What are the general sources of conflict in an organization also explain the ways how conflict can be managed. Which way of managing conflict you feel better and why particularly in the organizational situation where you are working or familiar with. Briefly describe the organization you are referring to.
Conflict is a part of organizational life and may occur within the individual between individuals group and between groups. While conflict is generally perceived as dysfunctional. Life is a never-ending process of one conflict after another. Remember the time when you were a small child and had to choose between a tricycle and a cricket set or say, a set of dolls and a new frock for a birthday present. That was probably your first exposure to a conflict situation. Of course, this is a simplistic example of a conflict, but has life been the same since? Probably not. Think bank and recall how each succeeding conflict in your life over the years has been increasingly complex.
Conflict is a theme that has occupied the thinking of man more than any other with the exception of God and love. Conflict has always been widespread in society but it is only recently that it has generated a lot of interest and has been the focus of research and study. We are living in the age of conflict. Everyday the choices available to us regarding any decision are increasing in number. You may have wanted to become a manager, an entrepreneur or a computer scientist. On the other hand, you father might have wanted you to become a doctor, a lawyer or a chartered accountant. Thus you faced a conflict not only at an interpersonal level, in terms of the various choices confronting you, but also at an interpersonal level-your choice vs. your father's choice of a career for you.
Conflict is not confined at the individual level alone but is manifesting itself more and more in organisations. Employees have become more vociferous in their demands for a better deal. Various departments in an organisation face a situation full of conflicts due to a number of reasons like goal diversity, scarcity of resources or task interdependence etc. Management today is faced with the awesome responsibility of ensuring optimum levels of growth and productivity in an environment that is full of conflicting situations. A survey suggests that the modern manager spends over 20% of his time. SOURCES OF CONFLICT:
A large number of potential sources .of conflict exist in organizational life as- antecedent conditions and realistic basis for some conflicts. Following are some such sources. Competition for Limited Resources : Any group exists for the purpose of attaining some goals with the help of available resources. These resources may be tangible like men, materials, and money or intangible like power, status or the manager's time. No organisation is capable of providing all the resources demanded by various units. Resources are limited and different groups have to compete for these scarce resources and many conflicts arise from this source.
Diversity of Goals UD Groups in organisation have different functions to perform and as such they develop their own norms and goals. Theoretically the achievement of these goals should achieve overall organizational goals but, often, in real life the reverse is true. Goals of one group are incompatible to the goals of another group. Take, for example, a company which manufactures electric fans that has a seasonal demand. Three departments marketing,
production and finance-are involved. Since the demand for the product is seasonal, the marketing manager would like to have sufficient stock during the season. The production department has to gear up its capacity during the season but because of a tight labour market finds it difficult to hire labour temporarily and resorts to employ people on a permanent basis. This creates another problem. The finance manager says that as the storage costs are high it is expensive to keep stock build up in the slack season, and maintaining the
production line during slack season imposes an additional burden.
This example shows that each department develops its own goals, which may conflict with
another department's goals and one department may try to achieve its goals at the expense of
another. This happens quite often when the reward system is linked to group performance
rather than to overall organisational performance.
Task Interdependence: ( Groups in an organisation do not function independent of one
another. They have to interact with one another in order to accomplish their tasks. The sales
department will have nothing to sell unless the production people produce goods and goods
cannot be produced unless the financial department comes up with the money to buy raw
Thus smooth interaction between various groups is essential for the efficient functioning of
the organisation. Three types of interdependence can cause intergroup conflict-pooled,
sequential and reciprocal. Pooled interdependence exists when two work groups may not
directly interact with each other but are affected by each other's actions. For example, when
one independent product group performs poorly, all other groups may suffer financially. This
can happen when rewards are contingent upon collective performance.
Sequential interdependence occurs when one group's performance depends on another
group's prior performance. In a construction project, for example, the excavating team must
prepare the foundation before the masons can work on the building structure. Since the
masons depend on the excavators, conflict between the groups can occur when the
excavator's work is delayed.
Reciprocal interdependence occurs when two or more groups are mutually interdependent
in accomplishing their tasks. For example, in developing and marketing a new product, three
major departments (marketing, production and research) depend on each other to perform
their tasks. Information possessed by one department is needed by another department. For
example, the research department needs market information from the marketing department,
and marketing needs research to provide customer services. When one group unable to meet
the expectations of another group, intergroup conflict usually results.
Conflict can be managed in different ways, some focusing on interpersortal relationships and
others on structural changes. Avoidance of the situation that causes the conflict is an
example of an interpersonal approach.
Stimulating Productive Conflict
Most of us since childhood have been taught to avoid conflict and even disagreement how
many times have you heard the statements "Pon't Argue". "Stop fighting" or "It is better to
turn the other cheek"? However, this tendency to avoid conflict is not always productive and
there are times when there is a need to stimulate conflict. It is interesting experiment, series
of groups were formed to tackle a problem. Some groups contained a planted member to
challenge the majority opinion. Some groups didn't have. Without fail, all groups that had a planted member came up with a main perceptive solution than the other groups. However when the groups were asked to drop a member. All groups that had a planted member chose to drop the dissenting member despite clear evidence that the conflict was beneficial. Such resistance to conflict is what mangers have to overcome in stimulating productive conflict. Robbins (1978) suggested the following as signs where conflict stimulation is needed:
The organization is filled with "yes men".
Employees are afraid to admit ignorance. ! Compromise is stressed in decision making. u Managers put too much emphasis on harmony and peace. i • People are afraid to hurting the feelings of others.
Popularity is given more importance than technical competence.
People show great resistance to change.
New ideas are not forthcoming.
