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Organisational Conflict

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Organisations are responsible for creating a work environment that enables people to thrive. If disagreement and differences of opinion escalate into conflict then the organisation must intervene immediately.

Conflict in the organisation can be constructive or destructive for an organisation.

Conflict may be defined as breakdown in the standard of decision making and it occurs when an individual or group experience difficulty in selecting an alternative.

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Conflict arises when individual or group encounter goal that both parties cannot obtain satisfactorily. The term conflict, evasion fights, riots, or wars have become pervasive and, in fact, virtually every day of every year one can find dozens of armed combat situation somewhere in the world.

Learn about:-

1. Introduction to Organisational Conflict 2. History of Organisational Conflict 3. Meaning 4. Definitions 5. Causes 6. Sources 7. Characteristics 8. Process

9. Different Views 10. Theory 11. Models. 12. Levels 13. Types of Managerial Actions that Cause Workplace Conflicts 14. Key Managerial Actions

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15. Advantages 16. Disadvantages 17. Consequences 18. Resolution Techniques 19. Effective Conflict Management in an Organisation.

Organisational Conflict: Meaning, Definitions, Sources, Characteristics, Process, Theory, Models, Advantages and Disadvantages


Organisational Conflict – Introduction

Organisations are responsible for creating a work environment that enables people to thrive. If disagreement and differences of opinion escalate into conflict then the organisation must intervene immediately. Conflict in the organisation can be constructive or destructive for an organisation.

In fact, the Chinese character for ‘conflict’ represents two meanings, opportunity and danger. As a manager we need to find and focus on how to make it beneficial and how to minimise the negative aspects.

We need to create an organisational culture that encourage and even rewards good conflict management, our goal has to be to increase the benefits achieved from managing and encouraging beneficial conflict, like task and process conflict, while managing, resolving and reducing the negative effects of relationship conflict. Different writers have defined organisational conflict in different way. The common key words, which are used in these definitions, are frustration, incongruence incompatibility and mismatch.

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Conflict may be defined as breakdown in the standard of decision making and it occurs when an individual or group experience difficulty in selecting an alternative.

The concept of conflict may be understood as collision or disagreement. The conflict may be with an individual when there is an incompatibility between his or her own goal and event; may be between two individual or between two groups of organisation. According to Chaung and Megginson, conflict is ‘the struggle between incompatible or opposing needs, wishes, ideas, and interest of people’.

Conflict arises when individual or group encounter goal that both parties cannot obtain satisfactorily. The term conflict, evasion fights, riots, or wars have become pervasive and, in fact, virtually every day of every year one can find dozens of armed combat situation somewhere in the world.

These are more violent expression of conflict but a manager encounters more stubble and non-violent type of opposition such as arguments, criticism and disagreement. Conflict can be positive and negative- constructive or destructive. It may be cognitive or affective. Cognitive conflict refers to differences in perspectives or judgements about issues.

Affective conflict is emotional and directed at other people. Affective conflict is likely to be destructive because it can lead to anger, bitterness, goal displacement and poor decisions. Cognitive conflict, on the other hand can air legitimate difference of opinion and develop better idea and solution to problem, when conflict occurs within the company team and between the team and outsider it can reduce morale, lower productivity, increase absenteeism, and cause smaller large-scale to serious and violent behaviour.


Organisational Conflict – History

As with other literary terms, these have come about gradually as descriptions of common narrative structures. Conflict was first described in ancient Greek literature as the agon, or central contest in tragedy. According to Aristotle, in order to hold the interest, the hero must have a single conflict.

The agon, or act of conflict, involves the protagonist (the “first fighter”) and the antagonist (a more recent term), corresponding to the hero and villain. The outcome of the contest cannot be known in advance and, according to later critics such as Plutarch, the hero’s struggle should be ennobling.

Even in contemporary, non-dramatic literature, crit­ics have observed that the agon is the central unit of the plot. The easier it is for the protagonist to triumph, the less value there is in the drama. In internal and external conflict alike, the antagonist must act upon the protago­nist and must seem at first to overmatch him or her.

For example, in William Faulkner’s The Bear, nature might be the antagonist. Even though it is an abstraction, natu­ral creatures and the scenery oppose and resist the pro­tagonist. In the same story, the young boy’s doubts about himself provide an internal conflict and they seem to over­whelm him.

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Similarly, when godlike characters enter (e.g., Superman), correspondingly great villains have to be created, or natural weaknesses have to be invented, to allow the narrative to have drama. Alternatively, scenarios could be devised in which the character’s godlike powers are constrained by some sort of code, or their respective antagonist.


