Webster's Dictionary defines a group as "a number of persons near, placed, or classified together." Others define a group as a "social unit that consists of a number of individuals (1) who, at a given time, have role and status relationships with one another, stabilized in some degree and (2) who possess a set of values or norms regulating the attitude and behavior of individual members, at least in matters of consequence to them." Intergroup relations between two or more groups and their respective members are often necessary to complete the work required to operate a business. Many times, groups inter-relate to accomplish the organization's goals and objectives, and conflict can occur. Some conflict, called functional conflict, is considered positive, because it enhances performance and identifies weaknesses. Dysfunctional conflict, however, is confrontation or interaction between groups that harms the organization or hinders attainment of goals or objectives. Causes of Intergroup Conflict
One of the most prominent reasons for intergroup conflict is simply the nature of the group. Other reasons may be work interdependence, goal variances, differences in perceptions, and the increased demand for specialists. Also, individual members of a group often play a role in the initiation of group conflict. Any given group embodies various qualities, values, or unique traits that are created, followed, and even defended. These clans can then distinguish "us" from "them." Members who violate important aspects of the group, and especially outsiders, who offend these ideals in some way, normally receive some type of corrective or defensive response. Relationships between groups often reflect the opinions they hold of each other's characteristics. When groups share some interests and their directions seem parallel, each group may view the other positively; however, if the activities and goals of groups differ, they may view each other in a negative manner. When trying to prevent or correct intergroup conflict, it is important to consider the history of relations between the groups in conflict. History will repeat itself if left to its own devices. Limited resources and reward structures can foster intergroup conflict by making the differences in group goals more apparent. Differences in perceptions among groups regarding time and status, when coupled with different group goals, can also create conflict. Reorganization of the workplace and integration of services and facilities can be stressful to some and create negative conflict. Some individuals within the group have inherent traits or social histories that impact intergroup conflict, but problems within intergroup relations are not usually caused by the deviate behavior of a few individuals. Consequences of Intergroup Conflict
Intergroup conflict causes changes to occur, both within the groups in conflict and between them. Within the groups, members will usually overlook individual differences in an effort to unite against the other side, and with this concerted effort the focus is on the task. The group can become more efficient and effective at what they do, and members can become more loyal, closely following group norms. Problems can occur, however, when the group loses focus of the organization's goals and becomes closed off from other groups. Haughtiness and isolation quickly lead to decreased communication. Communication is the key between groups in reciprocal interdependence, and these have the highest negative consequences for lack of effective communication. Miscommunication can be the death knell of any organization. Solutions to Intergroup Conflict
There are numerous choices available to circumvent conflict, to keep it from becoming damaging, and to resolve conflict that is more serious. These include simple avoidance where possible, problem solving, changing certain variables in the workplace, and in-house alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs. Any resolution...
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