Sources of Conflict in Organziations

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SOURCES OF CONFLICT IN ORGANIZATIONS

Understanding conflict in organizations is critical so that one can actively participate in its management. Conflict is inevitable and is usually perceived as negative. An organization that does not effectively manage conflict will remain stagnant and even possibly degrade over time. However, conflict can be a positive catalyst for change and move an organization forward. Conflict is quite normal and is a natural part of all of our lives, both personally and at work. Internal relationships at work must be nurtured and maintained or chaos will erupt. In order to understand conflict in organizations and to learn how to properly manage it, one must first understand how conflict originates. According to McShane and Glinow (2008), there are six major sources of conflict in organizations. This paper will address four of these sources in detail.

One of these sources of conflict involves the availability of resources. Windle and Warren point out that the scarcity of resources can be perceived or real (2008). With lean practices at work in most organizations today, resource scarcity is commonly a reality and can be a catalyst for much conflict. Competition for needed resources arises among employees, and office politics take the helm. The most effective way to handle this issue is to be creative and flexible in finding solutions that address resources. Instead of expending energy in conflict, this energy can be channeled into finding solutions. If one is resistant to explore other possibilities only because the desired resources are not available, the organization cannot progress. Conflict involving scarce resources that is not resolved wastes even more resources as time is spent in the feuding process.

One of the common examples of resource scarcity in today’s organization involves staffing. Many organizations are flattening their structures and working to achieve maximum efficiency with the employees remaining. Organizations are empowering employees so that the hierarchical structures of the past are not perceived as necessary. With these structural changes, conflict certainly can arise. Employees often feel excessive pressure to meet high demands and thus may believe that other employees are not contributing equally to the goals of the organization. With empowered employees and fewer managers, the portals to resolve such conflict are limited in many organizations. Thus, employees are often left to resolve conflict amongst themselves. Even though the personal feedback solution might be an ideal solution, it is not an easy solution. Most employees who are on the same level find confronting a fellow employee about conflict difficult and uncomfortable. Collaboration is certainly one of the most effective ways to deal with such conflict, but unfortunately it is not always the first approach. Some employees avoid the issue or become combative. Employees must find a way to communicate effectively so that the issue surrounding the scarce resources can be resolved. For example, there is a project that must be completed by a specific deadline, but the number of staff available for the project is limited. Of the four employees working on the project, two stay late every night to work and work at least one day per weekend to try to get the project completed on schedule. The other two employees leave every day after eight hours and never work on weekends. They never mention staying late or give any reason for not doing so. The two employees who are staying late and working on weekends must find a way to communicate their dissatisfaction to the other two employees. The lack of communication from the beginning of the project brought about the conflict, and communication must rectify the conflict. The scarcity of resources, staff, was an underlying cause of the conflict in this situation, but ultimately, the lack of communication facilitated an even greater escalation...
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