Organisational Conflict Meaning

The term ‘conflict’ has wide connotation. It is subject to different interpretations in different context. It is generally referred to a psychological state of mind where a person cannot decide the behaviour this way or that way. Sometimes, the term is used as a difference of opinion between two persons or groups irrespective of their status in the organization.

For example, we say, they have conflicting views. No less frequent is the phenomenon where people are engaged in showdowns, each party developing strategies to meet the challenge of the other and get polarised into two warring groups. Conflict is a powerful process having both desirable and undesirable consequences, so, it cannot be eliminated, and it can be and should be managed properly and timely.

Conflicts may be at individual level, group level and at organizational level. At all levels, it may develop and be managed. In resolving a conflict, managers should first diagnose the causes of conflict and then think of the strategy for a particular kind of conflict. There may be different strategies to be used to handle the conflict efficiently in different cases.

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Conflict may arise within an organization or outside it. Both affect the work efficiency of the individual and of the group because people engaged in conflict are busy in planning out the strategy to showdown the other party. So, they are not at work by heart and thus, it affects the productivity and efficiency of the individual, group and the organization. It should be resolved as early as possible.

The term conflict has been used by different people to convey different meanings. For instance, ‘conflict in mind’ conveys the meaning that the individuals are in a state of dilemma over a certain issue and are not able to arrive at any decision. It is generally referred to a psychological state of mind where a person can’t decide the behaviour this way or that way. Sometimes the term is used as a difference of opinion between two persons or groups irrespective of their status in the organization.

Conflict is not same as is ‘Quarrel’ or fight but simply it gives emphasis on difference in opinion, goals, ideas, ideologies and line of action. These conflicts in the organization influence on the behaviour, performance and satisfaction of workers. Manager will face the most uncomfortable position when he has to deal with conflicts or difference among people or group of people at work. In one word, we can say that conflicts complicate the job of a manager.

All conflicts are basically inter-personal conflicts which involves conflict among the employees or within the group or among the group of employees. Conflict may also inter-organizational due to external environmental factors like government policies, group dynamism, social and economic factors and political reasons etc.


Organisational Conflict Definitions

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Conflict can be defined in many ways and can be considered as an expression of hostility, negative attitudes, antagonism, aggression, rivalry and misunderstanding. It is also associated with situations that involve contradictory or irreconcilable interests between two opposing groups.

A few definitions of conflict are as given below:

“A simple definition of conflict is that it is any tension which is experienced when one person perceives that one’s needs or desires are likely to be thwarted or frustrated”.

Mary Parker FoIIett simply defines conflict as, “the appearance of difference, difference of opinions, of interests”.

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Thomas Chung and Rich Megginson define conflict as, “the struggle between incompatible or struggling needs, wishes, ideas, interests or people. Conflict arises when individuals or groups encounter goals that both parties cannot obtain satisfactorily”.

According to David L. Austin (1972), “It can be defined as a disagreement between two or more individuals or groups, with each individual or group trying to gain acceptance of its view or objectives over others”.

Louis R. Pondy (1938-1987) has given a very comprehensive definition of conflict. According to him the term conflict is used in four ways in the literature to describe:

Conflict can take on any of several different forms in an organization. It can occur within an employee, between individuals or groups and across organizations.

Thus, the different types of conflicts are- intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup and inter-organizational conflict. It is important to note that the prefix intra means “within”, whereas inter means “between”.

A brief description of each of these follows:

Conflict Definition:

Peace and conflict research assume that-

(a) Conflicts are the expression of opposing interests

(b) That they are characteristic for modern societies

(c) That they are endemic in modern societies

A conflict exists when two people wish to carry out acts which are mutually inconsistent. They may both want to do the same thing, such as eat the same apple, or they may want to do different things where the different things are mutually incompatible, such as when they both want to stay together but one wants to go to the cinema and the other to stay at home.

A conflict is resolved when some mutually compatible set of actions is worked out. The definition of conflict can be extended from individuals to groups (such as states or nations) and more than two parties can be involved in the conflict. The principles remain the same.

Contrary to earlier expectations, the-

i. Analysis

ii. Prevention

iii. Management, and

iv. Resolution

of conflicts do not aim at the elimination of conflict and even less at the elimination of opposing interests. Its aim is the search for such forms of conflict behaviour which allow a non-violent handling of interest oppositions in an orderly, pre-arranged process, the course and result of which will be accepted by all parties involved-

i. Be it out of well-understood, rationally calculated self-interest

ii. Be it out of respect for the shadow of the future, i.e., the expectation of a retaliatory action of the other side if one disappoints its expectations (the principle of every deterrence strategy).


Organisational ConflictCauses: Conflicting Needs, Styles, Perceptions, Goals, Roles, Different Personal Values, Unpredictable Policies and Informational Factors

There can be following common causes of conflict:

1. Conflicting Needs Whenever people compete for scarce resources, recognition, and power conflict can occur.

2. Conflicting Styles Because individual bear unique, they all have different styles, everyone should understand their own style and learn how to work with others who have different style.

