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Conflicts in Organizations

By madeshdgod Dec 09, 2008 2779 Words
WORD COUNT: 2738 words

Table of Contents



Conflicts, who does it affects?5

Why do Conflict arise in organizations6

Managing Conflicts 8



Why does conflict arise in organizations, and how can it be managed?

One thing any organization tries to maintain is a conflict free environment. Impossible as it seems though, many organizations over the decades have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that employers and employees work in a conflict free environment. Unlike the everyday outside world, in the business environment it is easier to encounter conflicts simply because of the value of what is at stake.

Many conflicts can be the result of being threatened and as humans we try to defend ourselves and that is why managers need to source the cause before providing unjust solutions.

Conflict within the organization is a vital factor that can eventually cause it’s downfall but in order to deal with conflict, management has to distinguish between the two types of conflicts: Destructive and the Constructive. With that in mind it is also imperative to look at the sources or the scenarios that result in conflicts.

It can be positive when it encourages creativity, new looks at o1d conditions, the clarification of points of view, and the development of human capabilities to handle interpersonal differences. Then there is the more familiar effect of negative conflicts when it creates resistance to change, establishes turmoil in organization or interpersonal relations, fosters distrust, builds a feeling of defeat, or widens the chasm of misunderstanding.

To truly manage conflicts appropriately one has to consider the nature of conflicts. The whys and the hows must be critically analyzed to properly enforce solutions without being the victims of unethical or immoral behavior. Solutions must be bias to the extent that it does not impair the company’s work or organizational structure and at the same time must not pressure employees. Management ability to successfully implement conflict resolutions can greatly contribute to the growth of the organization.

Conflicts, who does it affect?
Everyone at some point or another has been involved in a conflict. You may have casually brushed it off and moved on but conflict within the organization has a greater and usually more drastic effect which cannot be ‘brushed off’. Conflicts can compromise efficiency and production. It encourages delinquency and forms unnecessary pressure groups that are destructive to the organizational structure of any firm.

When conflicts arise in organizations it not only affects the company but the workers as well. Human Resource departments and managers internationally have a difficult time in resolving conflicts within the organization. Not being able to effectively identify conflict in the workplace and resolve it before it impacts on the greater working environment leaves the organization vulnerable to conflict's incapacitating and potentially disastrous affect.

We need to manage conflict in order to obtain profitable return from it. Managing conflict requires that we consider not only the required guidance and control to keep conflict at an acceptable, yet not too high-level but also the activity to encourage proper conflict when the level is too low. Who would want to lead an organization without the energy and force accompanying the conflict of creativity and initiative?

In the end conflict although is perceived as bad it is at most time not so. It harnesses the prospectus to introduce new more practical solutions and to prevent mistreatment. Essentially it is a concept that has the power to affect everyone internally and externally within an organization.

Why do Conflicts arise in Organizations?
As human beings, society has molded us to deal and accept certain aspects of different cultures. Through life experiences we have developed a set of values and evolved a set of behavioral rules that control our general everyday actions. Decision making and etiquette are all derived from the lifestyle which was imposed on us and begin part of a nation, organization, and or group that makes up a society it gives us the power to allow justice, morals, and ethics to exist and create general agreement about what is right and what is wrong. But, the value-rule set for each individual is a unique set not fully shared by everyone. These differences in value-rule sets are most likely the basic causes of conflict. Lack of effective leadership refers to an individual or organization's failure to implement and utilize effective leadership skills and structure. If an individual in a position of leadership does not know how to lead others or an organization does not have a clear leadership structure, conflict will take hold quickly. Issues that stem from a lack of effective leadership and fuel conflict are: Lack of trust; undefined purpose; no standards; inconsistent application of policy; unclear communication; lack of appreciation; and feelings of disrespect. The qualities and characteristics of individuals also play a major role in how conflict arises. Personality traits and ego largely influence whether someone will initiate a conflict. The bottom line-individuals with a clear sense of self and a commitment to teamwork are less likely to engage in conflict behavior. Being careful to hire people with the same or similar values as your organization is an important aspect of whether individual qualities and characteristics will give rise to conflict. Fairness as a source of conflict can be the result of one’s values or principles being threatened or violated. Being mistreated or not being recognized for contributions made to the organization impacts on one’s mindset and ability to perform causing a chain reaction of disruption. Unfair treatment is not a unfamiliar concept, it has been related to many ethical and moral laws such Sexual Harassment, Minimum Wage, Monopolies Act and of course Discrimination just to mention a few. Although by now a large literature has emerged that shows the relevance of fairness considerations in general, the precise determinants of what is considered as fair and unfair are still largely unknown.

