Organizational Conflict: Its Losses and Benefits

Topics: Conflict, Organizational studies, Organizational conflict Pages: 8 (2460 words) Published: November 7, 2008
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

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...
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