3. Conflicting Perceptions When person have alternate images of the same stimulus and each will attend and interpret the information in somewhat different manner. In this people may view the same incident in dramatically different ways memos, performance reviews, rumours and hallway comments can be sources for conflicting perception.

4. Conflicting Goals Problem can occur when people are responsible for different duties in achieving the same goal.

5. Conflicting Roles This conflict occurs when one task is assigned to more than one person and may put certain constraints to role.

6. Different Personal Values Differing personal values politics, religion, can cause conflict, colour ethnicity differences can lead to conflict.

7. Unpredictable Policies Whenever policies are changed inconsistently applied or non­existent misunderstanding are likely to occur. The absence of clear policies or policies that are constantly changing can create an environment of conflict.

8. Informational Factors When various points of views have been developed.


Organisational Conflict – Sources

The sources of conflicts are found in some degree of actual or perceived divergence of interests. At one extreme, conflict is rooted in a sharp incompatibility on collision of interests. Any satisfaction or victory for one side means dissatisfaction or defeat for the other.

Decision-making itself is a fundamental source of conflict because it invariably involves conflicting considerations or pressures. But most conflicts are embedded in a multi­dimensional matrix of interests. Each conflict usually involves a complete set of interests each one of which may be located at a different point. It can be properly identified only by a profile or vector of different point.

The important factors affecting the sources of conflict are:

(1) Informal Factors:

These factors exert their influence when various point of views have been developed on the basis of different set of facts. In this, because each of the participants has contact with a different part or has a limited knowledge, they disagree.

(2) Perceptual Factors:

These factors exert their influence when the persons have different images of the same stimulus. Because of this factor each will attend to and select from the information available those items which he thinks important. Each will interpret the information in a somewhat different manner. The picture which he gets from his own experience is unique to him. Thus, it is not surprising that the same basic facts may produce distinctive perceptual pictures in the minds of different individuals.

(3) Role Factors:

There factors influence the source of conflict because each individual occupies a certain position or status in the society or in the organisation. The fact that he occupies such a position or status may put certain constraints on him if the discussion is related to his role.

Why does Conflict Arise?

Conflict may arise due to lack of consideration, lack of appreciation, misunderstanding or bad handling of situation and problems. Diagnosing the issue is the necessary pre­condition for handling the conflict successfully.

What is the nature of conflict? Why has the conflict arisen? At what stage has the conflict reached? These are the basic questions which must be answered before finding a solution to the conflict. The nature of conflict varies according to the kind of issue on which people disagree.

Though twentieth century has been credited for having made unprecedented advances in sciences and technology, the vast field of human relations still remain unexplored to a great extent. Some industrial enterprise with a view to improve effectiveness and to reduce conflicts are becoming increasingly conscious of it and want to promote harmonious work relationship. As a result of this consciousness, and search we find today greater emphasis on human relations than ever before.

While studying conflict there are four basic kinds of issues which may be discussed:

(1) Facts – The disagreement among workers occur because individuals have different approach and definitions of a problem and they are aware of different pieces of relevant information, accept or reject different information as factual or have different impressions of their respective power authority.

(2) Goals – Sometimes, the disagreement may be about the desirable objectives of a department, section or of a specific position within the organisation.

(3) Method – Sometimes individuals differ about the procedures, strategies or tactics which would most likely achieve mutually desired goal.

(4) Values – Sometimes, the disagreement is over ethics, the way power should be exercised or moral consideration or assumptions about justice, fairness and so on. Such differences may affect the choice of either goals or methods.


Organisational Conflict – Characteristics

Following are the characteristics of conflict revealed from the definitions mentioned above:

1. Two or more parties – There must be two or more individuals or groups required for organization conflict. In modern times work performs by the not individuals but group of individual & they achieves organizational objectives and goals. While performing in groups there are the chances of difference of opinion, point of view, expectations etc.

2. Conflicting objectives and goals, opinions etc. – While performing in groups, interacting with each other, conflicting situations may be arise due to different opinions, expectations, objectives or goals etc.

3. Sudden and unplanned events – Most of the conflicts arises suddenly, spontaneously. Basically they are unplanned. Few of the conflicts can be planned for their occurrence when the organization becomes static and rigid and the top management want to put life in the organization and to make it dynamic.

4. Expressed by behaviour and experienced by others – The conflicts are expressed by the concerned parties in different ways and forms through their conduct or behaviour attitude and actions and is experienced by others or managers.

