Conflict in Organisations

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To what extend do you accept the view that conflict is an inevitable feature of management and organizational behaviour? Suggest how management can attempt to avoid the harmful effects of conflict.

Introduction
All organizations, by their very nature, have built in conflicts Conflict is seen as an inherent feature of organisations and induced, in part, by the very structure of the organisation. The causes might stem from individual characteristics, interpersonal factors, communications, behavior, structure and previous interactions.

“Conflict, per se, is not necessarily good or bad but an inevitable feature of organisational life and should be judged in terms of its effects on performance. Even if organisations have taken great care to try to avoid conflict it will still occur. Conflict will continue to emerge despite attempts by management to suppress it.” J Mullins Pge 490. A more recent view of conflict is the interactionist perspective, which believes that conflict is a positive force and necessary for effective performance. This approach encourages a minimum level of conflict within the group in order to encourage self-criticism, change and innovation, and to help prevent apathy or too great a tolerance for harmony and the status quo.

Conflict Defined

Conflict is defined as an incompatibility of goals or values between two or more parties in any relationship, combined with attempts to control each other and antagonistic feelings toward each other (Fisher, 1990). The incompatibility or difference may exist in reality or may only be perceived by the parties involved. Nonetheless, the opposing actions and the hostile emotions are very real hallmarks of human conflict.

Main Causes Of Conflict In Organisations

Differences in Goals: In an organisation, functional departments or sub units become specialised or differentiated as they develop different goals, tasks and personnel. Although the overall organisational goal is agreed upon, such specialisation or differentiation leads to conflicts of interest or priorities. For example in a firm involved in manufacturing certain products, the sales and marketing department might want low prices to attract more customers or to gain a bigger market whilst the production department might want higher prices on those products to meet the production cost.

Limited resources: Competition for limited resources is also a factor for conflict. The classic example here is the normal budgetary requirements that usually exceed available funds. This is probably the most prevalent and familiar source of conflict at the TRB. Departments request more than what the budget can sustain. For example, replacement of obsolete laboratory equipment by the analytical services Division against the refurbishment of the tobacco curing barns by the Field Services Division. Departments fight to get preference as Heads of Departments attempt to present their problems as the most pressing and urgent.

Communication barriers: This arises when two individuals or groups are unable to express themselves, verbalize their needs, state their case adequately, provide logical and structured argument, or listen effectively. Miscommunication and misunderstanding can create conflict even where there are no basic incompatibilities. Lack of communication skills often results in confusion, hurt and anger, all of which simply feed into the conflict process. Language barriers and socio-cultural backgrounds can inhibit the intended meaning of a particular message.

Perception differences or differences in the value system: Parties may have different perceptions as to what are the facts in a situation, and until they share information and clarify their perceptions, resolution is impossible. Self-centeredness, selective perception, emotional bias, prejudices, etc., are all forces that lead people to perceive situations very differently from the other party. Because of this perception variation, people...
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