According to Daft (2010) conflict is viewed as an antagonistic interaction in which one party attempts to thwart the intentions or goals of another. Persons tend to have different interest, goals, values and needs and under the right circumstances these differences can escalade between individuals, teams or organizations. However conflict is not always negative, if conflict is handled constructively it will promote growth and problem solving (Khaire, 2009). Constructively handling conflict can be part of open communication which is encouraged in a team.
There are four types of conflict that could occur in a work environment they are interpersonal conflict - which occurs between individual based on different goals or values; intragroup conflict - this occurs within a group or a team; intergroup conflict - this is between two or more groups or teams and inter-organizational conflict - which occurs across organizations (Weber, 2000). In the case of conflict arising in the workplace a systematic approach needs to be taken where the dynamics of the conflict is assessed, methods of handling conflict are taken into consideration when the various handling styles and the appropriate conflict resolution tools are utilized to resolve the conflict at hand. The methods of managing conflict are through power contest, rights contest or interest reconciliation. While the various handling styles are - accommodating, avoiding, competing, compromising and collaborating (Daft, 2010). A proficient manager will know how to apply the different methods of conflict management in a fair and effective way (Ireland, 2010).
This project will attempt to provide a detailed explanation of how to handle and manage conflict. The scenario below will aid as an example to a conflict that can arise in the workplace and how it could be dealt with.
Trey is a general manager at Jamaica's Bauxite Shipment Company he oversees all the day to day operations within the business which includes production and operations which is his core responsibility. Trey have been with the company for the past 2 years and he often relies on James a less academic but hard working and a long standing member with the company to fill him in on the daily operations relating to the technical aspect of the job. As a result of this relationship Trey and James have become very close friends. However, James is dating the accounts clerk -Debra in Trey's office. According to Jamaica's Bauxite Shipment Company code of conduct; employee relationship are clearly prohibited. Also this relationship has made James lose focus and as a result prevents him from executing his tasks. Trey has spoken to James on several occasions but still to no avail as James constantly uses their friendship as a means of "noncompliance" with Trey's orders.
Trey is contemplating firing Debra, even though James has become incompetent, Trey felt firing him would affect their friendship and in turn prevent him from doing his own job.
Is there a conflict?
Trey and James have developed a very good friendship over the years, however James have broken company rules by forming a relationship with the accounts clerk - Debra. This has not only compromised Trey's job as the manager but has also reduce productivity since James has become incompetent to accomplish his own duties. Now Trey is faced with the decision of either firing Debra or James, but Debra is a valued member of the team as the accounts clerk, while James friendship is of value to Trey and termination of James' contract will affect their friendship.
Conflict has many roots in an organization however, the main causes of conflict is due to communication breakdown, competition over resources, goal differences and trust issues (Daft, 2010). There can be a break at any point in the communication process which can cause a breakdown in communication. In the communication process a sender encodes a message that is sent via a channel to the receiver, the receiver in turn decodes the message and then encodes a response, then that response is sent by another channel to the sender who decodes the response (Daft, 2010).
According to Khaire (2009) "In today's environment where people are being asked to do more with less, there is often conflict over people, budgets, tools of technology and even supplies - when resources are limited conflict are often as a byproduct." Also when persons are in pursuit of their individual goals, or if managerial goals differ from that of their subordinates' conflict can arise (Daft, 2010). Lack of trust can also be a cause of conflict in an organisation.
In the case of the scenario above the cause of the conflict could be due to a communication breakdown as well as goal differences. The breakdown in the communication can be due to various breaks in the process. The manager could be relaying the information in a manner that James did not understand as in the message was not clear or the channel that it was used to send the message was not suitable. Also it could be that James did not decode the message how Trey had intended it to be decoded hence James did not understand what was said.
Trey's goals seem to be focused on maintaining his relationship with James as well as being competent in his own work while keeping the ideals of the company. James's goals on the other hand seem to be to maintain a relationship with Debra as well as using the perks that comes with having a friend who is a manager. Trey's goals can be perceived as antagonistic to those of James and from the definition of a conflict, it can be said that a conflict can be developed from differing views and interests between the two friends.
