Conflict analysis using an organizational justice model.v1
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Conflict analysis using an organizational justice model.v1



This paper relates to applying conflict analysis and diagnostic models to grievance and complaint processes. Conflict analysis is critical in achieving successful outcomes within an organization’s ...

This paper relates to applying conflict analysis and diagnostic models to grievance and complaint processes. Conflict analysis is critical in achieving successful outcomes within an organization’s grievance or complaint process, and involves two steps: Diagnosing the conflict; and then developing a program to fit and address the conflict.

Conflict models are an effective way of diagnosing conflict, and an Organizational Justice Model is used to example their application within an organisational setting.



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Conflict analysis using an organizational justice model.v1 Conflict analysis using an organizational justice model.v1 Document Transcript

  • Conflict Analysis using an Organizational Justice ModelAbstractThis paper relates to applying conflict analysis and diagnostic models to grievance and complaintprocesses. Conflict analysis is critical in achieving successful outcomes within an organization’sgrievance or complaint process, and involves two steps: Diagnosing the conflict; and then developinga program to fit and address the conflict.Conflict models are an effective way of diagnosing conflict, and an Organizational Justice Model isused to example their application within an organisational setting.Contents 1. The ABC of a Conflict. 2. Why Conflict Analysis is so important to successful conflict resolution. 3. Conflict Analysis 4. Resolving Substantive Issues. 5. Resolving Relationship Issues. Conclusion References1. The ABC of a Conflict.A conflict can be described as:When two or more people or groups perceive that their values or needs are incompatible (Tillett &French, p17).Approaches to resolving conflict that focus on “facts” are unlikely to be effective. It is not facts butfeelings that underpin conflict. Conflict arises when facts and reality are perceived in a way thatgenerates negative feelings (Tillett & French, p81,82).A conflict can be described in terms of an ABC Conflict Triangle (Augsberger), where:  Attitudes (perceptions) result in feelings of frustration or reinforced negative attitudes and emotions;  Behaviour of one the participant’s actions block the other’s sought values and needs;  Conflict results from the situation and differing values and needs of the participants.Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 1
  • Each of these three components has a “triangular” interdependence, and if not addressed interactwith each other in a self reinforcing way, increasing levels of conflict. Refer to Figure 1.2. Why Conflict Analysis is so important to successful conflict resolution.Reasons why resolving conflicts fail include:  Lack of shared information to redress misunderstandings;  Focusing on facts and reason, or using position power, that override the values and needs of others;  Not respecting others feelings or treating them insensitively;  “Leaping into Battle” and reacting to differences rather than managing them proactively;  Avoiding issues (conflict rarely disappears though it may be hidden);  Discounting the conflict by “labelling” the personality faults of others (e.g. difficult, stupid) rather than addressing the issues.The cost of not addressing conflict can include:  Loss of productivity and increased costs (e.g. complaint/grievance and appeal costs; presenteeism);  Increased volume and escalation of conflicts in the workplace;  Loss of trust and commitment between employees and management;  Use of manipulative management practices (e.g. terminate or transfer of “problem” employee) that can effect trust in workplace relations.Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 2
  • Without an adequate conflict analysis methodology conflict resolution is often ineffective and fails(Tillett & French, p 76). An effective conflict analysis methodology involves a:process of analysing and diagnosing a conflict and developing a plan for resolving the conflict.A Conflict Analysis methodology involves two steps (Furlong, p3,4):  Effectively diagnosing the conflict; and then  Taking action to manage the conflict based on that diagnosis.3. Conflict AnalysisStep 1 Diagnosing the ConflictDiagnosing conflict issues involves investigating in a non-judgemental way as much information aspossible about the conflict. Such as what the:  Issues of the conflict are;  Participants relationship to each other;  Relevant past history;  Values and needs of the participants;  Barriers to resolving the conflict;  Power, how it is used and its effect on the conflict.Tillett & French emphasise that it is the process that is important, whether a model is used, charts,checklists, pro-forma questions, or steps in a predetermined structure of analysis. Alman in HealthyOrganizations from Conflict Management, for example, illustrates in Table 2 an Investigation Recordbased on a five factor analysis, and Tillett & French in Resolving Conflict reference a number of otherways of diagnosing conflict (page 78).Selection of a conflict diagnostic model can vary because conflicts vary so much, and some modelsbetter fit, illustrate, and assist in the interpretation a particular conflict. Selection is not solely basedon relevance to a conflict, however, but also by preference. For example in The Conflict ResolutionToolbox Furlong analyses the same conflict scenario using eight different models, which highlightdifferent aspects and interpretations of a conflict scenario.While conflict analysis aims to provide objectivity in assessment, the selection of a particular tool overanother seems to not only illustrate the evaluative nature of the process, but the value of applying anevaluative approach in assisting the participants move toward a mutually acceptable resolution.The selection of elements of a conflict analysis, what is included, what is excluded, whether an“event” or a “systemic” perspective is taken, can influence the outcome. It could therefore be arguedthat importance lies in the skilled selection of an appropriate conflict analysis tool, and acknowledgingCopyright David Alman 2011 Page 3
