Till now conflicts have been defined by several
categories: emotions, antecedent conditions, behaviours, cultures, and
perceptions. Instead of a specific definition, many tried to adopt a broad
definition of conflict.
Some defined conflict as the process which begins
when one party perceives that another has frustrated, or is about to frustrate,
some concern of his’. This definition is broad enough to include many kinds of
conflict phenomenon. It specifies that the beginning point of a conflict
process is the point where other social processes like decision making and
discussion, ‘switched over’ into conflict.
Thus, a conflict is likely to arise in a situation
in which there is more than a party with different interests of working ways
and outcomes. In this context a conflict is related to a situation in which one
person or party feels that its interests are being opposed or negatively
affected by the actions or interests of another person or party.
Conflict at health care places can be extremely
dangerous. Although some people argue that conflicts may have benefits, it is
clear that many instances of conflicts are harmful.
A conflict can result in win-win or lose-win or
Out of these win-win situation is most important in
It is very difficult to create a conflict free
environment but it is possible to manage the conflict.
Conflict management is the process of trying to
decrease the intensity of negative aspects of a conflict between two parties by
increasing the positive aspects of the conflicts.
The performance of an employee or a team or an
entire organization depends on how they go about in conflict management.
If a conflict is managed properly then it can
enhance the organizational learning by increasing the people to take up new
challenges and to come up with questions.
A manager plays a very important role in managing
The management of the conflict should always be
done in an impartial way and it has to be addressed as soon as possible.
When conflicts are managed properly, it increases
the effectiveness and performance of the outcome of a group, as well as the wellbeing
of the individual, as indicated by health complaints.
Due to the increasing competition and rapid changes
across the industries, stress has increased on management and workers alike,
thus increasing the chance for workplace conflicts.
Conflict resolution is reduction, termination or
elimination of all types of conflicts in a situation.
Thus, conflict resolution has become an essential
process and more importance is given to conflict prevention at workplaces.
1. TYPES AND CAUSES OF
CONFLICTS AT WORKPLACE
There are different perspectives of conflicts.
Some see in form of “conflict of interest” which is about the issues of
interests between two individuals or groups.
“Cognitive conflict is another form which may arise due to people
having different ways of viewing things.
Third is “value conflict”, which arises due to disagreements related to
different value and expectations.
Most of the workplace conflicts arise due to various miscommunications
and misunderstandings. These arise mostly because of the cultural differences
in styles of negotiating and handling conflict. There are chances that the
negotiator may misread the signal by the counterpart or may transmit an
Thus, problems are caused in more subtle and indirect ways.
Workplace conflicts are mainly due to the cultural difference between
Such conflicts are common in joint ventures of the two different firms.
A study between US and Asian firms tells us the reason of their
cultural based conflicts.
The studies reveal that Asian managers try on avoiding style because of
their high value on conformity and, while on the other hand U.S based managers
rely more on competing style due to their high value on individual achievement.
Relating to negotiations, two types of misunderstanding may happen. One
type is where US managers make the mistake of reading silence from their Asian
counterpart as an indication of consent. They fail to understand that the
silence in an indirect way of expressing objections. On the other hand the
Asian managers misread the US counterpart’s direct way of giving an argument as
indicating unreasonableness and lack of respect
differences between two parties also decide whether they select an integrative
outcome or an income that involves compromise, distribution, higher management
or no resolution at all.
· Conflict also arise
due to difference of opinions between two or more parties working together on
the same task.
· Thus, from the
above point we can say that task interdependence is one of the causes of
conflicts between two parties. Task interdependence is the degree to which the
parties have to share their common inputs, interact with each other during the
performing of the separate tasks, or receive results that are partly determined
by the mutual performance of both the individuals or groups.
are three types of task interdependences:
-Pooled interdependence: In this
condition, the parties work separately of each other except for their common
dependence on a authority or resource. It is the lowest level of task
-Sequential interdependence: In this
situation, the output of one party becomes the direct input/resource for
another party. Such situations usually arise in assembly-line situations.
-Reciprocal interdependence: It occurs in
situations where the work outcomes are exchanged frequently among the
groups/individuals. It is the highest level of interdependence
conflicts can also be helpful, as when they are resolved, they improve the team
dynamics, task orientation and cohesiveness. But, if the situation gets too
emotional a mentality of win or lose may arise leading to bad results like
frustration, job dissatisfaction and stress.
a conflict may be work process based or relationship based or task based.
2. CONFLICT ESCALATION
Escalation of conflicts
between groups or individuals can be due to
– Goal incompatibility
– Scarce resources
– Poor communication
– Improper division of
– Ambiguity, etc
As two parties start
believing that a conflict exists between them, the situation usually next
escalates itself in actions that outwardly show that an underlying conflict
have seen that a conflict between two groups can also escalate due to
differentiation. This happens when individual or groups hold different beliefs
and attitudes because of their different backgrounds, training or experiences.
For example, it may occur during business mergers and acquisitions, where
cultures, shared experiences, and practices of the formerly separate groups may
There are different
models that explain conflict escalation.
Dynamic conflict model:
It focuses on how a conflict process unfolds depending on the way it is
responded. This is to make people aware of how much the way of responding to a
conflict affects the conflicts resolution. The effect may be positive or negative.
This model separates conflicts into cognitive and affective conflicts.
Cognitive conflicts are
task forced where the parties that are involved put their concentration on
problem solving. Thus, there are very less chances for the conflict to escalate
into a dysfunctional one.
