How to handle conflicts in an organization?

Organizations are responsible for creating a work environment that enables people to thrive. If turf war, disagreement, and differences of opinion escalate into conflict you must intervene immediately. Conflict in the organization can be constructive or destructive for an organization. Most of the time it is destructive affecting morale, productivity and even turnover.

In fact, the Chinese character for "conflict" represents two meanings, opportunity and danger. As a manager you need to find and focus on how to make it beneficial and how to minimize the negative aspects. As the CEO, you have to create an organizational culture that encourage and even rewards good conflict management, your goal has to be to increase the benefits achieved from managing and encouraging beneficial conflict, like task and process conflict, while managing, resolving and reducing the negative effects of relationship conflict. This article looks in to how to manage conflict in the organization.

It provides definite positive and negative consequences, theory, type, example, current research results, conflict management strategies with their related studies, and resolution process of conflict. Different writers have defined organizational conflict in different way.

The common key words, which are used in these definitions, are frustration, incongruence, incompatibility and mismatch. There are six levels of conflict: Intra-individual conflict, Inter-individual conflict, Intra-group conflict, Inter-group conflict, Intra-organizational conflict and Inter-organizational conflict. Another important organizational concept is the "Organizational Commitment".

The four approaches to study and conceptualize OC are: Attitudinal approach, Behavioral approach, normative approach and Multidimensional approach. This paper is an attempt to understand the causes, consequences and types of conflicts and suggest remedial steps for the smooth functioning of the organization.

The concept of conflict may be understood as collision or disagreement. The conflict may be with an individual when there is an incompatibility between his or her own goal and event; may be between two individual or between two groups of organization. According to Chaung and Megginson conflict is "the struggle between incompatible or opposing needs, wishes, ideas, interest or people". Conflict arises when individual or group encounter goal that both parties cannot obtain satisfactorily.

The term conflict, evasion fights, riots or wars have become pervasive and, in fact, virtually every day of every year one can find dozens of armed combat situation somewhere in the world. These are more violent expression of conflict but a manager encounters more stubble and non-violent type of opposition such as arguments, criticism and disagreement. Conflict can be positive and negative-constructive or destructive.

It may be cognitive or affective. Cognitive conflict refers to differences in perspectives or judgments about issues. Affective conflict is emotional and directed at other people. Affective conflict is likely to be destructive because it can lead to anger, bitterness, goal displacement and poor decisions. Cognitive conflict, on the other hand can air legitimate difference of opinion and develop better idea and solution to problem, when conflict occurs within the company team and between the team and outsider it can reduce morale, lower productivity increase absenteeism and cause smaller large scale to serious and violent behavior.

There are three types of conflict in the organization-task, process and relationship. Task conflict relates to the content and goal of the work. According to Graves, task conflict arises among members of team and affects the goals and tasks they are striving to achieve. It can be based on differences in vision, intention or qualities expectation. It is essential to focus and channel any task conflict so that these differences become collaborative and lead to improvements in the way and go about accomplishing current and future task. Converting conflict to friendly competition might be one way or taking the best from both sides.

Then there is process conflict, which is related to how the work gets done. This form of conflict centers around, the process, procedures, steps or methods used to reach goal. One person might like to plan many steps ahead while others might like to dive in headfirst. These differences in approaches or processes can lead to communication breakdowns and ultimately conflict. But task, process conflict can be useful if managed correctly. Healthy differences in approaches to process will often lead to improved way of doing job.

Relationship conflicts focus on interpersonal relationship. They are directly between people and may be over roles style, resources or even personalities. This conflict can penetrate and damage all aspect of an organization. Relationship conflict can quickly demand all the attention and energy.

Positive Consequences of Conflict:
• Increased involvement
• Increased cohesion
• Increased innovation and creativity
• Personal growth and change
• Clarification of key issues
• Organizational vibrancy
• Individual and group identities
• Major stimulant for change
• Group thinking is avoided
• A minimum level of conflict is optimal

Negative consequences of conflict
• Unresolved anger
• Personality clashes
• Less self esteem
• Inefficiency
• Diversion of energy from work
• Psychology well being threatened
• Wastage of resources
• Negative climate
• Group cohesion disrupted
• Create stress in people
• Frustration