5. Conflict creates obstacles in the smooth flow of work – Generally conflicts hinders the smooth flow of work, it is of disruptive, interruptive and impairing in nature, therefore it becomes difficult to achieve the organizational goals.

6. Opposite viewpoints of the parties – Whenever there are opposite opinions, viewpoints, ideas, thinking, and attitudes on any subject matter, issues or event conflict situation may arise.

7. Inter organizational conflicts – When conflicts arise between two different organizations are called as inter organizational conflicts.

8. Intra organizational conflicts – When conflicts arises between two individuals or between two groups of individuals working in the organization are known as Intra organizational conflicts.

9. Conflicts differ from competition – Competition between individuals departments aims to win over the other without any interference in the interest of other. But in conflict there is a strong opposition and intervention to cause disruption of the interests and objects of others.

10. Adverse effects – The effect of the conflict is always adverse on the organization, resulted in to delays in decision making, wastage, misuse and destruction of various resources, inefficiency in work performance, and breakdown of flow of work. Organizations growth and development will be stopped.


Organisational Conflict Process: Latent Conflict, Perceived Conflict, Felt Conflict, Manifest Conflict and Conflict Aftermath

According to Pondy, conflict is a dynamic process involving five stages in sequence of a series of events or episodes:

(1) Latent Conflict (Conditions):

They arise from three major sources:

(a) Drives for autonomy (bureaucratical con­flict model);

(b) Differences in the goals of sub-units or de­partments (systems conflict model);

(c) Competition for scarce resources (bargaining conflict model);

(2) Perceived Conflict (Cognition):

It is the second stage and is comparable to role conflict.

(3) Felt Conflict (Affect):

In the third stage, perceived conflict is converted into felt conflict in which emotional re­actions develop and feelings are brought into conflict situa­tions. Feelings may also be projected from one source of con­flict to another. Feelings may also be the result of frustration. In a felt conflict, we have the personalisation of conflict.

(4) Manifest Conflict (Behaviour):

In the fourth stage of conflict, emotions and feelings give rise to open or unconcealed behaviours, e.g., verbal or physical aggression, apathy or in­difference, work-to-rule tactics.

(5) Conflict Aftermath (Conditions):

It is the last stage in the process of conflict but it also sets the stage ready for sub­sequent conflict episodes. The legacy of conflict episodes is called conflict aftermath. If the conflict is not settled but merely suppressed, the latent conditions of conflicts may be aggravated and the conflict may explode in a more serious form until the conflict is duly resolved or until the relation­ship between the conflicting parties are terminated.


Organisational ConflictDifferent Views of Organizational Conflict

There are three views namely:

(1) The traditional view

(2) The human relations view and

(3) Modern view.

Let us discuss the above three views:

(1) The Traditional View:

Traditionally this conflict in organization has been viewed very negatively. This has been considered as dysfunctional. It has always a negative impact on an organizations effectiveness. Traditional approach treat this conflict as violence, destruction and irrational.

According to this approach, the conflicts can be avoided with good organizational structure which in turn gives a detailed elaboration and specification of authority, responsibility, accountability, policies, procedures and rules. They view that all conflicts are bad and as far as possible these conflicts should be avoided.

(2) The Human Relations View:

According to this approach the conflicts are natural in all groups and organizations i.e., conflicts are inevitable and hence, one should accept this conflict. This conflict has rationalized its existence. There are even times when conflict may benefit a group’s performance.

(3) Modern View Point:

According to Modernists like Thomes K. W. conflict is functional when it initiates the search for new and better ways of doing things and undermines complacency within the organization. It is positive force which is needed for group’s performance. An organization, which is conflict free will not have internal force to initiate change. Conflict should be welcomed and dealt.

This approach has the following assumptions:

(a) Conflict is inevitable i.e., can’t be avoided.

(b) Conflict is integral to the change of Nature

(c) A minimal level of conflict is optimal

This approach completely not says that conflicts are desirable but conflict is good or bad that depends upon the type of conflict.


Organisational Conflict Theory

Conflict is actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) to individuals. Conflict as a concept can help explain many aspects of social life such as social disagreement, conflicts of interests and fights between individuals, groups, or organizations. In political terms, “conflict” can refer to wars, revolutions or other struggles, which may involve the use of force as in the term armed conflict.

Without proper social arrangement or resolution, conflicts in social settings can result in stress or tensions among stakeholders. When an interpersonal conflict does occur, its effect is often broader than two individuals involved and can affect many associate individuals and relationships, in more or less adverse and sometimes even way.

Conflict as taught for graduate and professional work in conflict resolution (which can be win-win, where both parties get what they want, win-lose where one party gets what they want, or lose-lose where both parties do not get what they want) commonly has the definition- “when two or more parties, with perceived incompatible goals, seek to undermine each other’s goal-seeking capability”.

