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Conflict and Conflict Management

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Chapter 11
Conflict in Organizations
Learning Goals
• Define conflict and conflict behavior in
organizations
• Distinguish between functional and
dysfunctional conflict
• Understand different levels and types of
conflict in organizations
• Analyze conflict episodes and the linkages
among them
Learning Goals (Cont.)
• Understand the role of latent conflict in an
episode and its sources in an organization
• Describe a conflict management model
• Use various techniques to reduce and
increase conflict
• Appreciate some international and ethical
issues in conflict management
Chapter Overview
• Introduction
• Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict
• Levels and Types of Conflict in
Organizations
• Conflict Episodes
• Conflict Frames and Orientations
• Latent Conflict: The Sources of Conflict in
Organizations
Chapter Overview (Cont.)
•
•
•
•
Conflict Management
Reducing Conflict
Increasing Conflict
International Aspects of Conflict in
Organizations
• Ethical Issues in Conflict in Organizations
Introduction
Conflict: What does the word mean to you?
Conflict
Conflicto
Conflit
Conflito
Introduction (Cont.)
• Definition
–
–
–
–
Opposition
Incompatible behavior
Antagonistic interaction
Block another party from reaching her or his
goals
Range of conflict behavior
Doubt or questioning
Annihilation of opponent
Introduction (Cont.)
• Key elements
– Interdependence with another party
– Perception of incompatible goals
• Conflict events
–
–
–
–
Disagreements
Debates
Disputes
Preventing someone from reaching valued
goals
Introduction (Cont.)
• Conflict is not always bad for an
organization
• Do not need to reduce all conflict
• Conflict episodes: ebb and flow of conflict
• An inevitable part of organization life
• Needed for growth and survival
• Conflict management includes increasing
and decreasing conflict
• Major management responsibility
Introduction (Cont.)
Brazilian Saying
(Ditado popular, Portuguese)
Toda unanimidade Г© burra.
(“It’s dumb if we all agree.”)
Special thanks to Gustavo Sette Rabello,
Graduate Student, The Robert O. Anderson Graduate School of Management, 1996
Functional and
Dysfunctional Conflict
• Functional conflict: works toward the
goals of an organization or group
• Dysfunctional conflict: blocks an organization or group from reaching its goals
– Dysfunctionally high conflict: what you
typically think about conflict
– Dysfunctionally low conflict: an atypical view
– Levels vary among groups
Functional and
Dysfunctional Conflict (Cont.)
• Functional conflict
– “Constructive Conflict”--Mary Parker Follett
(1925)
– Increases information and ideas
– Encourages innovative thinking
– Unshackles different points of view
– Reduces stagnation
Functional and
Dysfunctional Conflict (Cont.)
• Dysfunctionally high conflict
–
–
–
–
Tension, anxiety, stress
Drives out low conflict tolerant people
Reduced trust
Poor decisions because of withheld or distorted
information
– Excessive management focus on the conflict
Functional and
Dysfunctional Conflict (Cont.)
• Dysfunctionally low conflict
– Few new ideas
– Poor decisions from lack of innovation and
information
– Stagnation
– Business as usual
Levels and Types
of Conflict
Level of conflict
Organization
Group
Individual
Type of conflict
Within and between organizations
Within and between groups
Within and between individuals
Levels and Types
of Conflict (Cont.)
• Intraorganization conflict
– Conflict that occurs within an organization
– At interfaces of organization functions
– Can occur along the vertical and horizontal
dimensions of the organization
• Vertical conflict: between managers and
subordinates
• Horizontal conflict: between departments and work
groups
Levels and Types
of Conflict (Cont.)
• Intragroup conflict
– Conflict among members of a group
– Early stages of group development
– Ways of doing tasks or reaching group's goals
• Intergroup conflict: between two or more
groups
Levels and Types
of Conflict (Cont.)
• Interpersonal conflict
–
–
–
–
Between two or more people
Differences in views about what should be done
Efforts to get more resources
Differences in orientation to work and time in
different parts of an organization
Levels and Types
of Conflict (Cont.)
• Intrapersonal conflict
– Occurs within an individual
•
•
•
•
Threat to a person’s values
Feeling of unfair treatment
Multiple and contradictory sources of socialization
Related to the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance
(Chapter 5) and negative inequity (Chapter 8)
Levels and Types
of Conflict (Cont.)
