Cross-Cultural Negotiation and Conflict Management

Subject: Managerial Negotiation
Pages: 7
Words: 1978
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: PhD


One of the most significant markets for western firms in China; however, it is such a challenging task to negotiate with China. This study is meant to demonstrate how the Chinese deal with conflicts as well as how it affects their behavior as they negotiate in business, this will provide an empirical test of how the Chinese conflict management will impact the negotiation result. According to the study done, it has been noted that avoiding as well as compromising is one of the ideal methods for conflict management in China as opposed to competing and accommodating which contribute to more contentment while engaging in business negotiation. Therefore this study will focus on the implication of conflict management styles as well as give a suggestion for future studies.

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The concept of conflict management has grown into a key field of organizational behavior in a short period of time (Kozan, 1997). This tendency underlines the larger reception of variance as an organizational happening, leading to concerns over its management. Researchers have made a realization of increased attention in cross-cultural management perspective (Adler & Graham, 1989). The present text on cross-cultural studies is not as wide as in conflict management in other fields (Kiggundu, Jorgensen, Hafsi & Kozan, 1997). This is due to the interactive as well as the relative facet of conflict management across cultures which are of utmost importance to the operation of an increasingly globalized work environment; a wide-ranging examination of managing conflicts across cultures is needed.

Several studies that are pertinent to the understanding of conflict management have been carried out in the past ten years, by experimental social psychologists like (Jehn & Weldon; 1992; Kozan, 1997; Soreson, Morse, Savage, 1999). As much as these studies have produced an extraordinary literature on the best ways to deal with conflict, there are deficiencies that have slowed down the growth of research in cross-cultural conflict management.

Criticisms of Cross-Cultural Conflict Management

The current information on cross-cultural conflict management lacks a wide approach to worldwide studies due to the moderately young field of conflict management and international organizational behavior (Kozan, 1997), and also due to the lack of culture-free measures of conflict management styles. The majority of the research study on conflict management looks at conflict management from Western cultures, while ignoring conflict management styles from non- Western cultures (Weldon & Jehn, 1995). Conflict is culturally defined (Hocker & Wilmot, 1991), hence the approach of conflict management will vary across cultures. It is therefore imperative for more valuable information on conflict management for the worldwide working environment. Additionally, it is necessary for one to have an understanding of conflict management in the international marketplace since studying conflicts in various cultural contexts can be challenging and thus requires advanced knowledge of conflict management (van de Vijever & Leung, 1997; Tjosvold, Leung & Jonson).

According to Weldon & Jehn, 1995 the literature on cross-cultural conflict management shows inconsistent results being supported by weak conclusions for particular cultural methods. The limitation of this mode of study is that fats used by researchers emanate from the single case method where data is obtained from one situation. According to Womack 1988, in his analysis Thomas- Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, he argues that due to the influence of situational and personality factors the choice of conflict management style might be affected. She, therefore, argues for a more integrative approach to the study of cross-cultural conflict management in order to investigate a person’s preferred styles across multiple situations.

Secondly another limitation of the existing information on cross- cultural conflict management is the deficiency of the available information. It is noteworthy that the current information on cross- cultural conflict management is more ingrained on the academic angle and therefore fails to give a solution of the different styles that can be utilized to deal with cross- cultural conflicts. For example most of the studies carried out on conflict management internationally have delineated themselves from the conflict style differences across diverse cultures where they have put huge endeavour to explain such difference, but hardly any, have put an effort to examine as to whether such differences make some styles more valuable in resolving conflict in one culture as opposed to another (Jehn & Weldon, 1992; Weldon & Jehn, 1995).

Types of Conflict Management

There are five ways of dealing with conflicts namely: collaborating, avoiding, accommodating, competing and compromising. These modes can be described into scales which are cooperation and assertiveness. It is not wrong to use any of these methods but there are times when it is appropriate to utilize these while other times it is inappropriate to use each of these methods. The most widely used methods for conflict management is TKI (Thomas – Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument). The various methods of resolving conflict include, collaborating, accomodating competing, avoiding and compromising.

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In this mode of conflict management cooperation is low as opposed to the level of assertiveness which is high. This style of conflict management is suitable when there is need for quick action, in a bid to protect one’s interests, when detested decisions have t be made as well as in the handling of crucial issues. The skills involved in this style of conflict management include: the use of rank or influence, debating or arguing, assertion of one’s feelings and opinions, stating clearly one’s position as well as being firm in one’s position (Katzenbach, 1992).