  • the evaluative nature of a model in what is sought to best address the specific characteristics of aparticular conflict.The evaluative nature involved in selecting a conflict diagnostic model allows for the “framing” of theconflict and a way to perceive a conflict. For example (Spangle & Isenhart, p30):  Substantive issues – how the issues in the conflict are viewed;  Outcome – what preferred solutions are sought by the parties;  Loss-gain – what risks and benefits are associated with various outcomes;  Aspirations – what are the underlying needs and wants;  Characteristics – what “labels” are applied to the other party, to oneself, and the relationship;  Process – expectations of how the conflict should be managed.This conflict “frame” can be “reframed” through the use of conflict diagnostic models that allow newperspectives and insights to be provided to participants that may assist in transforming the way theyview the conflict and lead to improved understanding and resolution.In Figure 2 the Organizational Justice Model is illustrated where organizational justice principlesoperate within a context of the conflict issues such as the relevant past history behind a conflict,constraints, interests, and perceived barriers to resolution. A conflict is closely related to the contextin which it occurs, and relevant contextual factors can include structure, norms & values,relationships, communication, interdependence, power (Spangle & Isenhart, p21).Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 4
  • In Figure 2 an Organizational Justice Triangle relates to the sense of fairness or unfairness perceivedby the participants in the conflict, and includes:  Distributive Justice: Perception of equity, equality, and whether values and needs are addressed by the outcome or decision;  Procedural Justice: The perceived fairness of the processes, procedures, and policies applied;  Interactional Justice: Perception of the interpersonal treatment received (Baldwin, and Coetzee).In addition, at the centre of the Organizational Justice Model in Figure 2, are underpinning values andneeds of the parties. While there are varying concepts that could be applied to values and needs, theBasic Human Values model by Swartz appears relevant to both employees and the organization,where values of participants may be in opposition.The Organizational Justice Model and the supporting Basic Human Values Model is applicable toorganizational conflicts as they can reflect the perceptions of both employees and management.Within the Basic Human Values model illustrated in Figure 3 some reasons for resistance that cancause conflict are described (Spangle & Isenhart, p6).The Organizational Justice model can be translated into a working framework as shown as shown inTable 1. The Conflict Analysis Chart.Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 5
  • Step 2 Developing a Conflict Resolution Program.While an organization may have a Grievance or Complaints Management process, it is preferable thata flexible and relevant conflict resolution program be incorporated so a “best fit” response can beapplied to particular conflict issues.Grievance and Complaint Management processes may build in an inherent weakness by focusingonly on the “rights” of employees and the organization rather than recognising the need to addressrelationships and underlying causes of workplace conflicts, particularly those relating to employeevalues and needs. This can lead to the settlement of presenting conflicts leaving underlying conflictsto remain and reappear later.To develop a conflict resolution program an understanding of the options available, and theirimplications, is useful as different conflicts lend themselves more to one form of conflict resolutionover another. The focus of conflict resolution can be in two forms:  Resolving the (substantive) issues involved a conflict;  Resolving relationship Issues.Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 6
  • 4 Resolving Substantive Issues.4.1 Collaborative Problem Solving.Collaborative Problem Solving refers to processes in which the participants to a conflict, withoutexternal assistance, seek to reach a resolution. It may be that once a conflict is diagnosedparticipants believe they can discuss the conflict (formally or informally) between themselves andreach a mutually acceptable decision about how to resolve differences to their mutual satisfaction.This process is applicable for conflicts arising from misunderstandings or miscommunications where asupervisor can work through differences with their employee(s) or employees can work through workrelated differences between themselves (Tillett & French, p108).4.2 Facilitative Problem Solving.Involves a third party providing assistance in the management of a conflict. Generally the third partyhas no advisory or deciding role on the content of the conflict or the outcome of the resolution, butmay advise on or determine the process used in resolving the conflict. Facilitative Problem Solvingprocesses fall into four categories (Tillett & French, p109-118):4.2.1 Facilitated decision-making, Group