According to Daft (2010) "Teams as well as individuals develop specific styles for dealing with conflict, based on the desire to satisfy their own concern versus the other party's concern". An individual can either be assertive or cooperative in their approach to conflict. Successful team members vary their tactic to fit the specific situation or conflict. There are a number of tactics or styles of handling conflicts. These tactics or styles include Accommodating, Compromising, Collaborating, Avoiding and Competing.
Daft (2010) says that competing style reproduces assertiveness to get one's way and should be used when speedy, decisive measure is imperative on chief issues, such as during emergencies or pressing cost cutting. Competitive tactics include personal criticism; rejection, hostile requests, jokes, threats and questions; sarcasm; making statements which attribute thoughts or motives to the other party; denial of responsibility; verbal aggressiveness; refusing to disclose one's interests; remaining positional; and obnoxiousness. Each party tries to maximize its own gain and has little interest in understanding the other's position. This is most effective when there is an imperative requirement for a swift action on an urgent problem.
Collaborative orÂ mutual gainsÂ tactics include focusing on interests; problem-orientation; appealing to fairness; being descriptive; disclosing one's own goals and needs; soliciting information from the other person in the conflict; making concessions; accepting responsibility; and offering face-saving options. The parties try to handle the conflict without making concession by coming up with a new way to resolve their differences that leaves them both better off. This approach may enable both parties to win. It is most effective when assurance of both parties involved is needed for an agreement, and when the apprehensions of both parties are too significant to give and take or compromise.
Compromise tactic is striking a middle-range position between two extremes, reflecting a moderate amount of assertiveness and cooperativeness (Daft, 2010). Each party is concerned about their goal accomplishment and is willing to engage in give-and-take exchange to reach a reasonable solution. This approach can work if it is used with care, but in most compromise the outcome is a win-lose situations. This tactic will involve corporation from both parties. It is most effective when both parties have an equivalent amount of power and both opponents want to split the difference, also when there is a pressing need to come to a temporary solution, and when all involved have goals that are of the same importance.
Avoiding tactic, two parties try to ignore the problem and do nothing to resolve the disagreement. This tactic shows neither assertiveness nor any level of cooperativeness. Daft (2010) stated that this is most effective when the conflict is unimportant or trivial and there is no need to cause a disruption as it may be too costly. This is type of tactic may be carried out when there is no chance of winning.
Accommodating tactic involves making major attempts to suit the other party's interests. This type of tactic has a high degree of cooperativeness. One party simply gives in to the other party. This type of conflict handling tactic is most efficient when persons are aware of the fact they are wrong and when it is very important that accord is upheld.
Collaborative: wants to find a solution that satisfies everyone
Compromise: splits the differences
Avoidance: backs away
Accommodative: focuses on desires of other party
Each tactic is useful for certain situations and is not advised in others. If there is a best choice it is to select the tactic for handling the right situation.Â None are wrong nor is one better than another it is just to know in which type of situation each is best applied.
In the scenario there is a conflict of differing views and goals of Trey and James. There is a possibility that a win-win situation such as collaboration would not be feasible if Trey decide on firing Debra or James. Avoidance can only occur for so long before there is a marked decrease in production due to the incompetence of James' performance. Trey may therefore need to use the competing tactic to ensure that there is a quick and decisive action because accommodating James having a relationship with Debra is against the company's rules.
It was Daft (2010) who stated that if conflict is too strong, that is focused on personal rather than work issues, or that is not managed appropriately can be damaging to the team's morale and productivity. He further explained that too much conflict could also be destructive for the organization and as a result it could tear relationships apart and interfere with the healthy exchange of ideas and information. Other consequences of conflict are wasted time, bad decision, unnecessary restructuring, sabotage, theft, damage and lost employee. In this scenario it is indicated that the consequences of conflict would be lost of friendship of trusted employee (James), decrease employee morale, decrease productivity and also wasted time.