A clash of interests, values, actions or directions often sparks a conflict. Conflicts refer to the existence of that clash. Psychologically, a conflict exists when the reduction of one motivating stimulus involves an increase in another, so that a new adjustment is demanded. The word is applicable from the instant that the clash occurs.

Even when we say that there is a potential conflict we are implying that there is already a conflict of direction even though a clash may not yet have occurred.


Organisational ConflictModels of Organisational Conflicts According to L.R. Pondy: Bargaining Model, Bureaucratic Model and Systems Model

L. R. Pondy has developed three models of organisational conflict:

(1) Bargaining model;

(2) Bureaucratic model; and

(3) Systems model.

Let us describe briefly these models.

(1) Bargaining Conflict Model:

The bargaining model covers conflict among interest groups which are competing for scarce resources, for example, labour-management conflicts, line staff conflicts, budgeting processes. We may have integra­tive bargaining wherein the parties compose to increase the total amount of resources available to competing parties.

Alter­natively, we may have distributive bargaining wherein each party uses bluffs and threats and conceals real desires and in­formation about its real strength. In distributive (competitive) process each party adopts strategic bargaining tactics to ex­tract maximum benefits. It tries to win public and or govern­ment support and sympathy to get1 favourable results.

While in integrative bargaining process we have co-operative spirit and free as well as open communication between the rival par­ties to evolve mutually satisfactory solutions to the conflicts. Here, there is no emphasis on the use of power or pressure tac­tics. Under integrative process, labour and management will strive to increase productivity and thereby increasing returns to both labour and management.

Taylor’s scientific manage­ment really aimed at integrative bargaining process between labour and management. When the productivity rupee enlarges in its size, the individual share of labour and capital is bound to increase in the fruits of prosperity. The capital budgeting process also adopts the bargaining model to resolve conflicts among departments competing for scarce investment funds.

(2) Bureaucratic Model:

Bureaucratic conflicts arise from attempts to compel obedience to rules, orders, and organisa­tionally prescribed attitudes, and behaviour. Bureaucratic model deals with conflicts relating to autonomy versus control and co-ordination. Such conflicts arise between the boss and his subordinates in the management hierarchy.

Superiors want to control the behaviour of subordinates, and subordinates naturally resist such controls. In bureaucracy, impersonal rules and procedures are used instead of personal control but as rules are impersonal and inflexible they create more conflict, not less. When personal supervision is replaced with control by rules, the freedom of subordinates is severely restricted. In large organisations mature employees demand control over their own affairs by themselves and this self-control need is denied by bureaucracy.

In a large organisation, goals, interests and needs of subordinates are not compatible and identical with those of the organisation or the superior in the hierarchy of management. When organisational goals are shared by all. We have a true integration of goals.

Integration of individual and organisational goals (or means) can resolve the superior- subordinate role conflicts. Individuals should be induced to give up conflicting goals and adopt organisation goals, we may incorporate the individual’s goals into those of the organisation.

This requires labour participation in the management decision-making and policy-formulation process. In other words, we should have democratic and participative leadership. There is one more mechanism to integrate individual and orga­nisation goals, viz., offer of incentives to perform activities that can contribute directly to the organisation goals, e.g. productivity bonus and incentive wage plans.

(3) Systems Conflict Model:

The systems model is suitable for the analysis of conflicts among functional departments and it is concerned with lateral (not vertical) conflicts i.e., conflicts among persons operating at the same orga­nisation level. Bureaucratic or authority-structure model deals with problem of control. The intergroup bargaining model deals with problems of competition. The systems (lateral) model, however, deals with the problems of co-ordination.

The conflict between the production manager and the marketing manager is the best example of systems model. Conflicts in lateral relationships can be reduced or resolved by two ways.

(1) Goal differentiation can be reduced by modifying incen­tive systems or selection, training, and assignment procedures, and

(2) Functional interdependence can be reduced.

(a) By reducing dependence on common resources,

(b) By loosening up schedules or introducing buffers, such as inventories or contingency funds, and

(c) By reducing pressures for consensus. These techniques of preventing interpersonal conflicts may be costly.


Organisational Conflict Levels: Individual Level, Conflicts at Group Level and Conflict at Organisational Level

Conflict continuously occurs in our social life, they occur at various levels within individuals, groups, or organisations. Conflict arises from disagreement over the goals to attain or the methods used to accomplish them. In organisations, conflict among different interests is inevitable and sometime the amount of conflict is substantial.

It occurs when they have one or more alternatives and they have to choose few or one out of these.