Facilitation, and Conferencing can range from formal toinformal in style and the facilitator is primarily concerned with ensuring that an agreed agendabetween the participants is worked through in the most effective and efficient way; that timeconstraints are kept to; and the participation of the parties is maximised. Facilitated Decision makingrelates to facilitation between two parties, Group Facilitation relates to facilitation between more thantwo participants, and Conferencing is facilitation within a meeting where the third party acts achairperson.4.2.2 Facilitative Mediation is where the third party is perceived to be neutral or impartial, does notprovide advice or make recommendations, and has no authority to make decisions on content. InFacilitative Mediation the mediator is concerned only with the process of resolution and not with eitherthe content of the conflict or its outcome.4.2.3 Conciliation is where the third party assists the participants to reach a resolution within theconstraints that are externally imposed, such as legislation. The conciliator may advise on ordetermine the process whereby resolution is attempted, and may make suggestions, or advise on,likely settlement terms, and may actively encourage the participants to reach an agreement. In thiscontext Evaluative Mediation may be viewed as an equivalent process (Richbell).4.2.4 Determinative processes are those in which a third party investigates and/or hears evidenceand/or arguments regarding a conflict, and provides a decision which may or may not be binding onthe participants. The most formal and enforceable forms are referred to as arbitration or adjudication.Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 7
  • The difference is that in adjudication the third party has the authority to intervene such as through alegislative based (external) appeal mechanism linked to a grievance or complaint process, andarbitration is the authority to intervene at the request of one or other of the participants and can be setup as an (internal) appeal mechanism.5. Resolving Relationship Issues.These are processes in which a neutral third party assists those in conflicts to resolve relationshipissues. These include:5.1 Conflict CoachingInvolves working one on one with those with relationship conflict issues. Generally, the processesused are based on mediation models with conflict coaching and mediation using the same range ofmethods such as Facilitative; Transformative, and Narrative mediation. Each method has a differentemphasis in addressing a conflict, but basically using similar problem defining and problem solvingstages (Alman).5.2 Therapeutic MediationExplores the relationship between participants. The logic being that by improving the relationshipbetween the participants current and future conflict issues can be resolved based on developing astrong enough relationship to solve differences without third party assistance. Forms of TherapeuticMediation include Restorative, Transformative, and Narrative mediation (Alman).5.3 Group workInvolves a group attempting to improve working relationships as a way to resolve their conflicts.Group work can include the use of problem-solving exercises, facilitated decision making, role play,and simulations, and 360 degree feedback tools as a way through issues and improving relationships(based on Tillett & French, p115).ConclusionConflict occurs when two or more participants perceive their values and needs as incompatible.Conflict, in effect, relates to differences in perception, which is why trying to address conflicts byfocussing on “facts” can be ineffective.Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 8
  • Whether or not an organization is using a formal Grievance or Complaint process, managing a conflictwithout adequate preparation is likely to result in the conflict escalating.To manage interpersonal conflict within organizations both presenting issues and underlying causesof the conflict should be addressed. These conflicts can relate to either or both substantive andrelationship issues between the parties.Conflict Analysis is the means of addressing interpersonal conflicts by:  Diagnosing the causes of conflicts; and the  Selecting a relevant conflict resolution process.In Conflict Analysis a diagnostic model can be used to frame and reframe the issues to be addressedas a means of assisting the participants better understand what is involved in the conflict.The Organizational Justice Model is an example of a conflict diagnostic model that recognises thecontextual issues involved, goes beyond the “rights” of the parties to underlying issues of justice andfair treatment, and seeks to identify underlying values and needs that sustain conflict.ReferencesAlman, D. Healthy organizations from conflict management. Retrieved 17 June 2010, from, D.W. (1992). Conflict mediation across cultures. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster JohnKnox Press.Baldwin, D. (2006). Organisational Justice. Institute for Employment Studies. Retrieved 16 June2010, from, M.(2005). Organisational Justice. University of Pretoria. Retrieved 16 June 2010, from, G.T. (2005). The conflict resolution toolbox: Models & maps for analysing diagnosing andresolving conflict. Mississauga, Ontario: Wiley.Richbell, D. (2005). Evaluative mediation. Retrieved 16 June 2010, from, S.H. Basic human values: An overview. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Retrieved 1June 2010, from, M.L., & Isenhart, M.W.(2003). Negotiation: Communication for diverse settings. ThousandOaks, California: Sage Publications. rdTillett, G., & French, B. (2007). Resolving conflict: A practical approach (3 ed). South Melbourne,Victoria: Oxford University Press.Copyright David Alman 2011 Page 9