Functional Conflicts

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Conflicts in an organization
* A study of conflicts in 5 organizations

Organizational conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between people working together. Conflict takes many forms in organizations. There is the inevitable clash between formal authority and power and those individuals and groups affected. There are disputes over how revenues should be divided, how the work should be done and how long and hard people should work. There are jurisdictional disagreements among individuals, departments, and between unions and management. There are subtler forms of conflict involving rivalries, jealousies, personality clashes, role definitions, and struggles for power and favor. There is also conflict within individuals — between competing needs and demands — to which individuals respond in different ways. Conflicts between people in work groups, committees, task forces, and other organizational forms of face-to-face groups are inevitable. As we have mentioned, these conflicts may be destructive as well as constructive. Conflict arises in groups because of the scarcity of freedom, position, and resources. People who value independence tend to resist the need for interdependence and, to some extent, conformity within a group. People who seek power therefore struggle with others for position or status within the group. Rewards and recognition are often perceived as insufficient and improperly distributed, and members are inclined to compete with each other for these prizes. In western culture, winning is more acceptable than losing, and competition is more prevalent than cooperation, all of which tends to intensify intragroup conflict. Group meetings are often conducted in a win-lose climate — that is, individual or subgroup interaction is conducted for the purpose of determining a winner and a loser rather than for achieving mutual problem solving.

Negative effects of group conflicts
The win-lose conflict in groups may have some of the following negative effects: 1. Divert time and energy from the main issues
2. Delay decisions
3. Create deadlocks
4. Drive unaggressive committee members to the sidelines
5. Interfere with listening
6. Obstruct exploration of more alternatives
7. Decrease or destroy sensitivity
8. Cause members to drop out or resign from committees
9. Arouse anger that disrupts a meeting
10. Interfere with empathy
11. Leave losers resentful
12. Incline underdogs to sabotage
13. Provoke personal abuse
14. Cause defensiveness

Results of group conflicts

Conflict in the group need not lead to negative results, however. Functional conflict within the context of organizational behavior occurs when low to moderate levels of conflict improve the effectiveness of a group. Conflict is constructive when it improves the quality of decisions, stimulates creativity, innovation and encourages interest and curiosity among group members. It provides a medium through which problems can be aired and tensions released and fosters an environment of self-evaluation and change. Conflict is the antidote for groupthink. Conflict challenges the status quo and therefore furthers the creation of new ideas, promotes reassessment of group goals and activities, and increases the probability that the group will respond to change.

The presence of a dissenting member or subgroup often results in more penetration of the group's problem and more creative solutions. This is because disagreement forces the members to think harder in an attempt to cope with what may be valid objections to general group opinion. But the group must know how to deal with differences that may arise. True interdependence among members leads automatically to conflict resolution in the group. Interdependence recognizes that differences will exist and that they can be helpful. Hence, members learn to accept ideas from dissenters,...
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