The lost of friendship or broken relationship is one of the most profound consequences seen to be occurring in this case. It is known that some managers are often afraid of the consequence when making organization decision due to the impact it will have on their friendship with an employee. Trey greatly depends on James to aid in the smooth running of the business operation. Therefore Trey terminating James contract would yield not only a broken relationship but will also impede Trey's performance which will in turn result in an increase work load which may eventually lead to increase stress and expense to the company.
If Trey decides that only Debra contract is to be terminated then this can still cause James to still be incompetent in completing his work as well as cause the friendship with Trey to deteriorate This is known as decrease employee morale and it is another factor one can presume will be a consequence in this case. If Trey then decides that both Debra and James are to retain their post and no penalty is due then the ethical code of conduct would be broken, if the issue is not adequately resolve then this may escalade the situation where other employees may see this as a 'green light' to participate in employee relations.
Wasted time is another consequence of conflict that is evidence in this scenario, James and Debra has decided to pursue their own personal goals, without regard for the organizational goals and its well-being. This could eventually results in strife among their coworkers. James has become so focused on achieving his own objectives, that he disregards how it affects others within the organization particularly Trey and the company itself. Consequently, his decrease in production could also bring added stress not only to Trey but to other employee which may lead to resentment in these co-workers.
Customarily we handle conflict through avoidance or position-based competition. In theÂ avoidance approach, people in conflict simply do not deal with their differences in order, for example, to keep peace in the office. This approach is useful if the differences are thought to be insignificant or if the persons involved need time to "cool off." It may be non-productive if the parties just let the conflict worsen, as in the case of conflict between employee and manager. In theÂ position-based competitive approach, we hold to our positions and try to prevail over the other person. This approach has two strains:Â power contestÂ andÂ rights contest.
Power is the potential ability to influence behaviour, to change the course of events, to overcome resistance, and to get people to do things that they would not otherwise do (Pfeffer, 1994, p.30). According to French and Raven (1956) power is derived primarily from five sources:Â Legitimate, reward, coercive, referent power and expert power. A person is said to have power based on his or her position within the organization (RONCZKA, 2012).
Legitimate powerÂ is formal management position in an organization and employees will accept this as a legitimate source of power and comply. Trey did not demonstrate legitimate power because of his relationship with James. He became depended on James for the smooth running of the department. Due to this James feel as if he has leverage within the company since Trey is now his friend and also demonstrated that there is a level of dependence.
Reward powerÂ is the ability of the manager to reward others. The manager can give formal rewards, such as pay increases or promotions, and may also use praise, attention, and recognition to influence behavior. This form of power would not be suitable in this situation since a company rule is being broken and Trey is required to uphold and enforce the company's rules and regulations.
Coercive powerÂ is the ability of managers to punish or recommend punishment. Managers have the right to fire or demote employees, criticize them, withhold pay increases and also to give reprimands. Trey as the manager has the right to punish James and Debra. Having a relationship is forbidden within the organization and a so disciplinary measure should be taken to maintain company policy and effective productivity.
Referent power is the power from another person liking you or wanting to be liked by you. James demonstrated personal behaviours due to his relationship with Trey and the fact that Trey relies on him for the result in the operational department of the business, James now believes he has leverage to side step the manager.
Trey is the manager in this organization and has the ability to exercise power in order to achieve productivity. Trey should utilize power strategies such as having a central control over the business activity. With central control even though James and Trey have a good friendship James would have respect for Trey and would comply to the numerous attempts of Trey asking him to stop dating Debra.
Â In theÂ rights contest approach, the parties in a conflict refer to their legal rights as the basis for determining their differences. If they are unable to reach agreement, they submit their claims to recognized authorities. Rivals who mount their conflict in terms of rights, normally interrelate in a legalistic, critical atmosphere that might affect work productivity. Parties communicate their grievances and state publicly their rights to protect their positions. Such interactions hardly ever engage collaboration and are inclined to strengthen already inflexible positions and negative perceptions of the other side. It was Maiese (2004) who stated that there are also times when perceptions about who is right is so different that the parties cannot set up a range inside which to negotiate, and therefore a rights approach may be needed to make clear the boundary in which a resolution may be decided.