There are different levels of conflicts and they are as follows:

1. Conflict at Personnel/Individual Level:

Conflicts at individual or personnel level in an organisation may be viewed in two ways:

a. Intra-individual or personal conflicts- It is a situation in which an individual is in a problem of decision making within him/her, e.g., role ambiguity.

b. Inter-individual or inter-personal conflicts- When two individuals; are in confrontation with each other, it may be called as inter-personal conflict. This may be between two individuals of the same group; in that case it may be called intra-group conflict. If the conflict is between two members of different groups then it may simply be regarded as inter-personal conflict but if it is blown up, it may develop as inter-group conflict.

2. Conflicts at Group level:

a. Intra-group conflicts- e.g., conflict between subgroups

b. Inter-group conflicts- e.g., conflict between different groups

3. Conflict at Organisational Level:

These conflicts may also be intra-organisational conflict or inter-organisational conflict.

a. Intra-organisational conflicts-All inter-individual, intra-individual, inter-group or intra- group conflicts are intra-organisational conflicts.

b. Inter-organisational conflicts-Inter-organisational conflicts are between two organisations or between a business organisation and the government (Government Policies).


Organisational Conflict Types of Managerial Actions that Cause Workplace Conflicts

1. Poor communications-

(a) Employees experience continuing surprises, they aren’t informed of new decision, programs, etc.

(b) Employees do not understand reasons for decisions, they aren’t involved in decision-making.

(c) As a result, employees trust the “rumor mill” more than management.

2. The alignment or the amount of resources is insufficient. There is-

(a) Disagreement about “who does what”.

(b) Stress from working with inadequate resources.

3. “Personal chemistry”, including conflicting values or actions among managers and employees, for example-

(a) Strong personal natures do not match.

(b) We often do not like in others what we don’t like in ourselves.

4. Leadership problems, including inconsistent, missing, too-strong or uninformed leadership (at any level in the organization), evidenced by:

(a) Avoiding conflict, “passing the buck” with little follow-through on decisions.

(b) Employees see the same continued issues in the workplace.

(c) Supervisors do not understand the jobs of their subordinates.


Organisational Conflict Key Managerial Actions/Structures to Minimize Conflicts 

1. Regularly review job descriptions. Get your employee’s input to them. Write down and date job descriptions.

Ensure-

(a) Job roles do not conflict.

(b) No tasks “fall in a crack”.

2. Intentionally build relationships with all subordi­nates-

(a) Meet at least once a month alone with them in office.

(b) Ask about accomplishments, challenges and issues.

3. Get regular, written status reports and include-

(a) Accomplishments.

(b) Currents issues and needs from manage­ment.

(c) Plans for the upcoming period.

4. Conduct basic training about-

(a) Interpersonal communications.

(b) Conflict management.

(c) Delegation.

5. Develop procedures for routine tasks and include the employees’ input-

(a) Have employees write procedures when possible and appropriate.

(b) Get employees’ review of the procedures.

(c) Distribute the procedures.

(d) Train employees about the procedures.

6. Regularly hold management meetings, for example, every month, to communicate new initiatives and status of current programs.

7. Consider an anonymous suggestion box in which employees can provide suggestions.


Organisational Conflict – Advantages

Conflicts have some advantages and few of them are given below as suggested “Thomas E. W.”:

1. It provides an individual a chance to think again, undertake self-introspection and have a second look at the existing things, it be the procedures, policies, equipment’s, behaviours etc.

2. It generates search behaviour and helps seek classification.

3. It is must in the organization because it leads to innovation and at times to new directions.

4. It energizes people, leads to mild stimulation and one is at one’s best in times of crises.

5. It serves as a cementing force in a group and incredible unity is witnessed even in a heterogeneous group in times of tension and conflict.

6. For some, it is highly desirable and motivating as it, provides endless challenge and meaning to their lives.

7. Conflict is an essential part of cybernetic system and whenever any part of system is disturbed the whole system comes into fire. So these conflicts dawn immediate attention of the organization to the mal functioning part of the system. It is an indication that the situation calls for improvement.

8. Sometime, conflict it is also used as a means to attain certain ends and not to create confusion.

9. Conflict may not be a positive outcome in the strict sense from the organizational point of view, but it is certainly a management strategy to put off problems temporarily.

10. Some long-standing problems that continue to agitate people’s mind but nobody dares to bring them into light, come to surface through conflicts. They are able to release their tension and unburden themselves. They display creativity in identifying solutions and thus problems are dealt with.


Organisational Conflict Disadvantages

It is sometimes conflicts are very disastrous and needs certainly elimination.

In the following cases it may be viewed as disastrous and undesirable:

1. When conflict dos not give solution of a problem, it is unproductive and investment of time and efforts goes waste?

2. It is seriously harmful because people work against the organizational objectives.

3. It is undesirable because it creates distrusts and suspicion in the minds of people the organization. It develops a sense of frustration instead of a sprite of cooperation.

