Organizational Research and Theory
July 16, 2012
Managing Conflict in the Workplace
Conflict is an inevitable by-product of human interaction. Therefore, it is a defining characteristic of human existence. It is for this reason that conflict has been described as the lifeblood of society. Singleton et.al (2011) states, “Conflict is a natural consequence of interactions with family, friends, and colleagues, as well as between managers and their direct reports” (p.149). This is because the diversity of the human race is synonymous with differences in opinions, perspectives or convictions. Conflict is a phenomenon that permeates every level of society (Practical Management Skills, n.d). It is a pervasive and ever-present element in the macro and micro institutions of society. These institutions could be as small as the family or as large as a Fortune 500 company. Since conflict is an integral part of society, it is necessary to gain an understanding of its manifestation, in various spheres of human existence. The fundamental purpose of this research paper is to explore how conflict is managed in the workplace. This discussion will begin with a definition of workplace conflict, which will constitute the foundation of the ensuing analysis. Next, the typologies of workplace conflict will be described. This aspect of the discussion was formulated with the aim of providing clarity about the various demonstrations of conflict in the organizational setting. Following the examination of workplace conflict typologies, this research paper will put the spotlight on the costs of conflict. This research paper will conclude with an in depth description of ways to resolve conflict in the work environment. The underlying purpose of this research paper is to explore workings of , and provide solutions for the resolution of conflict in the employment arena. Such an exploration is critical and necessary because conflict though healthy at times, has the potential to obscure individual and organizational progress.
Definition of Workplace Conflict
Prior to assessing the specific manifestations of conflict in the workplace, it is necessary to present a description of this phenomenon. Due to the diversity of contexts within which conflict is demonstrated, there are numerous viewpoints on its definition. In other words, conflict is conceptualized and perceived differently by the plethora of people involved or observing it. This is especially the case in the work environment, where there are so many distinctions among various classes of employees. According to the Practical Management Skills (n.d) website, “Conflict means different things to different people” (para.1). This means that while one individual may describe a situation as a conflict another may see the same situation as an agreeable or amicable one. The variance in perspectives is rooted in conditions, which are inherent in or surrounds the person involved in the conflict. Both internal and external characteristics determine the definition of conflict by specific individuals. In more specific terms, personal and environmental traits influence the manner in which conflict is described. Nevertheless, from a general standpoint conflict is defined as, “any kind of opposition or antagonistic interaction between two or more parties” (Singleton, 2011, p.149). This same definition applies to the work environment because conflict is deemed to be the inevitable result of human interaction. The only difference between general and workplace conflict is that the participants are defined by their roles within the organization. More specifically, workplace conflict refers to the antagonism that occurs between or among employees within the organization (Singleton, 2011). There are additional classifications of workplace conflict, which are defined by specific conditions, will be explained in the following section....