires the negotiators to abandon a preoccupation with bottom-line demands and to look for novel and creative solutions to the problem of meeting all underlying interests.
  • Integrating is difficult for people of limited cognitive capacities, such as small children, cognitively impaired persons, and individuals under extreme stress.
  • Enough trust between the disputants must exist so that they can share the necessary information.
  • For the integrating style to succeed, it is not necessary to reveal either bottom lines or aspirations. Thus, integrating can occur even with mistrustful disputants, assuming that they are able to find a way to share information safely about their interests.

Compromising:  Represents a moderate level of concern for self and other.

  • Compromising often involves splitting the difference, usually resulting in an end position of about half way between both positions. In the absence of a good rationale or properly exchanged concessions, half way between the two positions seems fair.
  • Used when you are pushed for time and you are dealing with someone who you trust.
  • Both parties win and lose.
  • Meeting half way reduces strain on the relationship, but usually leaves issues on the table.
  • Compromising can be an excuse for not preparing properly. Without quality negotiation training, most negotiators wing it, and end up compromising.
  • If the outcome of the negotiation is critical, then you should not compromise on things that you absolutely must have.
  • One of the problems with compromising is if you make concessions within your position with no strong rationale, the other party may assume that you are going to continue to make more concessions, and appeal to you using weak rationale.
  • Learn from collaborative styles by making it safe to explore options together. Invite the other side to join you in what if frames to explore possibilities, without the danger of being tied to your idea.

Selected Strategy

The negotiation style appropriate to intervene in Joe and Charles’ conflict is the integrating style. This style, also called the collaborating or problem-solving style, will bring Joe and Charles together to create a win-win resolution. Lewicki, Saunders, and Barry (2006) created four intervention steps appropriate to the integrating style. The first step is to stabilize the setting and neutralize any feelings of anger and frustration. For the integrating style to work, the parties must trust each other and be willing to calm down emotions. The second step is to help the parties communicate what happened and clarify the major issues that need to be resolved. The third step is to help the parties negotiate through listing all possible options and verifying the viability of each option with the disputants. A course of action should be selected, and under step four, the agreement is clarified.

The integrating style is the best option for Joe and Charles because all parties receive the maximum benefit under the settlement. They will build their relationship without self-sacrifice and demonstrate leadership to other employees. The company will also benefit by Joe and Charles using the integrating style because it is the most likely to produce a creative and effective resolution. Joe and Charles must also work together for the next two years, and Joe must teach Charles for Charles to be successful. If this conflict is not resolved through cooperation, Joe, Charles, and the plant will suffer the consequences for many years to come.

Alternate Strategy

If the integrating style is not successful, the compromising style is a viable alternative. Joe and Charles may not emerge from the negotiation with as positive an outlook as they would have under the integrating style, but a rational resolution can still be reached. The compromising style uses the same four intervention steps as integrating, but both parties will have to relinquish their demands and settle in the middle to reach an agreement. The compromising style will bring Joe and Charles together to reach an agreement for the betterment of their plant and the company.


We discussed the different negotiation styles and the benefits of each.  In our example we detailed the reasons we chose the integrating style and why it would fit the situation between Joe and Charles.  An alternate strategy of compromising was also chosen to keep as another tool in the negotiation strategy toolbox.  It is important to be aware of the usefulness of each strategy and the details of the specific negotiation situation so that one could utilize the proper negotiation style to deal with it.


Lewicki, R. J., Saunders, D. M., & Barry, B. (2006). Negotiation (5th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill

Coburn, C. (1996). The Negotiation Experts. Retrieved from

Coltri, L. S. (2004). Conflict Diagnosis and Alternative Dispute Resolution. : Prentice Hall.