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  1. 1. Conflict Organizational Theory Erwin Abad Department of Health
  2. 2. Conflict  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 organizations. 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 dysfunctional. Process Conflict – relates to how the work gets done. Low levels of this type are functional.
  3. 3. 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 group performance. Five Stage Conflict Process Stage I: Potential Opposition or Incompatibility Presence of conditions that create opportunities for conflict to arise. Sources of Conflict 1. Structural ◦ 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, management-labor conflict.
  4. 4. ◦ 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 conflict. ◦ 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 and wages. 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. 3. Communication ◦ 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.
  5. 5. 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: Perceived Conflict - Awareness by one or more parties of the existence of conditions that create opportunities for conflict to arise Felt Conflict - Emotional involvement in a conflict creating anxiety, tenseness, frustration, or hostility. Emotions are expressed that have a strong impact on the eventual outcome Stage III: Intentions Intervene between people perceptions and emotions and their behavior. Five Conflict handling Intentions
  6. 6. Competing ( assertive and uncooperative) Authoritative Command  A desire to satisfy one’s interests, regardless of the impact on the other party to the conflict.  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 all parties.  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 take. 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
  7. 7. 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?” Lose-lose conflict ◦ Occurs when nobody gets what he or she wants. ◦ Avoidance, accommodation or smoothing, and compromise are forms of loselose conflict. Win-lose conflict ◦ One part achieves its desires at the expense and to the exclusion of the other party’s desires. ◦ Competition and authoritative command are forms of win-lose conflict. Win-win conflict ◦ Both parties achieve their desires. ◦ Collaboration or problem solving are forms of win-win conflict.
  8. 8. 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 these alternatives. • 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 issues. • 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
  9. 9. 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 ◦ Retarded communication
  10. 10. ◦ Reduced group cohesiveness ◦ Infighting among group members overcomes group goals Third - Party Mediator  A neutral third party who facilitates a negotiated solution by using reasoning, persuasion, and suggestions for alternatives. Arbitrator  A third party to a negotiation who has the authority to dictate an agreement. Conciliator  A trusted third party who provides an informal communication link between the negotiator and the opponent. Consultant  An impartial third party, skilled in conflict management, who attempts to facilitate creative problem solving through communication and analysis. References: - 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