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Understanding Organisational Conflicts and Its Impact on Performance

Understanding Organisational Conflicts and Its Impact on Performance

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Published by Cecilia Tan
Hope this would helps those who takes engineering management courses
Hope this would helps those who takes engineering management courses

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Published by: Cecilia Tan on Feb 14, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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According toGareth et al,organizational conflict is the discord that arises when the "goals,interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and those individuals orgroups block or thwart one another's attempts to achieve their objective. It is often the resultof a disagreement between two or more individuals in a company. Other than that, conflictcan also exist outside of the organization and this usually involves one or more companies inthebusinessenvironment.Conflicts have both positive and negative outcomes to the individual employees andthe organization at large. There is no single source of conflict which occurs in organizations atall level of management and conflicts that arises needs to be resolved by management for thesake of the organizational growth, survival and performance. Conflict can occur within groups(intra-group conflict), or among groups (inter-group conflict). However, conflicts are oftencomplicated and not easily resolved. To a certain extent, most conflicts are managed, asindividuals work out differences (Barker et al., 1987).
There are three basic types of conflicts such as task conflict, interpersonal conflict andprocedural conflict. Task conflict is regarded as disagreement about the substance of thediscussion. Task conflict can be productive by improving the quality of the decisions andcritical thinking processes. Another potential area for conflict is the interpersonalrelationships with the organization. The term interpersonal is used to indicate thedisagreement that most people call personality clash that may be in the form of antagonisticremarks that relate to the personal characteristics of a group member or disregard anyorganizational goals to antagonize a particular group member. Interpersonal conflict may be
inevitable and must be managed for optimal group co-existence. Next, procedural conflictexists when group members disagree about the procedures to be followed in accomplishingthe group goal. New procedures may be formulated and new agenda suggested. Even thegroup goal may be modified. Procedural conflict, like task conflict, may be productive attimes according to Barker et al., 1987.Affective conflicts are generally caused by the negative reactions of organisationalmembers such as personal attacks on group members, sexual harassment and racialdisharmony. This type of conflicts would impede group performance. It affects groupperformance by limiting information- processing ability and cognitive functioning of group
members and antagonistic attributions of group members’ behaviour. Affective conflict
diminishes groups loyalty, work group commitment and satisfaction. These result from higherlevel of stress, anxiety and conflict escalationSubstantive conflicts are related to disagreements about tasks, policies and otherbusiness issues. A study by Jehn (1995) suggests that a moderate level of substantive conflictis beneficial, as it stimulates debate and discussion, which help groups to attain higher levelsof performance. Groups that experience this conflict are able to make better decisions. Thisconflict can improve group performance through better understanding of various viewpointsand alternative solutions. Beneficial effects of substantive conflicts on performance werefound only in groups performing non routine tasks but not on groups performing standardisedtasks.Conflict improves decision making outcomes, especially on task-related conflict andgroup productivity by increasing the quality through constructive criticism and individualsad
opting a devil’s advocate role.
Research has also found out that task related conflict isbeneficial to the organization since it allows the exchange of ideas and assist better
performance amongst the group members (Jehn, 1995). Conflict can be seen as a productiveforce that is able to stimulate members of the organization to increase their knowledge andskills and contribute to organization innovation and productivity. Other benefits includeimproved group learning and accuracy in situation assessment, promoted the development of new ideas and approaches, and achieved high quality decisions since individuals confrontproblems.Conflict can create negative impact to as well as leading to positive effects dependingon the nature of the conflict as mentioned above. The positive effects of conflicts wouldimprove the quality of decisions, stimulating participation in the discussion and buildinggroup cohesion. However, conflicts also will be potentially destructive in groups especially
when it consumes individual members’ energies instead of 
concentrating on other productiveactivities of the organisation. They can interfere with group process and create so muchinterpersonal hostility that group members may become unwilling or unable to work withothers. Unsolved conflicts tends to grow into bigger conflicts, and thus bringing biggerproblems such as lack of cooperation, poor communication, wasted and contagious conflict.The effects of unresolved conflicts which leads to poor performance are as shown in figurebelow:
Unsolved ConflictsBigger ProblemsContagious ConflictWeakCommunicationTime WastedPoorCooperationPoorPerformance
Source: Adapted from Knippen and Green (1999)

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