1.0 One of the primary purposes of the organisation is the coordination and integration of the efforts of many people to attain mutual goals and objectives. As people work together, tensions sometimes develop that result in dissension and hostility. Traditionally, conflict has been considered to be something that does not have to take place, but frequently does. It has been viewed as a consequence of greed, self-centeredness and competition. Conflict has been seen as a disruptive force that keeps Organisation from being optimally productive. In the traditional view, managers are supposed to eliminate conflict from the organisation. Conflict is seen to be harmful in its consequences.
1.1 A more contemporary view sees conflict as inevitable when people work together. Conflict occurs as a consequence of many factors, including the struggle to excel and achieve. Conflict, although sometimes working in a detrimental way, can also have constructive effects on organisational and personal performance. A certain amount of conflict and tension may even be essential for optimal performance to occur. Managers must control conflict so that the result is positive and beneficial to the organisation and its members. Successful and unsuccessful outcomes from conflicts may be partially a result of the leadership skills of the supervisors involved. Constructive conflict management may also be a product of the proper identification and treatment of problems areas.
2.0 MANAGEMENT’S GOAL WHEN CONFLICT ARISES
2.1.1 If conflict is to be managed positively and constructively, those who manage need a set of goals and objectives. Although the goals may not always be attainable, they provide a helpful set of guidelines to pursue. When conflict arises, managers and supervisors who are in a position to influence and affect the attitudes and actions of those in disagreement may find it helpful to (1) identify the causes and feelings of the parties involved. (2) redirect tension and hostilities (3) work to integrate ideas rather than accept a compromise (4) achieve unity between the parties in conflict (5) accomplish real and permanent solutions, (6) achieve a sense of fairness among those involved and (7) result in satisfaction for all of the parties involved.
2.2 IDENTIFYING WHAT IS BEHIND THE CONFLICT
2.2.1 Conflict may be symptomatic of more deep-seated problems that may need attention and corrective action. The underlying causes of conflict, if left unattended, can fester and develop into even deeper, more severe problems. Resolution of conflict that deals only with the surface tensions and not with actual causes can be considered only a temporary treatment of conflict. A more thorough approach to conflict is to identify and deal with the causes of conflict rather than the symptoms.
2.3 REDIRECTING TENSIONS AND HOSTILITIES
2.3.1 It is important to avoid the statement, “Provide for a release of tensions”, because it has been discovered that people are often more highly motivated when a “healthy” amount of tension prevails. If an individual feels strongly enough about something, it would be more helpful to channel interests and feelings in a positive direction rather than simply to release feelings and emotions. In other words, when tension is felt, the channeling of that tension toward the discovery and resolution of the problem, rather than toward the simple venting of emotions, may be a productive endeavor.
2.4.1 It is better to achieve an integration of ideas from the conflicting parties rather to reach a compromise as a solution. Decisions involving more than one person do not have to be reached on the basis of pure compromise in which each party states a position and then the two extremes are conceded to a purely middle-ground position between poles. The middle-ground position tends to represent not the most satisfactory resolution of conflict but simply the most expedient solution. In place of the compromise position, conflict is best resolved with a solution that is most beneficial both for the organisation and for the parties involved. Integration is better than compromise–it represents the best possible position. By integrating the ideas of the conflicting parties, the best ideas and concepts are utilized rather than the most easily agreed upon ideas.
2.5 ACHIEVING UNITY
2.5.1 Unity can be achieved through a meeting of the minds between the parties in conflict. This desired result of the proper handling of conflict is not absolutely essential, but it is helpful. Through unity, the efforts and interests of individuals can be coordinated and cooperation tends to lead to progress. The parties to a conflict tend to distance themselves from each other, and communication diminishes both in amount and in quality.
2.6 ACCOMPLISHING REAL AND PERMANENT SOLUTIONS
2.6.1 Artificial, temporary solutions are quickly recognized by individuals and will not be respected or supported. Only genuine resolutions that attend to the causes of the conflict will be supported by those affected.