• Interorganization conflict
– Between two or more organizations
– Not competition
– Examples: suppliers and distributors,
especially with the close links now possible
Conflict Episodes
Simple conflict episode
Latent conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict aftermath
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
• Latent conflict: antecedents of conflict
behavior that can start conflict episode
• Manifest conflict: observable conflict
behavior
• Conflict aftermath
– End of a conflict episode
– Often the starting point of a related episode
– Becomes the latent conflict for another episode
• Conflict reduction: lower the conflict
level
Conflict Episodes
Latent conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict reduction
Conflict aftermath
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
Latent conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict aftermath
The antecedents of
conflict
Example: scarce
resources
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
• Some latent conflict in the lives of college
students
–
–
–
–
–
–
Parking spaces
Library copying machines
Computer laboratory
Books in the bookstore
School and other parts of your life
University policies
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
Latent conflict
Observable conflict
behavior
Manifest conflict
Conflict aftermath
Example:
disagreement,
discussion
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
Latent conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict aftermath
Residue of a
conflict episode
Example:
compromise in
allocating scarce
resources leaves both
parties with less than
they wanted
Conflict Episodes
Latent conflict
Perceived conflict
Felt conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict reduction
Text book Figure 11.1
Conflict aftermath
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
• Perceived conflict
– Become aware that one is in conflict with
another party
– Can block out some conflict
– Can perceive conflict when no latent conditions
exist
– Example: misunderstanding another person’s
position on an issue
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
• Felt conflict
–
–
–
–
–
Emotional part of conflict
Personalizing the conflict
Oral and physical hostility
Hard to manage episodes with high felt conflict
What people likely recall about conflict
Relationships Among
Conflict Episodes
• Episodes link through the connection of
conflict aftermath to latent conflict
• Effective conflict management: break the
connection
• Discover the latent conflicts and remove
them
Relationships Among
Conflict Episodes (Cont.)
Conflict reduction
Latent conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict aftermath
Latent conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict aftermath
Latent conflict
Manifest conflict
Conflict aftermath
Conflict Frames
and Orientations
• Conflict frames
– Perceptual sets that people bring to conflict
episodes
– Perceptual filters
• Remove some information from an episode
• Emphasize other information in an episode
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
Relationship-Task
Conflict
frame
Emotional-Intellectual
Cooperate-Win
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
• Conflict frame dimensions
– Relationship-Task
• Relationship: focuses on interpersonal relationships
• Task: focuses on material aspects of an episode
– Emotional-Intellectual
• Emotional: focuses on feelings in the conflict
episode (felt conflict)
• Intellectual: focuses on observed behavior (manifest
conflict)
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
• Conflict frame dimensions (cont.)
– Cooperate-Win
• Cooperate: emphasizes the role of all parties to the
conflict
• Win: wants to maximize personal gain
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
• Conflict frames
– Limited research results
• End an episode with a relationship or intellectual
frame: feel good about relationship with other party
• Cooperation-focused people end with more positive
results than those focused on winning
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
• Conflict orientations
– Dominance: wants to win; conflict is a battle
– Collaborative: wants to find a solution that
satisfies everyone
– Compromise: splits the differences
– Avoidance: backs away
– Accommodative: focuses on desires of other
party
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
• Can change during conflict episode
– How firmly the person holds orientation
– Importance of the issues to the person
– Perception of opponent's power
• Collaborative orientation: more positive
long-term benefits than the others
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
Conflict orientation and the conflict aftermath
Collaborative
Compromise
No residue
Avoidance
Accommodative
Dominance
High residue
Conflict aftermath
Conflict Frames
and Orientations (Cont.)
• Combinations of conflict orientations in a
group
–
–
–
–
–
–
Dominance, avoidance
Dominance, dominance
Avoidance, avoidance
Dominance, collaborative, compromise
Collaborative, compromise, avoidance
Collaborative, compromise, avoidance,
dominance, accommodative
Latent Conflict: The Sources of
Conflict in Organizations
• Antecedents to conflict episodes
• Many natural conditions of organizations
act as latent conflicts
• Lurk in the background; trigger conflict
when right conditions occur
• Does not always lead to manifest conflict
• Give us clues about how to reduce
dysfunctionally high conflict
Latent Conflict: The Sources of
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• Some representative latent conflict
– Scarce resources: money, equipment, facilities
– Organizational differentiation: different
orientations in different parts of organization
– Rules, procedures, policies: behavioral guides
that can cause clashes
– Cohesive groups: value and orientation
differences among groups
Latent Conflict: The Sources of
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• Some representative latent conflict (cont.)
– Interdependence: forces interaction
– Communication barriers: shift work and
jargon
– Ambiguous jurisdictions: areas of authority
not clearly defined
– Reward systems: reward different behavior in
different parts of the organization
Sales on commission; manufacturing rewarded
for meeting schedules. Communication differences.
