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A process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively
affected, or is about to negatively affect, something that the first party cares about.
Arises from disagreements over the goals to attain or methods to be used to
accomplish those goals.
Disagreement - Generally, we are aware there is some level of difference in the
positions of the two (or more) parties involved in the conflict. But the true
disagreement versus the perceived disagreement may be quite different from one
another. In fact, conflict tends to be accompanied by significant levels of
misunderstanding that exaggerate the perceived disagreement considerably.
Perceived threat - People respond to the perceived threat, rather than the true
threat, facing them. Thus, while perception doesn't become reality per se, people's
behaviors, feelings and ongoing responses become modified by that evolving sense
of the threat they confront.
Views about Conflict
Traditional – early approach that assumes all conflict is bad. The belief that all
conflict is harmful and must be avoided. Most causes are poor communication,
lack of openness and failure to respond to employee needs.
Human Relations – argues that conflict is a natural occurrence in all groups and
Interactionist – encourages conflict on the grounds that a harmonious, peaceful,
tranquil and cooperative group is prone to becoming static and non-responsive to
needs for change and innovation.
Types of Conflict
Task Conflict – relates to the content and goals of the work. Low-to-moderate levels
of this type are functional.
Relationship Conflict – focuses on interpersonal relationships. Almost always
Process Conflict – relates to how the work gets done. Low levels of this type are
Functional versus Dysfunctional Conflict
Functional Conflict is a conflict that supports the goals of the group and
improves its performance while a Dysfunctional Conflict is a conflict that hinders
Five Stage Conflict Process
Stage I: Potential Opposition or Incompatibility
Presence of conditions that create opportunities for conflict to arise.
Sources of Conflict
Size and specialization of jobs – Complexity of work creates a lot of potential
loopholes to a conflict.
Jurisdictional clarity/ambiguity - It is not always possible to define boundaries
in sufficient details. For example, in crafting of the organizational structure,
the units are supposedly divided into functional units with clearly defined areas
of concern. Nevertheless, Manufacturing may want to have more control on
materials management and quality control. Conflict may arise also when
change in business environment occurs and the organization is not able to
anticipate the changes. This also occurs when recommendations by other unit
are ignored by other unit. When one unit requests to fire out an employee and
personnel depart ignores it for legal reasons, then conflict arises.
Member/goal incompatibility - A lot of conflict is generated within the
organization because various groups within the organization hold conflicting
values and perceive situation in narrow individualistic manner. For example,
Reward systems – An example would be when one unit gets a different
treatment in performance and reward system. When sales people get more
bonuses and commissions due to good performance, the other people in the
organization may feel that they are the favored few.
Sales cannot make better performance when they are not given high quality
products. Advertising will feel that sales cannot make the volume without
effective advertising campaign. All these factors contribute to organization
Dependence/interdependence of groups - The division of labor creates task
interdependence among organizational units. The Marketing dept is
dependent on the products produce by the Manufacturing units as to its quality
and quantity. Operating departments are dependent on the quality of
employees recruited by the Human Resource Dept.. The quality of manpower
is dependent on the capacity of the Finance Dept to provide attractive salaries
2. Personal Variables
Differing individual value systems - Any workplace is made up of individuals
who see the world differently. Conflict occurs when there is a lack of
acceptance and understanding of these differences. Personal characteristic of
key employees play important role producing conflict. People differ in
perceptions of themselves on their ability to perform their assigned task.
People lagging behind are perceived as non-achievers or slow performers.
Personality types - Since people have different culture and personal
orientation, conflict surface as they viewed org differently. This could be true in
Philippine setting, where regional influence also brings in conflict. The Ilocano
view differs from with the Visaya or Tagalog. They want more employees from
their region or they want more relatives and kababayan.
Semantic difficulties, misunderstandings, and “noise” - Modern communication
technology is now present for the use of business and industry. Nevertheless
communication barriers still exist when people on org fail to communicate
effectively. When barriers to communication exist, chances are employees will
interpret the goals and actions of the organization differently. The absence of
shared information among units and individuals can create perceived conflict.
Differences in communication skills and inability to respond with articulation
can be a source of disagreement as they fail to meet head on the subject they
would like to convey.
Stage II: Cognition and Personalization
If the conditions in Stage I affect something that one party cares about,
then the potential for opposition or incompatibility becomes actualized.
Important stage for two reasons:
Awareness by one or more parties of the existence of conditions that
create opportunities for conflict to arise
Emotional involvement in a conflict creating anxiety, tenseness,
frustration, or hostility.
Emotions are expressed that have a strong impact on the eventual
Stage III: Intentions
Intervene between people perceptions and emotions and their behavior.
Five Conflict handling Intentions
Competing ( assertive and uncooperative) Authoritative Command
A desire to satisfy one’s interests, regardless of the impact on the other party to the
People who tend towards a competitive style take a firm stand, and know what they
want. They usually operate from a position of power, drawn from things like position,
rank, expertise, or persuasive ability. This style can be useful when there is an
emergency and a decision needs to be make fast; when the decision is unpopular; or
when defending against someone who is trying to exploit the situation selfishly.
However it can leave people feeling bruised, unsatisfied and resentful when used in
less urgent situations.
Collaborating ( assertive and cooperative) Problem Solving
A situation in which the parties to a conflict each desire to satisfy fully the concerns of
Finding and solving problems so everyone gains as a result.
People tending towards a collaborative style try to meet the needs of all people
involved. These people can be highly assertive but unlike the competitor, they
cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone is important. This style is useful
when a you need to bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution;
when there have been previous conflicts in the group; or when the situation is too
important for a simple trade-off.
Avoiding (unassertive and uncooperative)
The desire to withdraw from or suppress a conflict.
When gathering information supersedes immediate decision and others can resolve
the conflict effectively.