Spite can cause conflicts to erupt and end very ugly. Where a motivated person engages in conflict only to retaliate for unfair behavior, a spiteful one is only concern with their best interest. There is a wide scope on why spite causes conflict for example in a competitive work environment it is very easy for some ‘toes’ to be stepped on. Persons of a selfish nature tend to be spiteful because of a vengeful value-set. The conflict will arise when those getting ‘burned’ will not stand for it and have to defend their principles and values.

Reputation Formation can cause conflicts simply by persons not being considerate to others. When ambitious persons are introduced to an organization they are usually in a mindset to try as hard as possible to build their reputation even if it means overriding or using the people around them. It is a process where by they do things that will benefit themselves and progress their careers and the means by which they do this are not accepted by everyone.

Miscommunication is often a definite reason why conflicts arise in organizations. The communication barrier has to be well established in an organization mainly because the free flow of information within an organization improves efficiency and production. No one within an organization really wants to be at fault when something goes wrong but if there is a situation where orders, directives or protocol was misinterpreted or was not properly explained, it can easily cause conflicts.

There are many reasons for conflicts in an organization form workers being under stress to simply individuals being hot tempered, but the sources mentioned are usually the basis for the conflicts, people’s attitude are the trigger.

Managing Conflicts
We must expect conflict to occur in our organizations. We should be disappointed if it does not because conflict exists only within the context of interdependence. There can be no conflict when there is no awareness of another meaning, role, or value than our own. Thus, conflict is a relationship between segments of an interrelated system: persons, a group, an organization, a community, a nation. There can be no conflict if those involved sense no differences. However, in the environment of interpersonal relationship there will always be difference, and conflict will be the norm not the exception. We have already determined why conflicts occur but there is more to it than that. For example the lack of leadership could also mean that no motivation is given to employees. The tricky part is to determine whether the issue is beneficial to the company or hazardous. Managing conflicts is absolutely essential for production and efficiency. To truly manage conflicts the organization first has to employ or assign qualified persons to analyze the situation. Employees counseling programs are an easy and affordable method of dealing and preventing conflicts. With such programs a proper feedback from employees can make management aware of the problems and issues that affect each employee. Rewarding employees for contributions made and providing incentives is another method of managing conflicts. In this way it minimizes the chances of employees becoming disgruntled. Using money wisely and distributing it to hard working employees also can ensure a productive cycle. Basic to other considerations in dealing with conflict, it is well to note that conflict resolution requires that the parties in conflict trust each other and that the parties in conflict are capable of and willing to locate the source of the conflict. “A man convinced against his will is not convinced” thus, we can generally eliminate the archaic, although often-used, hammer on the head method. Putting the lid on conflict does nothing about eliminating its source. Rebuilding trust where it was broken is key to successfully managing conflicts. An often-used method for managing conflict is the use of super ordinate goals. For example, the work force, taken as a whole, is something of a super ordinate goal uniting conflicting groups beneath that umbrella. The manager gets the groups to see how the conflict serves to reduce productivity, thus reducing the smaller group's stake in the benefits of the major organization's success. Even though the source of conflict is not thus treated, it is an important first step because it sets the stage for compromise. This approach is similar to the common enemy approach, wherein groups in competition find unity viewing an outside group as a common enemy. This unity can hide, or make less important, conflicts within the group. A unique method to manage conflict is to increase interaction between conflicting groups by physically exchanging persons between conflicting groups. For example, if the accounts department is having difficulty dealing with the purchasing department, a temporary shifting of people between these groups could help the conflicting elements learn the other's problems and frames of reference. The result should be better communications, greater understanding, and less future conflict. Workplace conflict is most effectively resolved by the process of mediation where the mediator is an objective third party who is completely independent from the organizational structure. Maintaining control reduces the impulse people have