In this style there is a high level of cooperation as opposed to the low level of assertiveness. This method is useful when one wants to show rationality, build good will, developing performance as well as maintaining peace. A number of people utilize this method when the result is of low significance to them (Smith, 2000). This method has its problems since it is not valid when one wants to become a martyr. For instance if you keep a record of the period of time you have given accommodation to someone expecting the person to realize without your communicating with the person and expecting this person to accommodate you may not be applicable. The skills utilized in this method are self-sacrifice, obedience, forgetting one’s desires as well as the capacity to surrender (Blake & Mouton, 1964).


In this mode there is a low level of cooperation coupled with a low level of assertiveness. Most of the times, people evade conflicts as they are afraid to engage in any kind of disagreement or due to their lack of confidence in their skills regarding conflict management ( Algert & Watson, 2002).The avoiding skills include: the capacity to side step issues, the logic of, timing, capacity to leave things unresolved as well as the capacity to withdraw (Johnson & Johnson, 2000).


In this style there is a high level of cooperation coupled with a high level assertiveness. According to this style the most favorable solution is one formed by a group of individuals. This method is regarded as the best method to resolve conflicts as the input of several individuals is used to solve a conflict. Notably the problem of this approach is that it is time and energy consuming (Raudsepp, 2002). The method best applies when a given conflict requires time and energy. This method is suitable in cases where the conflict is significant to the group forming an integrative resolution, when the issues are too significant to be compromised, when you want to gain commitment, when there are perspectives being integrated, in a bid to improve commitment as well as when one is learning. The skills involved include the analyses of input, identification of concerns, confrontation that is not threatening as well as being an active listener (Lambert & Myers, 1999).


This mode of conflict management is characterised by modest cooperation together with modest assertiveness. While some people view compromise as advantageous since both groups engaged in a conflict are winners others, others view it as a case where one of the party gives up more than s/ he needs. This mode of conflict management is best suited when one is dealing with issues of modest implication as well as in instances of strong commitment. This mode of conflict management is more applicable in instances where one needs a quick solution (Putnam, 1994).

Conflict Management in China

Due to the deficiencies of the available information on cross- cultural conflict management, this study main aim is to focus on conflict management in China. Due to0 the collectivist nature of the Chinese people, they are likely to be predominantly guarded of open confrontations. They therefore keep good relationships as well as accommodate the others need to maintain harmony (Hofstede, 1980).

This study is therefore diverse in that it seeks to assess the Chinese conflict management styles across three dissimilar situations. Secondly it looks at the implications of utilizing different conflict styles on the procedure and outcomes of conflict resolution in China, thus giving a provision of clear direction on the best methods to resolve conflicts in China. China happens to be a highly socialist country, it would therefore be expected that the Chinese would use more of non- confrontational styles like compromising as well as accommodating, and avoid styles in contradictory situations like trade conciliation, where attempts are made to avoid direct conflict and to uphold peace.

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Conflict Management Styles and Negotiation

Negotiation refers to one the most widespread approach that is utilized to decide and manage conflicts. It also forms one of the foundations for other substitute ways of resolving a conflict (Moore, 2010). The behaviours exhibited in the process of negotiation are influenced by the conflict management styles (Kirkbride, Tang & Westwood, 1991). Few studies have made an attempt to examine the connection between the process of negotiation and the results of this negotiation (Volkema & Bergmann, 1995). This study will look at the buyer- seller negotiation tasks with the integrative potentials to look at the influence of conflict management styles on negotiating behaviours and on following outcomes.

Negotiation Process refers to the dynamic relations between negotiators by which the two parties trade services or goods and try to come to an agreement (Carnevale & Puritt, 1992). Factors like the level of integration as well as the level of assertiveness are required in the process of negotiation (Barry & Friedman, 1998). Outrageous offers show that the party making an offer is an extreme bar gainer who cannot be convinced otherwise (Lewicki et al, 1994).

According to the study carried out in China Chinese approach conflict in a non- assertive style for example they use avoiding or compromising as their first and second choice for conflict resolution in China (Barry & Friedman, 1998). The Chinese prefer competing to accommodating as their third choice for handling conflicts. This proves that the Chinese cannot forfeit themselves in order for them to build a relationship as is expected by most people. This proves that the Chinese utilize indirect styles like avoiding or compromising to determine conflicts, although competing is unsurprisingly present in china, it is very significant in resolving conflict in China (Barry & Friedman, 1998).


In the course of interaction between two parties, it is very likely that a conflict will emerge, as they both have conflicting interests. Measures therefore have to be taken to ensure that the conflict is managed well before it escalates into a bigger problem. Negotiation between various cultures is difficult as different cultures have varying interests which have to be put into consideration. It is therefore imperative for the negotiator to understand the factor leading to a conflict so that the conflict can be dealt with appropriately. Most of the studies regarding cross- cultural conflict management focus on the western culture but this study focused on conflict management styles in China. According to the above study China is a collectivist society which has adopted a non- assertive mode of negotiation to resolve conflicts.


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