Organizational Conflict

Published: 2021-09-11 22:00:08
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Often when we come across the word conflict, we usually think of more than a simple disagreement. We think of individuals or groups in sharp disagreement over issues, ideas, or interests. This results in an emotional disturbance between the involved parties, with stress developing & undesirable behaviors being exhibited. [1] The present diverse workforce characterized by organizational change, competition, and complex communications are drawing attention to interpersonal conflicts among workers. 2] Organizational change for example, alters the status quo and requires members of an organization to work together in new ways and under new rules. Competition compounds issues of power and escalates conflicts of personalities and behavior.
The complexities of communication make it more difficult for culturally, economically and socially diverse workers to resolve the issues and problems they encounter on the job. While conflict is inevitable in groups and organizations due to the complexity and interdependence of organizational life, theorists have differed about whether it is harmful or beneficial to organizations.
Early organizational theorists suggested that conflict is detrimental to Organizational functioning (Pondy, 1967; Brow, 1983) and focused much of their attention on the causes and resolution of conflict (Schimidt & Kochan, 1972; Brett, 1984). More recently, researchers have theorized that conflict is beneficial under some circumstances (Tjosvold, 1991; Van de Vliert & De Dreu, 1994). [3] Thus, this paper attempts to present the losses and benefits from conflicts in organizations. I. CONFLICT IN GROUPS AND ORGANIZATIONS A. Definition Generally, conflict is defined as a contest of opposing forces or power. 4] it is a perceived difference between a two or more parties that results in mutual opposition. [5] Looking at conflict in the context of groups, there is what we call an Intergroup
Conflict, which can be defined as the behavior that occurs among organizational groups when participants identify with one group and perceive that other groups may block their group’s goal achievement or expectations. [6] Intergroup conflict with in organizations can occur in both horizontal & vertical directions. A. 1 Horizontal Conflict. This type of conflict occurs among groups or departments at the same level in the hierarchy, such as between line & staff. 7] This is commonly observed between Production & Quality Control Departments, Sales & Finance Departments, or R&D & Marketing Departments. A. 2 Vertical Conflict. This arises over issues of control, power, goals, and wages and benefits. [8] A typical source of vertical conflict is between head quarters executives and regional plants or franchises. Status and power differences among groups are often greater for vertical conflict. Part of the reason vertical conflict occurs is to equalize power differences; for example, unions try to give workers more power over wages or working conditions. [9] B.
The Nature of Conflict Conflict as related to competition is illustrated by the following figure: The illustration shows how conflict and competition are related. Competition occurs when groups strive for the same goal, have little or no antagonism toward one another, and behave according to rules and procedures. In conflict, on the other hand, one group’s goals jeopardize the others; there is open antagonism among the groups; and few rules and procedures regulate behavior. When this happens, the goals become extremely important, the antagonism increases, rules and procedures are violated, and conflict occurs. 10] C. Causes of Conflict A number of factors contribute to conflict. Several of the most important causes are discussed below. C. 1 Task Interdependence. Task interdependence refers to the dependence of one unit on another for materials, resources, or information. [11] Two types of task interdependence are particularly prone to conflict. One is sequential interdependence, in which one individual or work unit is heavily dependent on another. For example, waiters generally are more reliant on cooks than the reverse because waiters must depend on cooks to furnish good meals in timely manner.
Line and staff conflicts often arise because staff members frequently are dependent upon the line to implement their ideas. The second form of task interdependence is reciprocal interdependence, in which individuals or work units are mutually interdependent. For instance, purchasing agents want engineers to provide detailed generic specifications so that they can negotiate lower costs from suppliers. At the same time, engineers need to obtain materials of the proper quality on a timely basis, so they may find it more convenient to specify a brand name. 12] Generally, as interdependence increases, the potential for conflict increases. [13] Sequential & reciprocal interdependence require employees to spend time coordinating and sharing information. Employees must communicate frequently, and differences in goals or attitudes will surface. Conflict is especially likely to occur when agreement is not reached about the coordination of services to each other. Greater interderdependence means departments often exert pressure for a fast response because departmental work has to wait on other departments. C. 2 Scarce Resources.
Another major source of conflict involves competition between groups for what members perceive as limited resources. [14] Possibilities for conflict expand when there are limited resources, such as office space, equipment, training, human resources, operating funds, and pay allocations. In their desire to achieve goals, groups want to increase their resources. This becomes another cause for conflict in groups. C. 3 Goal Incompatibility. Goal incompatibility is probably the greatest cause of intergroup conflict in organizations. The overall goals of an organization are broken down into operative goals that guide each department.
The accomplishment of operative goals by one department may block goal accomplishment by other departments and hence, cause conflict. [15] Out of necessity, organization members frequently pursue goals that are somewhat different from one another, setting the stage for potential conflicts. [16] For example, sales personnel may find it easier to battle the competition by promising very quick deliveries, while people in manufacturing may find that small production runs on short notice interfere with their cost cutting efforts. C. 4 Communication Failures.
Breakdown in communication due to distortions or lack of communication often lead to conflicts. [17] Conflict in an organization is an indication of the most basic communication failure. Failure to talk with someone. Failure to notify someone of something before it becomes public. Failure to involve someone in a problem-solving process. [18] C. 5 Individual Differences. Differences in personality, experience, and values make frequent conflicts likely. [19] Functional specialization requires people with specific education, skills, attitudes, and time horizons.
When an individual who have ability and aptitude in marketing joins the marketing department. Eventually, that individual will be influenced by departmental norms and values, attitudes, and standards of behavior, differ across departments, which is often a source of horizontal conflicts. Cultural differences can be particularly acute in the case of mergers or acquisitions. Employees in the acquired company may have completely different work styles and attitudes, and a “we against them” attitude can develop. [20] C. 6 Poorly Designed Reward System.

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