People-centred and task-centred considerations

Another dimension worth considering in the conflict resolution process is the extent to which the parties involved in the conflict are adopting people-centred and task-centred approaches. People-centred approaches highly value the needs and feelings of those directly involved. In contrast, task-centred approaches place the achievement of goals (or the interests of the total group) more highly, as shown in Figure 54.2. Conflict resolution is easiest where there is a balance between people and task needs, and recognising this dimension can assist in achieving a solution.

Quite frequently in outdoors circumstances, the key issue causing the disagreement is differences between people and task needs. For example, some group members may value ‘peak bagging’ more than any other aspect of the trip, and if it is getting late on Sunday when others want to be heading for the cars, conflict can easily result. As in so many aspects of outdoor leadership, active planning and a willingness to modify goals during the trip will assist in preventing the conflict in the first place.

Figure 54.2 People-centred and task-centred approaches.
Low

Importance of relationship (people centred)

High
• People accept differences
• Problem solving is easy
• Differences are expressed and understood
• Issue is not worth resolving
• People are more concerned with truth than with their own positions
• Differences are expressed and understood
• Issues are considered worth raising and working toward agreement
• Problem solving negotiation is win–win
• The relationship can be strengthened
• If relationship ends, the ending is painful but not bitter
• Differences present problems
• Little things easily become big things
• Situations can escalate
• Differences present almost insurmountable problems
• Situations have the potential to polarise parties
• People have low willingness to work toward agreement
• Situations can become win-lose
• Escalation or suppression is likely
• People can break off the relationship
• Ending will be painful and 'dirty' (blame, attack, defence, and so on
Low  Importance of issue (task centred)  High