2.7 ACHIEVING A SENSE OF FAIRNESS AND SATISFACTION
2.7.1 It is important to those in disagreement that each party’s view be given due consideration. Those who are in conflict usually have emotions and reasons that they deserve to be heard. They may have specific solutions in mind or they may not know what the best answers are. However, if a participant has an opportunity to express feelings and the rationale behind them and to suggest solutions if they are known, the individual will feel a sense of fairness to some degree. Even if the ultimate solution decided upon is not the one the participant preferred, the realization that his or her position has been heard and seriously considered normally helps to achieve better, more objective feelings toward the solution reached. This feeling of fairness and objectivity is likely to result in better resolution of conflict. When individuals and group feel fairly treated, they are more likely to be satisfied with the solutions reached.
3.0 SOURCES OF CONFLICT
3.0.1 The sources can be broadly classified as Problems based upon individual variances, difficulties resulting from perceptual differences, and issues arising out of characteristics of the organisation and functional differences.
3.1 INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES
3.1.1 No two persons are identical. People’s temperaments vary. Some individuals are aggressive, others are passive, and still others are assertive. Some individuals are extrovert, others tend to be introspective and self-centered. Some people are highly ambitious and upward-bound, while others seek primarily to preserve and protect what they already have. One worker may want to work with other people, while another will prefer working alone. One individual will prefer independence in decision making, while another will seek out the opinions and ideas of others before acting. One worker may be able to withstand criticism and act with a high degree of tolerance, while another may react emotionally at the slightest personal challenge.
3.1.2 The attitudes and actions of individuals also differ on the basis of background, involving educational, cultural, social and ethnic dissimilarities. The differences in workers’ backgrounds tend to influence the philosophical values of the workers. An individual’s philosophy provides a set of guidelines or principles by which the individual’s life is conducted. Because individual’s backgrounds are different, their philosophies tend to differ. Differences in philosophies will have a direct bearing on individual behavior and may be a significant cause of interpersonal conflict when incongruent philosophies interact.
3.2 PERCEPTUAL DIFFERENCES
3.2.1 Individual perception is the conscious awareness iof occurrences, events, or happenings in one’s surroundings. As most people view the activities in their environment, they have a tendency to classify those events either as supportive and beneficial or threatening and derogatory. The perceptions workers have of the events that surround them in their work environment have a direct, important bearing upon the development or avoidance of conflict.
3.3 ORGANISATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS AND FUNCTIONAL DIFFERENCES
3.3.1 Several organisational characteristics contribute to the development or avoidance of conflict. For example, the size of the organisation can be a factor in conflict development. As the number of peoples increases in a department or unit of the organisation, the individuals in one area lose touch with individuals in other departments. The people in each unit may come to think of themselves as separate from others rather than as a part of a team. All of this, of course, leads to individual thinking and action.
3.3.2 The kinds of employees an organisation hires can also affect the level of conflict. If an organisation hires employees with specialized expertise in major numbers, the specialized individuals are likely to group together with similar personnel. For example, the small group of lawyers in a large organisation is likely to develop a close-knit relationship often to the exclusion of others. Conflict is more likely to occur between specialists and other than between generalists and others.
3.3.3 The type and strength of external pressures can affect the level of conflict within an organisation. Where there is great pressure from competitors or from the environment, the people within the organisation are more likely to pull together. Where there few or limited pressures, the individuals and units are not forced to work together.
3.3.4 Conflict among workers may result when individuals are placed on a win-lose competitive basis for rewards. When a worker recognizes that personal success is gained at the expense of another worker, the potential of interpersonal conflict is present. Conflict may be encouraged by the functional duties of the workers. Other possible organisational sources of conflict include unclear jurisdiction, communication barriers, the degree of interdependence workers have from one another, the degree to which consensus is required, and unresolved prior conflict.
4.0 DEGREE OF CONFLICT DEVELOPMENT
Another factor to consider is the stage of development to which conflict has progressed. Conflict that has just surfaced might be treated very differently from conflict that has continued for a long time. There are five stages of conflict running from just-surfaced conflict to well-cultivated conflict:
Stage 1 Just Begun
Stage 2 Dispute
Stage 3 Contention
Stage 4 Limited Warfare
Stage 5 All out War.
5.0 DEALING WITH CONFLICT
In general, people who come to situations of conflict with positive moods are likely to handle conflict in a better way. Individuals and groups with a positive outlook tend to be more optimistic: they hope for a good resolution of conflict. These same individuals are usually more forgiving of others and will use more creativity in seeking solutions. A positive mood triggers a more accurate perception of the arguments that others may present. Those who are in a positive mood tend to be more relaxed so that defensive barriers are lowered and listening is done more effectively.