TheÂ rights contest a legitimate and necessary way to handle conflicts. The fall back with rights contest approach is that one person wins and one person loses. As a result, feelings may be hurt, relationships may be unnecessarily damaged, and commitment to decisions may be weak.Â
Interest reconciliation is another way in which conflict can be managed. Reconciliation occurs when negative conflict has occurred and relationships have been damaged. Maiese (2004) stated that reconciling interest involves discovering deep-seated concerns and devising creative solutions so that parties may see their disputes as a mutual problem that they must work together to solve. Therefore reconciliation can be considered as the restoration of a relationship where co-operation and trust are re-built. The two common tools for interest reconciliation are negotiation and mediation.
Mediation is basically the use of a third party to settle a dispute (Daft. 2010). Daft (2010) continued to say that the mediator can be a supervisor, an outside consultant or the human resource department. The job of the mediator is to get to the core of the dispute and aid parties in a resolution. If the conflict is turned over to a mediator both parties would have to agree to abide by the mediator's decision (Daft, 2010).
Negotiation on the other hand involves a give and take situation in order to make a joint decision by both parties after various alternatives have been sought (Daft, 2010). There are two approaches to negotiation which are integrative negotiation and distributive negotiation. Daft (2010) suggested that an integrative type of negotiation is based on a win-win situation where the solution will be beneficial to both parties. While a distributive type negotiation basically involves a situation where each party tries to obtain as much as they can from the negotiation, if this is the case then only one party can "win" the other must "lose" (Daft, 2010).
Along with the tools needed for reconciliation there are also different handling styles that are associated with interest reconciliation. For example in integrative negotiation a collaborative style is used to handle the conflict. While in distributive negotiation a more competing style is used. The collaborative approach speaks to cooperatively working together until a mutual agreeable solution is found (Conflict Management). Daft (2010) further expound on this by stating that this style allows everybody to win, and there is great importance for this particular style when both sets of concerns are too important to be compromised.
Completion style on the other hand seeks to maximize one's own goals at the cost of the other party (Conflict Management). While this approach is somewhat good for business and organization for relationships more negative repercussion may result and could lead to even more conflict. If interest reconciliation is being used to manage the conflict between Trey and James then the use of a mediator to aid in the resolution of the conflict would not be necessary. If a mediator was involved then a strain could still be placed on the friendship and James could end up losing his job or be placed on suspension due to the violations of the rules and also his insubordinate actions. In turn resulting in a lost to the company since James is known to be a hard worker.
Also the use of the competitive approach would also not be the best approach since one of the parties are expected to win and if that is the case then the next party must suffer/ lose. This again would put strain on their relationship, that would also result in Trey not doing his job to his best ability and again the company would be at a lost in terms of productivity. Therefore for interest reconciliation the best solution would be to have an integrative negotiation between the two and collaboratively come to an agreement where both parties would "win". This way their relationship would be preserved and their productivity increase in order to benefit the company.
It is know that conflict resolution is the process of resolving a conflict by meeting at least some of each side's needs and addressing their interests. Knowing how to manage and resolving conflict is essential for having a productive work environment. The conflict resolution tools that are used are communication, conciliation, negotiation and mediation.
Negotiation is described by Daft (2010) as people engaging in give-and-take discussions. They then consider various alternatives to reach a joint decision that is acceptable to both parties. He further noted that negotiation is used when a conflict is formalized, such as between a union and management. Communication as the advantage of clearing up misunderstandings and foster straight forward business negotiations that is free of sarcasm, personal attacks, inaccurate information and assumptions. Communication can be an effective tool in eliminating barriers such as distrust and unfounded assumptions.
Conflict conciliation involves merging emotional satisfaction; it is achieving an actual reconciliation between two or more parties in a conflict. This means not only moving past a conflict but establishing a relationship so all the parties can continue to work together in the future. A positive relationship is created only by establishing mutual respect between all the parties involved and fully resolving any emotional conflicts.