Conflict Management

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The conflict process can be seen as comprising five stages: potential opposition or incompatibility, cognition and personalization, intentions, behavior, and outcomes. The process is diagrammed in Exhibit 13-1.

Stage I: Potential Opposition or Incompatibility
The first step in the conflict process is the presence of conditions that create opportunities for conflict to arise. They need not lead directly to conflict, but one of these conditions is necessary if conflict is to surface. For simplicity’s sake, these conditions


Part III Groups in the Organization EXHIBIT 13-1 The Conflict Process Stage III Intentions Stage IV Behavior Stage V Outcomes

Stage I Stage II Potential opposition Cognition and or incompatibility personalization Perceived conflict Antecedent conditions • Communication • Structure • Personal variables Felt conflict

Increased group performance Conflict-handling intentions • Competing • Collaborating • Compromising • Avoiding • Accommodating Overt conflict • Party’s behavior • Other’s reaction Decreased group performance

(which also may be looked at as causes or sources of conflict) have been condensed into three general categories: communication, structure, and personal variables.4 Communication The communication source represents the opposing forces that arise from semantic difficulties, misunderstandings, and noise in the communication channels. Much of this discussion can be related back to our comments on communication in Chapter 10. A review of the research suggests that differing word connotations, jargon, insufficient exchange of information, and noise in the communication channel are all barriers to communication and potential antecedent conditions to conflict. Evidence demonstrates that semantic difficulties arise as a result of differences in training, selective perception, and inadequate information about others. Research has further demonstrated a surprising finding: The potential for conflict increases when either too little or too much communication takes place. Apparently, an increase in communication is functional up to a point, whereupon it is possible to overcommunicate, with a resultant increase in the potential for conflict. Too much information, as well as too little, can lay the foundation for conflict. Furthermore, the channel chosen for communicating can have an influence on stimulating opposition. The filtering process that occurs as information is passed between members and the divergence of communications from formal or previously established channels offer potential opportunities for conflict to arise. Structure The term structure is used, in this context, to include variables such as size, degree of specialization in the tasks assigned to group members, jurisdictional clarity, member–goal compatibility, leadership styles, reward systems, and the degree of dependence among groups. Research indicates that size and specialization act as forces to stimulate conflict. The larger the group and the more specialized its activities, the greater the likelihood of conflict. Tenure and conflict appear inversely

Chapter 13 Conflict and Negotiation related, meaning the potential for conflict tends to be greatest when group members are younger and when turnover is high. A close style of leadership—tight and continuous observation with general control of others’ behaviors—increases conflict potential, but the evidence is not particularly strong. Too much reliance on participation may also stimulate conflict. Research tends to confirm that participation and conflict are highly correlated, apparently because participation encourages the promotion of differences. Reward systems, too, are found to create conflict when one member’s gain is at another’s expense. And if a group is dependent on another group (in contrast to the two being mutually independent) or if interdependence allows one group to gain at another’s expense, opposing forces are...
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