Conflict can be defined as “a process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or it is about to negatively affect, something the first party cares about”,(Huczynski and Buchanan, 2007). Huczynski and Buchanan (2007) also perceive conflict as a mental state which has to be acknowledged by the two parties involved to comply with its definition. In an organizational environment, conflict is strongly connected to managerial skills. There are different situations where conflict can occur but it is often a consequence of lack of communication, misunderstandings, disagreements which mean basic human interaction. According to French et al (2008) “managers must be skilled participants in the dynamics of interpersonal conflict”, moreover when they are directly involved. Frames of reference
In order to address the question “Is conflict detrimental to employees and the organization?” we would have to look at the four frames of reference on conflict (Fox, 1966, 1973 cited in Huczynski and Buchanan 2007): unitarist, pluralist, interactionist and radical. The unitarist view upon conflict is that it is nonexistent in an organization and has to be avoided by all means. This implies that employees have to have the same goals as management and no difference of opinion may interfere, while the company is seen as an ideal environment. Generally the attitude of the company relies on the resolution, considering the causes as being lack of communication due to involvement of third parties such as unions. The pluralist approach is opposite the unitarist one, rejecting the idea of a harmonious environment where employees and management share the same interests and goals. In this frame, the conflict will appear between groups (departments), or managerial functions of the same level. This is due to clashes between views upon the organizational goals. Management has a key role in dissolving and balancing conflict through compromise. This frame sees conflict as an unavoidable part of organizational behavior. The interactionist view is the most embracing frame towards conflict. According to it, conflict is necessary in the organizational environment as it functions positively upon it. In this view, if there is too much order and good understanding there will be less room to bring forward change. Therefore, conflict will be stimulated, in order to avoid lack of self criticism and change. Conflict can manifest as functional and dysfunctional, depending on its wholesome influence on the organizational performance. Functional conflict is “a form of conflict which supports organization goals and improves performances”(Huczynski and Buchanan, 2007), while dysfunctional conflict manifests in the opposite way, affecting the company’s course. There is a constant need of conflict needed to be maintained at a managerial level in order to motivate, stimulate and encourage work. Joni and Beyer (2009) state that “Within an acceptable range of competition and tension, science shows, dissent will fire up more of an individual’s brain, stimulating more pathways and engaging more creative centers”. This is their view upon the present day need for conflict in organizations to motivate people.
The radical frame of reference is the widest as it gives the most answers to the analysis upon conflict. While the interactionist view sees conflict as a tool to improve performance, the radical approach implies that organizations are fields of conflict between managers and employees. The reference has been based on the Marxist critique on capitalism. Organizing and co-ordination
Conflict can surface from many situations but its source can be classified according to Huczynski and Buchanan (2007) using the co-ordination of an organization. Co-ordination develops through differentiation, actual co-ordination, response, perceptions and...