Managing Organizational Discord To Your Welfare
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Managing Organizational Discord To Your Welfare
Article Introduction

Article Description
Conflicts is a state of opposition, disagreement or incompatibility between two or more people or groups of people, which is sometimes characterised by physical violence. Military conflict between states may constitute war. Conflict is usually based upon a difference over goals, objectives, or expectations between individuals or groups. Conflict also occurs when two or more people, or groups, compete over limited resources and/or perceived, or actual, incompatible goals.The aim of the article is to discuss briefly certain issues regarding conflict and its management in organisations. Conflict is all-pervasive - at home, at the workplace, between communities or between nations. It is vexing, time-consuming, besides creating misunderstandings and, in extreme cases, results in war. And destruction. Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs. It can also originate from past rivalries and personality differences. Other causes of conflict include trying to negotiate before the timing is right or before needed information is available. Conflict is not always negative. In fact, it can be healthy when effectively managed. Healthy conflict can lead to...
Growth and innovation
New ways of thinking
Additional management options
If the conflict is understood, it can be effectively managed by reaching a consensus that meets both the individuals and societys needs. This results in mutual benefits and strengthens the relationship. The goal is for all to "win" by having at least some of their needs met. Conflict not managed will bring about delays, disinterest, lack of action and, in extreme cases, a complete breakdown of the group. Unmanaged conflict may result in withdrawal of individuals and an unwillingness on their part to participate in other groups or assist with various group action programmes.Conflict situations are frequently allowed to develop to almost unmanageable proportions before anything is done about them, by which time it is often too late to resolve them by peaceable and procedural means.

The route to better management of conflict involves a well-managed dialogue between the parties. However, managers and consultants often experience difficulty in implementing useful dialogue. Such questions as "How can I achieve a level of candor in dialogue?", "How can I manage a level of tension inherent in conflict ?", and "How can I search for integrative solutions to conflict rather than compromise?", often plague new and experienced managers alike. Conflict is all-pervasive - at home, at the workplace, between communities or between nations. It is vexing, time-consuming, besides creatingmisunderstandings and, in extreme cases, results in war and destruction.

Definition of conflict
Conflict is defined by Rubin, Pruitt and Kim (1994) as a "perceived divergence of interest, or a belief that the parties current aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously". Dispute, on the other hand, are manifest disagreements, often following legal or quasi-legal or otherwise confrontational procedures (such as complaints, charges, grievances, and lawsuits). Conflict embraces all the differences between persons, whether or not they become disputes.

Identity, conflict and organisational learning
According to Jay Rothman and Victor Friedman, conflict should be seen not as an obstacle to learning, but as an essential part of the learning process itself. Learning is important because organisations need to understand the rapid changes occurring daily, harness them, and adapt to the needs of the 21st century. According to one perspective, organisational conflict is anexpression of critical contradictions within an organisations system of goals, values, and criteria for performance. Conflict offers opportunities for engaging in learning. Double-loop learning is a form of conflict resolution in which organisational members inquire into the reasoning behind the position they take and the meaning of these positions for them. In the "knowledge-creating companies" described by Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), the issue is not resolving conflict but making sure it occurs. For example, members of a new product development team solved a dilemma in product design by first creating a conflict among themselves ("divergence") and then working to resolve it ("convergence").

Framing conflict
Much work in the field of conflict and conflict resolution has grown out of developments in diplomacy, law, and community relations. As a result, conflict resolution theory and the study of conflict in organisations have often developed along parallel tracks with surprisingly little cross fertilisation between them. Rothman and Friedman have attempted to categories the great many treatments of conflict into three major "frames" which they called resource conflict, interest conflict, and identity conflict. "Frames" signifies that each if these perspectives acts as a kind of window to the world of conflict. The resource frame views conflict as "a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralise, injure, or eliminate rivals".

If negotiation and settlement are to be effective in resource conflict, parties must determine the true goals and "bottom lines" of their opponents and where there is common ground between them. However, the resource frame of conflict has relatively little positive to say about organisational learning since conflict is viewed as something which needs to be resolved rather than used. The interests frame approach maintains that parties to a conflict often become fixated on their bargaining positions - e.g. more of a limited resource, and lose sight of their interests - e.g. the well-being of the community. It focuses on clarifying what is really at stake under the assumption that such a classification will uncover more common ground and better resolutions.

The interests frame is implicit in the treatment of conflict in certain theories of organisational design. Lawrence and Lorsch (1967), for instance, introduced the idea that interpersonal conflict is a natural outcome of the ways in which departments adapted to their different environment. The interests approach focuses on "managing " or controlling negative emotions, such as anger, so that they can be used to facilitate achieving cooperative agreements rather than derailing them and escalating the conflict. The identity frame of conflict suggests that the most intractable conflicts are really about the articulation and confrontation of individual and collective identities. According to the identity frame, conflicts are rooted in threats to or the frustration of deep human needs such as dignity, recognition, safety, control, purpose, and efficacy. The identity frame differs from the other two frames by rejecting the notion that conflicts are problems to be resolved or even managed. While acknowledging the destructive potential of conflict, it maintains that conflict offers opportunities for growth, adaptation, and learning.

The identity frame focuses on the process of engaging conflict rather than simply reaching a particular settlement. Conflict engagement means creating "reflexive dialogue" in which parties to a conflict speak about their needs and values in the presence of their adversaries. However, rather than treating each partys interests or needs as sovereign, the identity frame leads parties to inquire into their own needs, values, and goals (why is this so important to me?). It also aims explicitly at change, both within individual parties (who am I? What do I really want?) and between parties (How is it that we create conditions which prevent us from achieving our needs, goals, and values). Having first expressed themselves and heard each other in this way, they can then frame disputes in ways that articulate an overlapping of goals and values. Upon this common foundation, a process of co-operative solution-seeking may begin such that disputants may partner in setting new goals and restructuring their relationship on the basis of changes in, and more positive definitions of, themselves.

Conflict types
According to Richard Walton, "interpersonal conflict in organisations is defined broadly to include both (1) substantive disagreements such as differences over objectives, structures, policies, and practices, and (2) the more personal and emotional differences that arise amongst human beings.
"Substantive issues involve disagreements over policies and practices, competition for limited resources, and differing conceptions of roles. Emotional issues involve feelings such as anger, distrust, scorn, resentment, fear, and rejection. Substantive conflict may create emotional conflict, and lowered trust.
Posted : 10/27/2005

Managing Organizational Discord To Your Welfare