People tending towards this style seek to evade the conflict entirely. This style is
typified by delegating controversial decisions, accepting default decisions, and not
wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. It can be appropriate when victory is impossible,
when the controversy is trivial, or when someone else is in a better position to solve
the problem. However in many situations this is a weak and ineffective approach to
Accommodating (unassertive and cooperative) Smoothing
The willingness of one party in a conflict to place the opponent’s interests above his
or her own.
This style indicates a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the
person's own needs. The accommodator often knows when to give in to others, but
can be persuaded to surrender a position even when it is not warranted. This person
is not assertive but is highly cooperative. Accommodation is appropriate when the
issues matter more to the other party, when peace is more valuable than winning, or
when you want to be in a position to collect on this "favor" you gave. However people
may not return favors, and overall this approach is unlikely to give the best outcomes.
Compromising (midrange on both assertiveness and cooperativeness)
A situation in which each party to a conflict is willing to give up something.
People who prefer a compromising style try to find a solution that will at least partially
satisfy everyone. Everyone is expected to give up something, and the compromiser
him- or herself also expects to relinquish something. Compromise is useful when the
cost of conflict is higher than the cost of losing ground, when equal strength
opponents are at a standstill and when there is a deadline looming.
How can conflict be managed successfully?
Direct conflict management approaches are based on the relative emphasis that a person
places on assertiveness and cooperativeness.
Assertiveness is the attempt to satisfy one’s own concerns.
Cooperativeness is the attempt to satisfy the other party’s concern.
The issue of “who wins?”
Occurs when nobody gets what he or she wants.
Avoidance, accommodation or smoothing, and compromise are forms of loselose conflict.
One part achieves its desires at the expense and to the exclusion of the other
Competition and authoritative command are forms of win-lose conflict.
Both parties achieve their desires.
Collaboration or problem solving are forms of win-win conflict.
Stage IV: Behavior
where conflicts become visible and statements, actions and reactions
made by the conflicting parties.
Conflict Resolution Techniques
Superordinate goals - are goals that people who normally work in opposition to each
other may unite to accomplish because the cooperation is necessary for mutual
survival. The idea that antagonists may become cooperative in some situations plays
a key role in some organizational thinking and interventions to get groups to work
with each other instead of against each other.
Expansion of resources - whether these are office supplies, help from colleagues,
even a meeting room or a budget for one project. Management should well think on
Avoidance - Letting people cool down and regain perspective. Downplaying of
disagreements, especially when it is perceived that no chance of satisfying ones
concerns. If potential disruption outweighs the benefits of resolution.
Smoothing – It is letting the other’s wishes rule to smoothen differences and maintain
superficial harmony. Showing ones reasonableness to maintain cooperation, build
social credits for later issues. It is also used to minimize loss when outmatched. This
develops learning from mistakes for employees.
Compromise - Works toward partial satisfaction of everyone’s concerns, seeks
acceptable rather than optimal solutions so that no one totally wins or loses. When
goals are important but not worth the effort of potential disruption of more assertive
approaches this technique is helpful. To achieve temporary settlements to a complex
issues. Also a backup when collaboration or competition is unsuccessful.
Authoritative command - Works against the wishes of the other party, fights to
dominate. Used when quick, decisive action is vital (in emergencies); on important
Altering the human variable – Subjecting people in an organization to attend
seminars that will enhance personality and some character building traits to better the
organization they belong. This can also be a subject of human resource requirements
to scrutinize applicants of their core values.
Altering the structural variables – it is not ever easy to define a complex structure of a
company especially if programs and responsibilities overlap. Restructuring and
assessing the core responsibilities of each retained programs or department will be a
big help in minimizing conflicts.
Communication - Miscommunication and misunderstanding can create conflict even
where there are no basic incompatibilities. In addition, parties may have different
perceptions as to what are the facts in a situation, and until they share information
and clarify their perceptions, resolution is impossible.
Bringing in outsiders – People we need to intervene or serve as a referee to
conflicting parties. We used this technique to assume a neutral atmosphere.
Appointing a devil’s advocate - a devil's advocate is someone who, given a certain
argument, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with, for the sake of
debate. In taking this position, the individual taking on the devil's advocate role seeks
to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such
process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify
weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or
abandon the original, opposing position.
Negotiation - a dialogue between two or more people or parties, intended to reach
an understanding, resolve point of difference, or gain advantage in outcome of
dialogue, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual
or collective advantage, to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests of two
people/parties involved in negotiation process.
Stage V: Outcomes
The action-reaction interplay between conflicting parties results in
consequences. Outcomes may be functional in that conflict results in improvement in
groups performance, or dysfunctional in that it hinders group performance.
Functional Outcomes from Conflict
Increased group performance
Improved quality of decisions
Stimulation of creativity and innovation
Encouragement of interest and curiosity
Provision of a medium for problem-solving
Creation of an environment for self-evaluation and change
Creating Functional Conflict
Reward dissent and punish conflict avoiders.
Dysfunctional Outcomes from Conflict
Development of discontent
Reduced group effectiveness
Reduced group cohesiveness
Infighting among group members overcomes group goals
Third - Party
A neutral third party who facilitates a negotiated solution by using reasoning,
persuasion, and suggestions for alternatives.
A third party to a negotiation who has the authority to dictate an agreement.
A trusted third party who provides an informal communication link between the
negotiator and the opponent.
An impartial third party, skilled in conflict management, who attempts to facilitate
creative problem solving through communication and analysis.
- Robbins, Stephen, Organizational Behavior, 11th Edition
- Medina, Robert, PhD, Human Behavior in Organization
- Newstrom, John, Organizational Behavior – Human Behavior at Work
- Santos, Emmanuel, Organization and Management