Organizational Conflicts – Understanding and Managing Organizational Conflicts

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

Conflict, in general, means a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles or people. In the organizations conflict arises between the employees when their perspectives, values or opinions are disagreed in relation to the attainment of particular goals or the methods adopted to accomplish them. So long as there are social interactions, conflicts are inevitable. As it goes in the words of Newman, “Life is not a grand harmony; conflict exists.” There are several levels and episodes through which the organizational conflicts emerge but for a successful organization, a friendly agreement or accord among its members is very much essential. Hence, a manager needs to acquire the knowledge and understanding about the nature of conflicts in order that he may adopt the methods to resolve the organizational conflicts.

Just as a conflict in social relationships is potentially dangerous and harms to cause physical, mental, moral, or social impairment or deterioration, so it does to reduce the quality, strength and efficiency of the organizations. Even though conflicts do not occur out of irrationality, yet there may be constructive and destructive conflicts in the organizations. Therefore, it must be justified as to whether the conflicts are constructive or destructive to the organizations, so that constructive conflicts may be considered and dealt appropriately and those destructive ones should be brought to an end without upheavals and difficulties.

Conflict is constructive, in the sense, it creates situations in which the members of the organizations are compelled to bring innovative ideas to uplift the organization, for its prosperity and growth while focusing attention on the refinement of the methods to be adopted in pursuit of the objectives. A constructive conflict has a good cause to overpower a group taking wrong decisions posing risks or threats to organization.

To a greater extent, constructive conflict fosters creativity, zeal and interest and brings satisfaction to the organization at the same time having its people accomplished the desired goals owing to the creation of healthy competitions among them. Being potentially useful, it gives air to opinions, problems or complaints and causes to solve the problems, to remove the tension, uncertainty or misunderstandings from the situations, while bringing the feeling of lively enjoyment and stimulates the workers towards the zest for working. To be brief, constructive conflicts bring positive results to the organizations.

Those conflicts that are destructive to organizations weaken its performance, strength, effectiveness and efficiency and so overall organizational development is affected. Mention that deserves to be made at first is about the health and fitness of the employees. A universally accepted saying is befitting to the context that “Health is wealth”. In order that a significant contribution may be made towards the overall objectives and the organizational development, it is important that an employees must be healthy and hale and hearty. But, due to intense destructive conflict, it is likely that it may affect them physically and mentally because one of the most damaging features of such conflict is that it creates stress, anxiety, frustration and resentment resulting in various health problems. While the winners enjoy, to the losers such situations bring anxiety, nervousness by damaging reputation, career and the chances of success.

One should be consistent in making fair assessment. The judgment should be made considering what is morally good or bad even though there are times that encourage one to adopt unethical behavior. It is very necessary to examine the factors that what should be done in the light of truth and what is being done. Being one of the best principles it is applicable to organizational life as much as it is to ours. But one of the dreadful aspects of destructive conflicts causing dismay is that it creates such situations in which people fail to recall that principle and they are engaged in pursuit of their own goals rather than organizational goals. In this way, destructive conflicts become a cause to divert the interests and energy of the employees because personal goals become more important than organizational goals. In the extreme cases, situations may lead to illegal activities.

Moreover, there are times when conflict continues bringing out fresh issues or making mountain out of the mole hills. It affects the functioning state of the organizations as the tension will hang around causing chaos, unsteadiness and communication breakdown in the departments and the divisions. What happens altogether is decrease in work performance and satisfaction.

There are certain levels of conflict and the episodes through which organizational conflicts emerge.

Inter-group Conflict:- The conflicts that arise between departments are known as inter group Conflicts. What happens in such sort of conflicts is that it is perceived that another party is causing frustration and the disturbance in the accomplishment of goals. It can emerge between two groups or individuals.

Interpersonal Conflict:- These kinds of conflicts affect individuals’ emotions. A kind of agitation or disturbance caused by strong feelings prevails. It is worth mentioning that it is necessary to protect self-image and self-esteem but due to these conflicts the sense of worth is affected.

Intrapersonal Conflict:- It occurs within an employee as every employee wants to take part in the competing roles. Everyone wants to satisfy his needs and the needs form a basis for a particular behavior. The dissatisfaction of needs creates conflicts and satisfaction results in good behavior.

Latent Conflict:- The episode of conflict starts with “Latent Conflict” It can be due to competition for scarce resources, divergence of goals etc. It provides the conditions to the conflicts. Individuals anticipate conflicts.

Perceived Conflict:- This episode of conflict is on the basis of misunderstanding that the individuals realize the conflicts. It can be resolved with effective communication as it can be because of communication gaps.

Felt Conflict:- It does not arise but is felt. In this episode a person makes tense or anxious to another person which results in making differences between people.

Manifest Conflict:- This is such a stage wherein there is face to face encounter, especially a challenging or hostile one. This episode creates aggression and there is lack of ability to feel normal or passionate human feelings or responding emotionally. This stage affects organizational effectiveness creating several problems.

There are several reasons for organizational conflicts to arise between employees or groups. Conflicts may be due to limitation of resources to be allocated, communication problems, differences in interests and perceptions and attitudes and lack of clarity about job responsibilities. The aftermath of conflict may be beneficial or unhelpful depending upon how the conflicts are resolved. Conflicts may be harmful to organizations but there are times when they are helpful to management. Nonetheless, a manager must try to understand the differences between constructive and destructive conflicts. Thus, there is a need for managing and resolving organizational conflicts.

Managers may avoid approaching directly to resolve the conflicts, but unfortunately it is not advantageous sometimes when situations become more problematic and the participants become more hostile to each other. Another strategy to be adopted is that employees may be urged to come to discuss their issues in a pleasant manner. This method is much useful because most of the issues are cleared in a group discussion. This strategy involves the act of consent and persuasion so that the matters may be resolved. It is due this strategy that the employees or groups get to agree to another group. The technique of persuasion is useful, in the sense, it encourages the participants to find the areas of common interests in order that the means of the obtainment of organizational goals may be easier. Convincing the employees or the groups for compromise to mutual give-and-take methodology is a means to overcome certain conflicts. Moreover, domination of management is a way to resolve particular conflicts or problems by specifying certain time limit for the conflict to be resolved. Managers should design the reward systems, rules and standards in an appropriate way so that the conflicts may be overcome. Aside from these, the cooperative work by group is the best way to eliminate most of the organizational conflicts.

Take a look at Professional Presentations

Written by:
K. A. Fareed (Fareed Siddiqui)
Writer, Trainer, Author, Blogger, Software Developer
BBA, MBA-Finance, MPhil-Financial Management, (MSc-Software Engineering)
MA-English, MPhil-English
Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Applications and Programming
Certificate course in English language proficiency
Level 1 – Leadership and Management ILM – UK
Pursuing CMA-USA
Individual Member of Institute of Management Consultants of India


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