Why some cultures do not value conflict resolution

Many change agents, OD consultants and coaches roam the corporate world peddling wares to solve conflicts expediently, as in : we all need to see the “value” both in conflict and its ready resolution.

Yet many folks come from cultures which do not place as high a value on expedient conflict resolution.

Following is a list of attitudes which characterizes cultures which do not seek to “move ahead, move on, compromise, and put the conflict all behind us”.

1) These cultures tend to have more principles and less preferences. These principles are non negotiable, for the very reason that they are principles.

2) These cultures are not in a hurry. They believe that time is on their side, and if the conflict can wait for a year, a decade or a thousand years, they will get a better deal.

3) Compromise equals a loss of dignity. Better to die standing up than remain alive crawling like insect, goes the argument.

4) Meeting somewhere is the middle is a perceived disgrace to both sides. In a compromise/solution mode, “both sides look bad”.

5) There is an expectation from leadership/management that they be strong, not “solve” issues with other parties.” That makes followers “look good”.

6) Leadership perceives that solving a crisis will weaken them and set up an alternative power structure. There is no perception of “ we all get a bigger piece of a larger pie”.

Change agents who work with such populations need to

a-understand the basic assumptions of the protagonists

b-set realistic expectations about what can/cannot be achieved

c-use “temporary” resolution instead of final status resolution

d-avoid having protagonists meet, preferring an imposed solution.

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9 thoughts on “Why some cultures do not value conflict resolution

  1. Hi Allon. I appreciate the insights here. They give me new understanding about some conflicts among our staff in Pakistan, which I would also add to the list of countries.

    There are cultures that looks back to a certain era in history as their “golden age” and want to bring that time back; perhaps because of principles that were followed back then. As to being in a hurry, they might actually be in a hurry to turn the clock back. To a large extent these cultures also embody the other aspects you mentioned, and so perhaps they are just examples of your article. But I wonder if having a “lets go back in time to our golden age” orientation could actually be #7 on your list. That time-orientation is likely to be a source of conflict that will never be resolved.

  2. The meaning of the expression “conflict resolution” could range from a “settlement” to “determination”. Some parties, for some of their conflicts are indeed interested in a resolution that does not include “settlement”. For these conflicts the resolution must determine a “winner” or “loser”. For these conflicts the parties stand by their principles, can be unhurried, are uncompromising and show no weakness. This is very common across all cultures including the western economies.

    These same parties at other times will look at mediated solutions or settlements for some of their other conflicts.

    This is not necessarily a cultural trait but rather a trait of the type of conflict. Since every culture and indeed every individual must contend with every-day conflicts; perhaps thousands. They will resolve some by “settlement” and others by “determination.”

  3. Pingback: The survivor mentality in Israeli organizational behaviour | Allon Shevat-אלון שבט

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