to dig their heels in. In addition, participants are more at ease in the mediator's presence because, as a third party, the mediator has no power or authority to control the resolution, which is a significant difference from disciplinary hearings or formal grievance processes. Mediation also tends to be confidential, if not in the legal sense, at least in terms of not placing the conflict on parade for the entire organization and members of the public to see. Overall, no matter how extensive or intense the conflict has become, mediation is an opportunity for those involved to "clean up their own mess," which they usually do with the assistance of a competent and skillful mediator. This results in a reduced burden on the organization, since it does not need to formally intervene. Confronting the conflicting parties is an actionable method for managing conflicts; however, managers should remember that confrontation requires complete preparedness on his part. He must have the facts of the conflict situation and confidence in his self-control and his ability to use diplomacy, tact and problem solving. Even then, he must also accept the possibility that a confrontation may worsen, not better, the situation. Basic to his efforts to resolve or reduce the conflict is the idea of avoiding win-lose situations. Sports and other recreational activities often acquire their flavor by win-lose situations, but the same win-lose options are not always desirable in organizational functions. Far too often, in organizations, this results in sub optimization. There are situations in which the manager must seek to repress conflict. This is especially true when the differences between the conflicting elements are not relevant to the organizational task. This occurs when two participating people have off-the job differences which they permit to enter the world of work. Normally, this type of conflict is bad for the organization. Often these differences are petty and self-serving, thereby causing activity in which the participants try to win to preserve the sanctity of their original stand. A significant aid to the manager in this form of conflict is a well-developed understanding of the human process of perception, the process by which we handle stimuli in accordance with our values, rules, wishes, and fears. With this understanding, the manager might be able to explain to the conflicting parties how they are misreading the situational data. He might then obtain agreement of a sort that causes the conflict to be repressed. Screening employees and assessing work performance can contribute to management of conflicts as delinquent employees tend to encourage others to cause havoc. The creation of pressure groups also needs to be dispersed as quickly as possible because their influence spreads. Employees who have no respect for superiors and do not follow company’s rules and regulation must be dealt with accordingly to prevent them from using conflict as a con to get what they want.

As a norm, sometimes to manage conflicts the best method is usually to simply do nothing. In an efficient work environment employees tend work things out for themselves, which is not to say that management should ignore the fact that there was a conflict or the possibility of a conflicting situation. To take time to resolve trivial conflicts usually wastes time and it is management duty to determine which conflicts are important and those that are not.

Conflicts it is good, it is bad but essential for all organizations. If organizations worked without conflicts then the possibility of growth and efficiency would be almost distant. Conflicts should be treated as a mirror whereby the organization can view itself and make the necessary improvements. Traditionally the management of conflict is an important dimension of team effectiveness. Conflict is a natural part of the team environment. But to be effective, teams must be able to manage that conflict and how they do so brings out the best or the worst of employee involvement. Successful teams use conflict to arouse discussion and stimulate creative thinking. Less successful teams do a poor job of managing differences. These teams tend to avoid conflict. Avoiding conflict should not be an option but management has to effectively decide methodology for dealing and resolving conflicts. Like the gears in a clock every employee is an essential part to the organization and if disrupted can hinder the efficiency of the organization.

Branhan, L., 2005. The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, New York: American Management Association.

Carter, L.K., 1997. Why Workers Won’t Work. The Worker in a Developing Economy, London: MacMillan Education Ltd.

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Fox, S. and Spector, P. E., eds.2005. Counterproductive Work Behavior Investigations of Actors and Targets. 1st ed., Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Hutchings, P. J., 2002. Managing Workplace Chaos, New York: American Management Association.

Wayne, R. P. and Smith P. C., 1991. Human Resource Development (The Field), New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Willsmore, A. W., 1973. Managing Modern Man, New York: Pitman Publishing.

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