On the other hand, affective conflicts are emotionally charged
as here, the focus is on the person, which increases the probability of
conflict escalation in turn leading to damaged relationships and decreased
They include the events that trigger a person to start a conflict.
These make a person lose control of his/her actions and he/she responds without
thinking about the consequences.
We should always have some understanding to identify of our hot
buttons, say from a situation in the past. We should always be prepared for
This cycle provides an overview of how a conflict escalates.
We are said to be in refractory period when we get emotionally charged.
· The levels of intensity in conflict escalation can be explained as:
Level 1. Differences:
In this level the conflict arises due to different perspectives of the people,
but who are also aware of the other party’s mindset. It is a rare kind of
Misunderstandings: In this level, the two or more parties interpret a
situation in a different way. To avoid this, it is better to check on them
Disagreements: It occurs when a party sees a situation differently and
feels discomfort when the other party disagrees. But sometimes disagreement can
bring a positive effect of innovativeness.
Discord: When the conflict escalates to this level it starts to have
negative effect on the relationship between the two or more parties involved.
In this level, the parties criticize, block or avoid each other.
Critical: If a conflict has reached this
level then it is said to be critical where the situation can lead to
unresolvable conflict and a unrepairable relationship. The parties start to
gather support of others to join their cause so that they can strongly oppose
the counter party.
In the worst case the parties involved can start using destructive
behaviour or cause a war of extreme polarization.
Thus, we see that conflict escalation can be extremely harmful for an
organization or an individual. It may affect the individual’s or the groups
both personal and professional life. That is why conflict management or
resolution is very important in any organization.
3. CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
Conflict management plans
are basically of two motives: self or concern for others.
styles in which conflict are dealt include integrating, compromising,
competing, collaborating accommodating, hierarchical, regression, dominating,
However, everyone has their own
style of dealing with conflict management, thus there is no fixed or effective
way of conflict management.
Out of these some treat dominating,
obliging, avoiding, integrating, and compromising as five main conflict
· In dominating, self-concern is high and concern for
others is low.
obliging, self-concern is low and concern for others is high.
avoiding, self-concern is low and concern for others is low.
integrating, self-concern is high and concern for others is high.
compromising, self-concern is moderate and concern for others is also moderate.
While integrating, compromising and
dominating come under active strategy,
obliging and avoiding patterns come under passive
Some see conflict resolution as two independent
dimensions, cooperativeness / uncooperativeness
From the above point the common approaches
to conflict management will be:
Competition: The desire to achieve
one’s own ends at any cost. It is close to domination.
Accommodation: It is the mirror
image of competition. Entirely giving into someone else’s concern. It is close
Sharing: It is like a compromise
between competition and accommodation. Both parties are moderately satisfied.
Collaboration: The effort to
satisfy both parties completely. Close to integration.
Avoidance: This may result in
indifferences between both parties.
becomes much easier if the management and parties are aware of the people
involved, their personal involvement and emotions in the conflict, their
personal choice of conflict resolution and should also be able to judge which
one works best in that situation.
A research has shown that most of
the middle level managers spend almost 25 percentage of their time in conflict
the knowledge of conflict management should be one of the most important
characteristics of a manager. They need to have increased understanding of how
conflicts arise and on what they are dependent on, so that they can resolve the
conflict in an efficient way. This saves a lot of time.
In many cases the importance of
conflict management in the workplace has been specified but till now its link
with workplace incivility has not been explained in literature.
The way in which a conflict is
dealt decides its outcome. That is why instead of trying to find an ultimate
approach to solve a conflict, it is better to focus more on determining which
approach is more appropriate.
4. CONFLICT PREVENTION
Conflicts can be
prevented when the management and the parties say the team head or manager are
well aware and clear of the short term and long-term goals of the task or
company and the people involved.
It is generally very
difficult to avoid a conflict especially in workplaces. But still some methods
are suggested by researchers, as prevention is better than cure.
This is the first and the obvious. It helps strengthen and improve the
relationship so that conflicts don’t arise frequently. Even if it does it can
be resolved very easily. It consists of activities that improve the functioning
of a team, clarify the purpose of the team and improve the relationships.
But the benefits of team building don’t last long. Due to strong
interdependencies and communication barriers new conflicts will emerge in no
Structuring of a wider system can help people to communicate easily.
This is a prevention which lasts long. It helps prevent misunderstandings
If the structure reflects the
real interdependencies, then team building may not be needed, then it will work
Structures can also use negotiation as an important medium for
It might seem that selecting the structure for an organisation or
social system is easy. But it is about whatever structure makes it easy to
satisfy the interdependencies.
An organization should give the employees the freedom to express their
opinions and ideas, as supressing the ones working below us can lead to
frustration, increasing the chances of conflicts.
In a team conflicts can be common due to many reasons. A manager should
try to create a friendly environment to ensure that no differences arise
between the members. The manager should be impartial towards his/her team
members as partiality can lead to dissatisfaction and jealousy among the team
members, increasing hatred.
Thus, conflicts management is very important in an organization and the
managers should be very well trained to handle extreme situations. We should
always try to avoid conflicts when we are working in a group or with a group
and should always be open to take in new suggestions or opinions. We should not
mix our personal and professional life as it my lead in to conflicts.
For a peaceful and successful professional life, it is very important
to be aware of conflict management. A workplace is entirely dependent on the
team work the individuals and the members should make sure that a conflict
should be avoided, even if it does they have to make sure it does not escalate
and should be resolved as soon as possible.