Conflict Management Model
• Maintain conflict at functional levels
–
–
–
–
Not complete elimination
Reducing to functional levels
Increasing dysfunctionally low conflict
Choose desired level of conflict based on
perceived conflict requirements
– Varies in different parts of an organization
– Manager’s tolerance for conflict plays a role
Conflict Management Model
(Cont.)
Organizational
culture
Product or
service
Perceived conflict requirements
Desired conflict level
Fast-changing
environment
Conflict Management Model
(Cont.)
Dysfunctionally
low conflict
Dysfunctionally
high conflict
Normal
Increase
conflict
Decrease
conflict
Text book Figure 11.2
Conflict Management Model
(Cont.)
• Symptoms of dysfunctionally high conflict
–
–
–
–
–
Low trust
Information distortion
Tension/antagonism
Stress
Sabotage of organization’s product or service
Conflict Management Model
(Cont.)
• Symptoms of dysfunctionally low conflict
–
–
–
–
–
Deny differences
Repress controversial information
Prohibit disagreements
Avoid interactions
Walk away from conflict episode
Reducing Conflict
• Overview
– Lose-lose methods: parties to the conflict
episode do not get what they want
– Win-lose methods: one party a clear winner;
other party a clear loser
– Win-win methods: each party to the conflict
episode gets what he or she wants
Reducing Conflict (cont.)
• Lose-lose methods
– Avoidance
• Withdraw, stay away
• Does not permanently reduce conflict
– Compromise
• Bargain, negotiate
• Each loses something valued
– Smoothing: find similarities
Reducing Conflict (Cont.)
• Win-lose methods
– Dominance
• Overwhelm other party
• Overwhelms an avoidance orientation
– Authoritative command: decision by person
in authority
– Majority rule: voting
Reducing Conflict (Cont.)
• Win-win methods
– Problem solving: find root causes
– Integration: meet interests and desires of all
parties
– Superordinate goal: desired by all but not
reachable alone
Reducing Conflict (Cont.)
• Summary
– Lose-lose methods: compromise
– Win-lose methods: dominance
– Win-win methods: problem solving
Increasing Conflict
• Increase conflict when it is dysfunctionally
low
– Heterogeneous groups: members have
different backgrounds
– Devil’s advocate: offers alternative views
– Organizational culture: values and norms
that embrace conflict and debate
Conflict Insights
•
•
•
•
•
•
Possible positive effects of conflict
Latent conflict
Conflict aftermath
Conflict episodes
Links between episodes
Latent conflict and methods of reduction
International Aspects of
Conflict in Organizations
• Cultures that emphasize individualism and
competition
– Positively value conflict
– English-speaking countries, the Netherlands,
Italy, Belgium
• Cultures that emphasize collaboration,
cooperation, conformity
– Negatively value conflict
– Many Asian and Latin American countries;
Portugal, Greece, Turkey
International Aspects of
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• No direct research evidence
• Cultural differences imply different
functional conflict levels
International Aspects of
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• Cross-cultural research has dealt with
intergroup processes
• Collaborative and cooperative cultures
expect little conflict during intergroup
interactions
• Favor suppression of conflict with little
discussion about people's feelings
• Felt conflict likely part of some conflict
episodes but hidden from public view
International Aspects of
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• Managers from an individualistic country
operating in a less individualistic country
– Acceptable to express feelings during a conflict
episode
– Suppression of feelings could baffle them
– Increasing conflict can confuse local people
– Almost immediate dysfunctional results
Ethical Issues in
Conflict in Organizations
• Tolerance for conflict
– Manager with a high tolerance for conflict;
keeps conflict levels too high for subordinates
– Should such managers reveal their intentions
about desired conflict levels?
– Full disclosure: subordinates could leave the
group if conflict levels became dysfunctionally
stressful
– Ethical question applies equally to newly hired
employees
Ethical Issues in
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• Deliberately increasing conflict is an effort
to guide behavior in a desired direction
– Subtle methods of increasing conflict (forming
heterogeneous groups) connote manipulation
– Full disclosure: manager states his intention to
use conflict to generate ideas and innovation
– If people are free to join a group or not, the
ethical issue likely subsides
Ethical Issues in
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• Experiencing intrapersonal conflict
– Requests to act against one's moral values
– Observing behavior that one considers
unethical
• Reduce intrapersonal conflict
– Report unethical acts
– Transfer to another part of the organization
– Quit
Ethical Issues in
Conflict in Organizations (Cont.)
• Different cultures place different values on
conflict
– Optimal conflict levels vary among countries
– Lower levels conflict in collectivistic countries
than individualistic countries
Should managers honor such values even if their home
country values support higher levels of conflict?
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