Conflict is a state of mind characterized by indecision, uncertainty, dilemma, tension and anxiety. An individual experiences conflict when he is expected to behave in two or more incompatible ways at the same time. Conflicts also occur when an individuals goal oriented behaviour is hindered. Conflicts that occur between two or more individuals and two or more groups such as trade union and management are terms as inter individual conflict and as inter group conflict respectively. This article mainly focused on managing conflicts in organizations effectively and the methodology to be adopted for the same.
It has been recognized that there are four basic causes for organizational conflict as follows:
- Incompatible goals situation
- Existences of incompatible means or incompatible resource allocations
- Status incompatibility
- Difference in perceptions
Conflicts in organizations could cause constructive, destructive or mixed consequences depending on the methodology of how they are managed. Manager’s skill in conflict management plays a vital role in determining which would be the consequences.
Advantages of Conflicts
Conflicts can be energizing. It causes people to be alert and to drive themselves by seeking new achievements. Conflicts occasionally act as a safety valve for larger issues which are too dangerous to confront. In this way, resolution of small conflicts prevent large conflicts from occurring by allowing parties concerned to the conflict to blow off their anxiety. Conflicts often cause a scenario that would be useful to diagnose a bigger potential conflict that could happen in the future. Conflict in an organization definitely signals that there is some thing wrong in the existing systems. By being alert to the alarming potential of the conflict, managers may uncover organizational problems in advance.
Conflict is potentially an encouragement for the creation of innovative solutions for an organization’s problems. Conflict may force management to look at old problems from completely new perspective, which integrates various organizational interests.
Disadvantages of Conflicts
On the other hand, consequences of conflict could be costly and disadvantageous to the organization. It can enfeeble the organization in the long run. The aggravation and disrupting existing systems in the organization due to conflicts, can cause mental and physical fatigue among the personnel concerned in the organization.
Conflicts can also upset priority of issues and alternative solutions to the organization problems. It can provoke aggressive and competitive feelings among groups of employees in an organization and increase the likelihood of destructive rather than constructive solutions depending on how efficiently conflicts are handled.
Conflicts in organizations is inevitable. It cannot be removed simply by formulating rules or management memoranda. Its effects does not disappear just because management refuses to discuss the issue pertaining to the conflict. So that conflicts in any organization should be managed systematically. Conflict management requires an approach which is aimed at enhancing the benefit of conflicts. Conflicts should be managed using the following three strategies:
- Win-Win. This is probably the most desirable from a human and organizational point of view. Energy and creativity are aimed at solving the problems rather than beating the other party. Both the needs of parties are met and both receive rewarding outcome.
- Win-Lose. One party in a conflict situation attempts to marshal its forces to win and the other party loses.
- Lose-Lose. This concept is where both parties to the conflict lose. This is usually less desirable than the other two strategies.
The approach of conflict resolution can take several forms:
- To pay off one of the parties
- Use arbitration
- To resort to bureaucratic rules
In order to manage conflicts to achieve constructive ends, managers must understand the anatomy, true nature and dynamics of the conflict. Managers should possess high level of empathy and understand the psychology of parties involved in the conflict.
One of the techniques that assists in the analysis and understanding of conflicts is the “Force-Field” analysis introduced by Kurt Lewin. According to his theory the conflict is due to a number of forces operating at a given time on an individual or on a given situation.
In addition a manager should possess the following skills as well:
- Self awareness. How he perceives others and how others perceive him.
- Maintaining a high level of positive energy – be optimistic
- Use personal power and charisma to influence
- Supportive communication as against defensive communication
- Dealing with the resistance of others
- Negotiation skills
How to manage conflicts effectively
People in conflicts have different interest and prefer different alternative. The strategy adopted to resolve conflict will be based on the following:
- Determination of the goals to be achieved in resolving a conflict
- Perception of parties who are involved in the conflict – their perception of each other.
- View of other’ actions involved in the conflict.
- Communication among the conflicting parties
Techniques of Conflict Management
- Structural approach
- Tactical (Process) approach
Structural approach requires that an outsider gets involved in the problem solving process who structure the meeting based on the most pressing demands presented by the conflicting parties.
Tactical approach is based on co-operation between parties where it is perceived that win-win situation is possible and both parties talk face to face so as to reduce the suspicion that exists between the parties.