Conflict is the process in which one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party. Conflict is a process in which people disagree over significant issues, thereby creating friction between parties. Conflict can exist when people have opposing interests, perceptions, and feelings; when those involved recognize the existence of differing points of view; when the disagreement is ongoing; and when opponents try to prevent each other from accomplishing their goals. Although conflict can be destructive, it can also be beneficial when used as a source ofrenewal and creativity.
Competition, rivalry between individuals or groups over an outcome that both seek, is not the same as conflict. In competition, there must be a winner and a loser; with conflict, people can cooperate so that no one wins or loses.
Organizational conflict occurs when a stakeholder group pursues its interests at the expense of other stakeholders. Given the different goals of stakeholders, organizational conflict is inevitable. Conflict is associated with negative images, such as unions getting angry and violent, but some conflict can improve effectiveness. When conflict passes a certain point, it hurts an organization.
Transitions in Conflict Thought
Under traditional view conflict is a process in which people disagree over significant issues, creating friction between parties. One view of conflict is that it is dysfunctional and harmful to organizations, because the struggle over incompatible goals is a waste of time that prevents people and organizations from being productive and reaching their potential. On the other hand, interactionist view states that when conflict is based on issues rather than personalities, it can enhance problem solving and creativity. Open discussions of differing viewpoints allows for a thorough consideration of alternatives and their consequences in the course of decision making. Conflict can also increase motivation and energize people to focus on a task. Human relation view states that Conflict is a natural occurrence and we should accept conflict
Conflict Good or Bad
Conflict can have both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, conflict can bring energy to a competition and focus participants on the task at hand. It can also increase group cohesion and stimulate open discussion of issues. On the negative side, conflict can cause participants to lose sight of common goals and focus on winning at all costs. In addition, it can lead to distorted judgments and a lack of cooperation. Finally, the losers in a conflict feel demoralized and lose motivation; this loser effect harms long-term relationships and overall organizational performance.
How can conflict improve effectiveness?
Conflict can overcome inertia and introduce change, because conflict requires an organization to reassess its views. Different views are considered, and the quality of decision-making is improved.
Types and levels of Conflict
There are four types of conflict. Inter-group conflict occurs when groups within and outside the organization disagree on various issues. Interpersonal conflict is due to differences in goals, values, and styles between two or more people who are required to interact. Intra group conflict occurs within a work group over goals and work procedures. Intrapersonal conflict is a person’s internal conflict over divergent goals, values, or roles. Inter group conflict can occur at two levels which are horizontal and vertical. Horizontal conflict takes place between departments or groups at the same level of the organization. In contrast, vertical conflict occurs between groups at different levels of the organization.
Types of Conflict
- Task conflict: Conflicts over content and goals of the work
- Relationship conflict: Conflict based on interpersonal relationships
- Process conflict: Conflict over how work get done
Individual Conflict Management Styles
The obliging style of conflict management is based on low concern for self, high concern for others, and focusing on the needs of others while satisfying or ignoring personal needs. This works best when issues are unimportant, knowledge is limited, there is long-term give and take, and the person managing the conflict has no power.
The avoiding style is based on low concern for self and others and a focus on suppressing, setting aside, and ignoring the issues. This is appropriate when the conflict is too strong and parties need to cool off.
The integrative style shows high concern for self and for others and focuses on collaboration, openness, and exchange of information. This is used when issues are complex, when commitment is needed, when dealing with strategic issues, and when longterm solutions are required.
The dominating style shows high concern for self, low concern for others, and focuses on advancing own goals at any cost. This is used when time is short, issues are trivial, all solutions are unpopular, and an issue is important to the party resolving the conflict.
The compromising style shows moderate concern for self and others and focuses on achieving a reasonable middle ground where all parties win. This is used when goals are clearly incompatible, parties have equal power, and a quick solution is needed.
Manager’s ways to manage conflict.
Managers can manage conflict by either preventing or reducing high levels of conflict or stimulating low levels of conflict. To do this, managers can apply a behavioral approachor an attitudinal approach. The behavioral approach targets the behavior causing the conflict, while the attitudinal approach targets the roots of the conflict, including people’s emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. Behavioral methods include enforcing rules, separating the parties, clarifying tasks, having a common enemy or outside competition, and increasing resources and rewarding cooperation. Attitudinal methods include having a common enemy, rotating members, increasing resources, and team-building and organizational development (OD). To stimulate conflict, managers can introduce change, increase task ambiguity, or create interdependency.
Conflict and Negotiation
Stakeholders compete for the resources that an organization produces. Shareholders want dividends, employees want raises. An organization must manage both cooperation and competition among stakeholders to grow and survive. All stakeholders have a common goal of organizational survival, but not all goals are identical.
It is the process used by two or more parties to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement to exchange goods and services. Managers need negotiating skills to be effective in today’s global, diverse, dynamic, teamoriented business environment. Culture significantly affects the negotiation process. Negotiators from masculine cultures emphasize assertiveness and independence, which can cause them to see negotiation as a competition and spur them to win at all costs. Negotiators from cultures comfortable with uncertainty will take a creative, problem-solving approach, while those from high uncertainty-avoidance cultures will emphasize bureaucratic rules and procedures. Power-distance, individuality-collectivism, high or low context, emotion, and time-orientation dimensions also affect negotiation. Beyond a certain point, conflict hurts the organization and causes decline. Managers spend time bargaining, rather than making decisions. An organization in decline cannot afford to spend time on decision-making, because it needs a quick response to recover its position. Group’s battle for their interests, no agreement is reached, and the organization floats along, falling prey to inertia. Bargaining issues in negotiation process can be divided into three categories: mandatory, permissive, and prohibited.
Mandatory Bargaining Issues—Fall within the definition of wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
Permissive Bargaining Issues—May be raised, but neither side may insist that they be bargained over.
Prohibited Bargaining Issues—Are statutorily outlawed.
Negotiating strategies based on the importance of the substantive outcome and the importance of the relationship outcome. These four strategies are trusting collaboration, firm competition, open subordination, and active avoidance. Trusting collaboration is a win-win strategy most appropriate when both the substantive task outcome and the relationship outcome are important. Firm competition is used when the substantive task outcome is important but the relationship outcome is not. Open subordination is applied when the task outcome is not important but the relationship outcome is. Active avoidance is useful when neither the task outcome nor the relationship outcome is important. When two parties are unable to come to agreement during negotiations, they may bring in a third party to help resolve the differences. Conciliation and consultation focus on improving interpersonal relations to foster constructive discussion of issues. Mediation considers both interpersonal and substantive issues and relies on formal evaluation of positions plus persuasion to bring about a non-binding solution. Arbitration, a legally binding process in which the arbitrator imposes a solution, can be used when all other methods have failed and the conflict must be urgently resolved.
Common mistakes made when negotiating include:
Irrational escalation of commitment; thinking the pie is fixed; winner’s curse; and overconfidence. Avoiding these common mistakes requires managers to be aware of the issues, be thoroughly prepared, and be willing to rely on expert opinion to reduce the possibility of making mistakes.