Technique to Manage Conflicts in an Organization

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How do managers cope with all this potential conflict? Fortunately, conflict can be stimulated for constructive ends, controlled before it gets out of hand, and resolved if it does. In the following sections we look at ways of managing conflict.

Stimulating Conflict

Increase competition among individuals and teams.

Hire outsiders to shape things up.

Change established procedures.

Controlling conflict

Expand resource base.

Enhance coordination of interdependence.

Set super ordinate goals.

Match personalities and work habits of employees.

Resolving and eliminating conflict

Avoid conflict.

Convince conflicting parties to compromise.

Bring conflicting parties together to confront and negotiate conflict.

Stimulating Conflict

In some situations, an organization may stimulate conflict by placing individual employees or groups in competitive situations. Managers can establish sales contests, incentive plans, bonuses, or other competitive stimuli to spark competition. As long as the ground rules are equitable and all participants perceive the contest as fair, the conflict t created by the competition is likely to be constructive because each participant will work hard to win (thereby enhancing some aspect of organizational performance).

Another useful method for stimulating conflict t is to bring in one or more outsiders who will shake things up and present a new perspective on organizational practices. Outsiders may be new employees, current employees assigned to an existing work group, or consultants or advisers hired on a temporary basis. Of course, this action can also provoke resentment from insiders who believe that they were qualified for the position. The Beecham Croup, a British company, hired an American for its CEO position expressly to change how the company did business.” His arrival brought with it new ways of doing things and a new enthusiasm for competitiveness. Unfortunately, some valued employees also chose to leave Beecham because they resented some of the changes.

Changing established procedures, especially procedures that have outlived their usefulness, can also stimulate conflict. Such actions cause people to reassess how they perform their jobs and whether they perform them correctly. For example, one university president announced that all vacant staff positions could be filled only after written justification had received his approval. Conflict arose between the president and the department heads who felt they had to do more paperwork than was necessary. Most requests were okayed, but because department heads now had to think through their staffing needs, a few unnecessary positions were appropriately eliminated.

Controlling Conflict

One method of controlling conflict is to expand the resource base. Suppose that a top manager receives two budget requests for $100,000 each. If she has only $180,000 to distribute, the stage is set for conflict because each group believes that its proposal is worth funding and will be unhappy if it is not fully funded. If both proposals are indeed worthwhile, she may be able to come up with the extra $20,000 from some other source and thereby avoid difficulty.

As noted earlier, pooled, sequential, and reciprocal interdependence can all result in conflict. If managers use an appropriate technique for enhancing coordination they can reduce the probability that conflict will wise. Techniques for coordination (described in Chapter 10) include mak­ing use of the managerial hierarchy, relying on rules and procedures, enlisting liaison persons, forming task forces, and integrating departments. At the J.C. Penney store mentioned earlier, conflict was addressed by pro­viding salespeople with clearer forms on which to specify she merchandise they needed and in what sequence. If one, coordination technique does not have the desired effect, a manager might shift to another one.

Competing goals can also be a potential source of conflict among individuals and groups. Managers can sometimes focus employee attention on higher‑level or super ordinate, goals as a way of eliminating lower‑level conflict. When labor unions such as the United Auto Workers make wage concessions to ensure survival of the automobile industry, they are re­sponding to a super ordinate goal. ‘Their immediate goal may be higher wages for members, but they realize that without the automobile indus­try, their members would not even have jobs.

Finally, managers should try to match the personalities and work habits of employees to avoid conflict between individuals For instance, e, two valu­able subordinates, one a chain smoker and the other a vehement anti­smoker, should probably not be required to work together in an enclosed space. If conflict does arise between incompatible individual, a manager might seek an equitable transfer for one or both of them to other units.

Resolving and Eliminating Conflict

Despite everyone’s best intentions, conflict sometimes flares up if it is disrupting the workplace, creating too much hostility and tension, or other­ wise harming the organization, attempts must be made to resolve it. Some managers who are uncomfortable dealing with conflict choose to avoid the conflict and hope that it will go away. Avoidance may sometimes be effective in the short run for some kinds of interpersonal disagreements, but it does little to resolve long‑run or chronic conflict. Even more unadvisable, though, is “smoothing”‑minimizing the conflict and telling everyone that thing will “get better.” Often the conflict will only worsen as people continue to brood over it.

Compromise is striking a middle‑range position between two extremes. This approach can work if it is used with care, but to most compromise situations someone wins and someone loses. Budget problems are one of the few areas amenable to compromise because of their objective nature. Assume, for example, that additional resources are not available to the manager mentioned earlier. She has $180,000 to divide, and each of two groups has submitted budget requests of $100,000. If the manager believes that both projects warrant funding, she can allocate &90,000 to each. The two groups having at least been treated equally may minimize the potential conflict.

The confrontation approach to conflict resolution‑also called interpersonal problem solving‑consists of bringing the parties together to confront the conflict. The parties discuss the nature of their conflict and attempt to reach an agreement or a solution. Confrontation requires a reasonable degree of maturity on the part of the participants, and the manager must structure the situation carefully. If handled well, this approach can be an effective means of resolving conflict.

Regardless of the approach, organizations and their managers must realize that conflict must be addressed if it is to serve constructive purposes and be prevented from bringing about destructive consequences. Conflict is inevitable in organizations, but its effect: tin be constrained with proper attention. For example, Union Carbide once sent two hundred of its managers to a three‑day workshop on conflict management The managers engaged in a variety of exercises and discussions to learn with whom they were most likely to come into conflict and how they should try to resolve it. As a result, managers at the firm later reported that hostility and resentment in the organization had been greatly diminished and that people in the firm reported more pleasant working relationships.


A group is two or more persons who interact regularly to accomplish a common purpose or goal. General kinds of groups and teams to organi­zations are functional groups, task groups and teams, and informal or in­terest groups. A team is a group of workers that functions as a unit, often with little or no supervision, to carry out organizational functions.

People join functional groups and teams to pursue a career. Their rea­sons for joining informal or interest groups include interpersonal attrac­tion; desire to participate in group activities, attraction to group goals, need satisfaction, and potential instrumental benefits. The stages of group and team development include testing and dependence (forming), intra-group conflict and hostility (storming), development of group cohesion (norm­ing), and focusing on the problem at hand (performing).

Four important characteristics of teams are role structures, behavioral norms, cohesiveness, and informal leadership. Role structures define task and socio-emotional specialists and may be victimized by role ambiguity, role conflict, or role overload. Norms are standards of behavior for group or team members. Cohesiveness is the extent to which members are loyal and committed to the group or team. Several factors can increase or re­duce group and team cohesiveness. The relationship between performance norms and cohesiveness is especially important. Informal leader are those leaders whom the group members themselves choose to follow.

Conflict is a disagreement between two or more persons, groups, or organizations. Too little or too much conflict may hurt performance, but an optimal level of conflict may improve performance. Interpersonal and inter-group conflict in organizations may be caused by personality differences or by particular organizational strategies and practices. Organizations may encounter conflict with one another and with various elements of the environment.

Three methods of managing conflict are to stimulate it, control it, or resolve and eliminate it.


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