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Basics of Org. Conflict

July 30, 2012

Conflict in Organizations

Conflict is common in organizations; it is a common occurrence and comes in many different forms.   Conflict is not a process of singular event, it often is drawn from previous events and arises over time and results in animosity, and feelings of discomfort.  Although conflict is perceived as harmful and something which should be avoided, it can sometimes have its benefits.  A moderate degree of conflict can assist in creating new ideas and promoting healthy competition.  According to the book, Organizational Behavior, Managing People and Organizations there are three basic forms of conflict that exist in an organization.

1.  Task Conflict:  Refers to conflict regarding the goals and content of the work.

2.  Process Conflict:  Occurs when the parties agree on the goals and content of the work, but disagree on how to achieve those goals and actually complete the work.

3.  Relationship Conflict:  Conflict resulting from interpersonal issues.

In addition, mangers must know when to stimulate conflict and when to resolve the conflict if they are to avoid its potential disruptive effects.  Stimulate conflict? You may ask, at least I did.  If there is no conflict or too little conflict in an organization it could mean that employees are comfortable with the status quo or the work groups are not motivated.

Conflict Stimulation: Is the creation of constructive use of conflict by a manager to bring out different situations where different opinions are exposed by all.   When all parties to the conflict are interested enough in an issue to challenge other groups they often expose their hidden doubts or opinions, which allows the parties to get to the heart of the matter and develop unique solutions.  To do this, managers can alter the physical location of the groups forcing more interactions and resource sharing; training programs to increase employee awareness of potential problems in group decision making; and playing devil’s advocate in discussion sessions.

Conflict Resolution:  Conflict needs to be resolved when  it causes major disruptions in the organization and absorbs time and effort that could be used more productively, or when it is focused on the groups internal goals rather than organizational goals.  When trying to resolve conflict managers should first try to determine the origin of the conflict.  If the problem is occurring by a particular person or two it might be necessary to alter the member ship of the groups.  If the conflict is happening because of  differences in goals, goal alignment, attainment or importance then the manager could move the parties into one of the types of reaction to conflict, which are as follows:

  • Avoidance
  • Accommodation
  • Competition
  • Collaboration
  • Compromise

Managers have the difficult and unavoidable task of managing conflict.  This is a brief overview of the basic conflict types and descriptions from  the book I read, previously noted.  I am still thinking about conflict stimlation, however.


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