4. Conflict involves intensification of internalization of sub-unit goals ignoring the overall organizational goals.

5. Conflicts may weaken the organization as a whole.

6. Conflict with management may lose its objectivity and treat the disagreement as disloyalty and rebellion.

7. As a consequence of conflict, there may be flight of personnel from the organization and the situations.

8. Some dynamic and right thinking may quit the organization in case there are constant intra-individual and inter-individual conflicts.

9. Conflict may increase labour turn over in the organization.

10. Conflicts can cause high level of tensions among the organiza­tion.

Thus, all the above situations are quite dysfunctional and harmful to the organization as well.


Organisational Conflict Consequences of Conflict: Positive Consequences and Negative Consequences 

Thomas E. W. gives a list of the positive and negative consequences of conflicts:

Positive Consequences:

1. Helps people to do the introspect

2. Helps people to seek clarification

3. Leads to innovation

4. Stimulates people

5. It provides challenge

6. Conflicts calls attention to malfunctioning of different parts / units and section

7. Conflict can be used as a strategy to shift off problems temporarily

8. Conflict serves as a safety value in release of ill wills

9. Increases cohesiveness in case of intergroup conflict. Serves as a cementious force

Negative Consequences:

1. Wastes different types of resources.

2. Diverts attention from organizational goals.

3. Creates a negative climate

4. Focuses on sub unit goals.

5. Suppresses feelings for finding a solution

6. Conflict loses objectivity

7. Conflict decreases cohesiveness in case of intra group conflicts Conflict affects psychological wellbeing of the employee

8. It may lead to distract among people Results in flight of personnel


Organisational Conflict Resolution Techniques: Dominance or Force, Bargaining or Compromise and Integrative Problem – Solving

Organisational conflict is manifest in two ways:

(1) Inter­personal conflict; and

(2) Intergroup or interdepartmental con­flict. Interpersonal conflict is conflict between two or more persons as individuals, e.g., between two managers, or between a manager and his subordinate. Intergroup conflict is conflict between two groups, two units or two departments, e.g., sales v/s. production, line v/s. staff.

Interpersonal and intergroup or interdepartmental conflicts or differences in ideas or interests can be resolved by the following methods:

(1) Dominance or force (win-lose result);

(2) Bargaining or compromise (win- lose result); and

(3) Integrative problem-solving (win-win result).

(1) Dominance or Force:

The use of force or pressure tactics is the most obvious way to resolve a conflict or dis­agreement. In this case one party or group (the winner) is satisfied, while the loser is dissatisfied and frustrated. The boss, having formal authority over the activities of his subordinates, often employs force to resolve a disagreement. When there is no such formal authority, one party may use pressure tactics to compel the other party to give concessions, e.g., conflicts between two departments or disputes between trade union and management.

The pressure tactics employed may be:

(1) Threats;

(2) Punishment; and

(3) Positional commitments.

A trade union may threaten a strike or slow-down (work to rule) when management is not prepared to offer significant increa­ses in wages, salaries and allowances. A limited coercive power may be used to demonstrate to the other party consequences

If it does not yield to meet specific demands. When both parties have capacity to give threats and punishments, we may come across counter threats to meet threats. Thus, a conflict may really be escalated or aggravated. Many a time, h party issues statements indicating ultimatum and the other party has to give in or face the consequences of a deadlock. ‘Take it or leave it’ is an example of a positional statement.

Forcing is rarely the best way to resolve a conflict. Forcing creates a lot of ill- will and resentment in the worker party who may adopt pas­sive resistance or who may sabotage a plan which is accepted under force. Increasing absenteeism and labour turnover may be the result of disputes between subordinates and their supe­riors.

In a win-lose contest each party believes that it is right and the other party is wrong. When one party wins it is satisfied but the other party, i.e., a loser, is always dissatisfied. In short, conflict resolution by force is not capable of giving a lasting solution beneficial to all parties.

(2) Bargaining and Compromise:

In bargaining the two parties try to exchange concessions until a compromise can be achieved. Each party, in bargaining, expects minimum satisfac­tion of its basic demands. Concessions are offered by each party to prevent a deadlock. Bargaining takes place only if there are prospects of securing a mutually acceptable compromise.

Bar­gaining is used only when both parties can trust each other. However, any compromise arrived at through bargaining is only a temporary truce or a temporary solution to a conflict because a compromise cannot give complete or full satisfaction to either party and sooner or later parties may adopt hostility and raise another dispute on some other excuse.

(3) Integration (Problem-Solving Approach):

Recognising the limitations of dominance (force) and compromise (bar­gaining), Mery Follett advocated integration or problem-solv­ing approach as the most promising method of conflict reso­lution. Integration can encourage innovation so that a new solution to the problem of conflict can be developed in order to satisfy fully both the parties.