The presence of one or more of these signs is usually an indication of the need for conflict
stimulation. Once the need has been identified you may adopt one or more of the following
(1) Manipulate Communication Channels
I Deviate messages from traditional channels
i Repress information
; Transmit too much information
i Transmit ambiguous or threatening information (2) Alter the Organization's Structure (redefine jobs, alter tasks, reform units or activities).
U Increase a unit's size
i Increase specialization or standardization
i Add, delete or transfer organizational members ; Increase interdependence between units (3) Alter Personnel Behaviour Factors
J Change personality characteristics of leader.
i Create role conflict >
Develop role incongruence
These are only a few of the suggestions possible. Depending upon your values and the organisation's value-system, some of the suggestions may even sound undethical as you may feel that a desirable end-state does not always justify the questionable means (like transmitting threatening information). If stimulating your value-conflict, we become successful in helping you to understand the important option of conflict stimulation. Resolving Interparty Conflict: How and when
You have seen that stimulating conflict is a required mode of conflict management when groups are characterized by apathy, complacency, non-responsiveness to needed ohange, lack of enthusiasm for generating alternatives, etc. Though these symptoms are very much present in a number of work-units in Indian organizations (and hence calls for appropriate conflict stimulation interventions), the more commonplace are heightened manifest conflicts. So, for
most practical purposes, you should not only possess the knowledge of different strategies of conflict-resolution but should also know when to use which strategy.
There is no dearth of literature in this area and different authors have given different taxonomies in reviewing possible conflict resolution strategies. Here we consider Feldman's (1985) strategies of intergroup conflict-resolution.
The primary dimension along which intergroup conflict-resolution strategies vary is how openly you as a manager should address the. conflict. The chief characteristic of conflict-avoidance strategies is that they attempt to keep the conflict from coming into the open. The goal of conflict-delusion strategies is to keep the conflict in abeyance and to "cool" the emotions of the parties involved. Conflict-containment strategies allow some conflict to surface, but tightly control which issues are discussed and the manner in which they are discussed. Conflict-confrontation strategies are designed to uncover all the issues of the conflict and try to find a mutually satisfactory solution. Conflict-avoidance Strategies are used in service organization
(i) Ignoring the Conflict: This strategy is represented by the absence of action. You, as a manager, have often avoided dealing with dysfunctional aspects of conflict. Unfortunately, when you avoid searching for the causes of the conflict, the situation usually continues or becomes worse over time. Although ignoring the conflict generally is ineffective for resolving important policy issues, there are some circumstances in which it is at least a reasonable way of dealing with problems. One such circumstance in which ignoring the conflict is a reasonable strategy is when the issue seems to be symptomatic of other, more basic conflicts. For example, two groups may experience conflict over the amount and quality of office space. Such conflicts often reflect more important issues about relative power and status. Resolving the office space problem would not address the key issues, and attention could be directed more fruitfully to the more basic concerns.
(ii) Imposing a Solution :This strategy consists of forcing the conflicting parties to accept a solution devised by higher-level manager. Imposing a solution does not allow much conflict to surface, nor does it leave room for the participants to air their grievances, so it also generally an ineffective conflict-resolution strategy. Any peace that it does achieve is likely to be short¬lived. Because the underlying issues are not addressed, the conflict reappears in other guises
and in other situations.
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Forcing a solution can, however, be appropriate when quick, decisive action is needed. For
instance, when there is conflict over investment decisions, and delays can be very costly, forcing a solution may be the best strategy available to top management. Likewise, it may be necessary when unpopular decisions must be made and there is very little chance that the parties involved could ever reach agreement (Thomas, 1977). An example of this is when an organization must cut back on the funding of programs. It is unreasonable to expect that any department would agree to cut its staff and expenses for the greater good, yet some hard unpleasant decisions ultimately must be made. Conflict-defusion Strategies
(i) Smoothing : One way you can deal with conflict is to try to "smooth it over" by playing down its extent or importance. You may try to persuade the groups that they are not so far apart in their viewpoints as they think they are, point out the similarities in their positions, try to "pat" group members whose feelings have been hurt, or play down the importance of the
issue. By smoothing the conflict, you can hope to decrease its intensity and avoid escalation
or open hostility. Like forcing a solution, smoothing generally is ineffective because it does not
address the key points of conflict.
However, smoothing sometimes can serve as a stopgap measure to let people cool down and
regain perspective. In the heat of the battle, people may make statements that are likely to
escalate the conflict, and smoothing often can bring the disagreement back to a manageable
level. Smoothing also may be appropriate when the conflict concerns network issues. For
instance, intergroup conflict frequently occurs between older and younger employees because
of their different political beliefs and moral values. Smoothing can help to defuse the tension
so that the conflict does not spill over into central work issues.
(ii) Appealing to Super ordinate Goals: DYou can defuse conflicts by focusing attention on
the higher goals that the groups share or the long-range aims that they have in 9ommon. This
tends to make the current problem seem insignificant beside the more important mutual
Finding super ordinate goals the are important to both groups is not easy. Achieving these
goals needs cooperation between the groups, so the rewards for achieving that super ordinate
goal is organizational survival, i.e., if the subunits do not cooperate sufficiently, the continued
existence of the larger organization itself will be severely jeopardized.
Using Representatives: One of the strategies you can use to contain conflict is the use of
representatives. In order to decide an issue, you can meet with representatives of the
opposing groups rather than deal with the groups in their entirety. The rationale is that the
representatives know the problems and can argue the groups' points of view accurately and
Although this seems to be a logical way of proceeding, the research on the use of
representatives as a means of solving intergroup conflict is fairly negative. Representatives are
not entirely free to engage in compromise.