Integrative problem-solving approach can secure a settle­ment that reconciles or integrates the needs of both parties. The conflict is clearly defined in the form of a mutual prob­lem. Both parties cooperate in finding alternate solutions and pick up the best solution which is fully satisfactory to both of them.

We have open and sincere communication about facts needs and feelings. Each party is sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the other party. We have full trust between the parties so that we can have open exchange of information. Mutual cooperation, trust and creativity of the parties are essential for integration.

Illustration of Integration:

There is a case of labour-ma­nagement conflict regarding wage increases. The trade union wants 10 per cent increase in wages. The management wants to give only 6 per cent. They could bargain and compromise and arrive at a settlement, say, 8 per cent. But neither party would be quite satisfied or happy with the solution.

Hence, both parties work together constructively and adopt a package of wage plus non-wage benefits with which both parties are happy. Such a new solution to wage increases would also de­velop better and harmonious labour management relations.

The hostile parties under mutual trust and free communica­tion could devise a creative solution which also encouraged innovation. Thus, methods which can yield new and creative alternatives are the best means of conflict resolution.

Outside Intervention:

When the two parties are unable to settle a dispute or conflict by themselves through negotiation and there appears to be a deadlock, we may have the machi­nery of mediation, conciliation and arbitration to resolve a disruptive dispute or conflict. Such third party intervention may be voluntary or even compulsory due to the operation of law. Industrial disputes are resolved through such third party intervention.


Organisational ConflictEffective Conflict Management in an Organisation

Conflicts may have positive or constructive effects for an organisation. They may also have negative or destructive ef­fects for an organisation.

Effective conflict management in an organisation may have the following usual approaches:

(1) Rules and standard procedures may be established to regu­late undesirable behaviour, to assure equity and fair treatment to all persons and resolve predictable conflicts.

(2) Manage­ment may modify or alter work-flow arrangements, job designs, boundaries of areas of operations, and, many other work rela­tionships among people or groups. These will minimise conflicts.

(3) The reward system can be altered to encourage coopera­tion and discourage competition.

(4) Labour participation in management may be encouraged particularly in those areas where labour is vitally interested. For instance, we may have representatives of labour associated with the formulation of work plans, policies and procedures.

(5) We may have standing machinery for mediation, conciliation and arbitration to fa­cilitate resolution of all practicable kinds of conflicts.

(6) Managers should be trained specially for effective handling of conflicts. For instance, sensitivity (T-group) training which could result in more considerate, sensitive and supportive ma­nagers. Such training enhances an individual’s self-awareness and sensitivity to other persons.

(7) Use of integrators is a good approach for managing conflict between departments having’ different goals. An integrator performs the function of helping communication and co-ordination between interde­pendent departments. These integrators or co-ordinators can promote co-operation and resolve conflicts between depart­mental managers.

(8) Lateral conflicts can also be settled by referring the dispute to a common superior. In interpersonal conflict counselling both parties may be enough to resolve their disputes. In work-related conflict the common superior can adopt arbitration for the settlement of disputes;

(9) We may have structural re-organisation to resolve conflicts. We can reduce conflict between interdependent parties by creating buffers e.g., we may have increase in the inventory stock of finished goods so that pressure on production to fulfil rush orders for sales can be reduced and conflicts between produc­tion and sales departments can he resolved.

(10) Management may propose superordinate goals i.e., high goals that are very appealing to the sub-units or departments in conflict. These superordinate goals cannot be realised by the efforts of any individual sub-unit. Such a superordinate goal is compelling and appealing to all the conflicting groups and it can be ac­complished only through mutual co-operation.

When the nation is suddenly attacked by a third country, all political parties unite and fully co-operate to defeat the common enemy. All people get together and pursue the superordinate goal of vic­tory. The conflict may return when the higher goal is achiev­ed unless the new goals are introduced. Management can in­troduce new and mutually appealing objectives constantly.

Modern theory of organisation is based on systems ap­proach and contingency approach.

The organisation must be the best fit or balance between:

(1) Organisation structure,

(2) Human personality, i.e., needs and aspirations of people work­ing in the organisation and

(3) The environment or the needs of technology.

We must have the fit between the structure and the environment as well as the fit between structure and employee characteristics. Under such conditions, we will have conflict minimisation and easier resolution of genuine con­flicts or differences-interpersonal or inter-group conflicts.

Effective management of conflict, through integrating organi­sation structure, personnel needs and needs of the technology, alone can assure favourable organisational climate and har­monious organisational behaviour to accomplish organisational objectives. Management has to accept this challenge and evolve appropriate machinery to minimise or resolve inter-personal and inter-group conflicts.


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