Chapter 11 Conflict in Organizations

Learning Goals
• Define conflict and conflict behavior in organizations • Distinguish between functional and dysfunctional conflict • Understand different levels and types of conflict in organizations • Analyze conflict episodes and the linkages among them

Learning Goals (Cont.)
• Understand the role of latent conflict in an episode and its sources in an organization • Describe a conflict management model • Use various techniques to reduce and increase conflict • Appreciate some international and ethical issues in conflict management

Chapter Overview • Introduction • Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict • Levels and Types of Conflict in Organizations • Conflict Episodes • Conflict Frames and Orientations • Latent Conflict: The Sources of Conflict in Organizations .

) • • • • Conflict Management Reducing Conflict Increasing Conflict International Aspects of Conflict in Organizations • Ethical Issues in Conflict in Organizations .Chapter Overview (Cont.

Introduction Conflict: What does the word mean to you? Conflict Conflit Conflicto Conflito .

Introduction (Cont.) • Definition – – – – Opposition Incompatible behavior Antagonistic interaction Block another party from reaching her or his goals Range of conflict behavior Doubt or questioning Annihilation of opponent .

Introduction (Cont.)
• Key elements
– Interdependence with another party – Perception of incompatible goals

• Conflict events
– – – – Disagreements Debates Disputes Preventing someone from reaching valued goals

Introduction (Cont.)
• Conflict is not always bad for an organization • Do not need to reduce all conflict • Conflict episodes: ebb and flow of conflict • An inevitable part of organization life • Needed for growth and survival • Conflict management includes increasing and decreasing conflict • Major management responsibility

Introduction (Cont.)
Brazilian Saying (Ditado popular, Portuguese)

Toda unanimidade é burra.
(“It’s dumb if we all agree.”)

Special thanks to Gustavo Sette Rabello,
Graduate Student, The Robert O. Anderson Graduate School of Management, 1996

Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict • Functional conflict: works toward the goals of an organization or group • Dysfunctional conflict: blocks an organization or group from reaching its goals – Dysfunctionally high conflict: what you typically think about conflict – Dysfunctionally low conflict: an atypical view – Levels vary among groups .

Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict (Cont.) • Functional conflict – “Constructive Conflict”--Mary Parker Follett (1925) – Increases information and ideas – Encourages innovative thinking – Unshackles different points of view – Reduces stagnation .

Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict (Cont. stress Drives out low conflict tolerant people Reduced trust Poor decisions because of withheld or distorted information – Excessive management focus on the conflict .) • Dysfunctionally high conflict – – – – Tension. anxiety.

Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict (Cont.) • Dysfunctionally low conflict – Few new ideas – Poor decisions from lack of innovation and information – Stagnation – Business as usual .

Levels and Types of Conflict Level of conflict Organization Type of conflict Within and between organizations Group Within and between groups Individual Within and between individuals .

) • Intraorganization conflict – Conflict that occurs within an organization – At interfaces of organization functions – Can occur along the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the organization • Vertical conflict: between managers and subordinates • Horizontal conflict: between departments and work groups .Levels and Types of Conflict (Cont.

) • Intragroup conflict – Conflict among members of a group – Early stages of group development – Ways of doing tasks or reaching group's goals • Intergroup conflict: between two or more groups .Levels and Types of Conflict (Cont.

Levels and Types of Conflict (Cont.) • Interpersonal conflict – – – – Between two or more people Differences in views about what should be done Efforts to get more resources Differences in orientation to work and time in different parts of an organization .

) • Intrapersonal conflict – Occurs within an individual • • • • Threat to a person’s values Feeling of unfair treatment Multiple and contradictory sources of socialization Related to the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Chapter 5) and negative inequity (Chapter 8) .Levels and Types of Conflict (Cont.

especially with the close links now possible .Levels and Types of Conflict (Cont.) • Interorganization conflict – Between two or more organizations – Not competition – Examples: suppliers and distributors.

Conflict Episodes Simple conflict episode Latent conflict Manifest conflict Conflict aftermath .

) • Latent conflict: antecedents of conflict behavior that can start conflict episode • Manifest conflict: observable conflict behavior • Conflict aftermath • Conflict reduction: lower the conflict level – End of a conflict episode – Often the starting point of a related episode – Becomes the latent conflict for another episode .Conflict Episodes (Cont.

Conflict Episodes Latent conflict Manifest conflict Conflict reduction Conflict aftermath .

Conflict Episodes (Cont.) Latent conflict Manifest conflict The antecedents of conflict Example: scarce resources Conflict aftermath .

) • Some latent conflict in the lives of college students – – – – – – Parking spaces Library copying machines Computer laboratory Books in the bookstore School and other parts of your life University policies .Conflict Episodes (Cont.

) Latent conflict Observable conflict behavior Manifest conflict Conflict aftermath Example: disagreement.Conflict Episodes (Cont. discussion .

Conflict Episodes (Cont.) Latent conflict Residue of a conflict episode Example: compromise in allocating scarce resources leaves both parties with less than they wanted Manifest conflict Conflict aftermath .

Conflict Episodes Latent conflict Perceived conflict Felt conflict Manifest conflict Text book Figure 11.1 Conflict aftermath Conflict reduction .

Conflict Episodes (Cont.) • Perceived conflict – Become aware that one is in conflict with another party – Can block out some conflict – Can perceive conflict when no latent conditions exist – Example: misunderstanding another person’s position on an issue .

Conflict Episodes (Cont.) • Felt conflict – – – – – Emotional part of conflict Personalizing the conflict Oral and physical hostility Hard to manage episodes with high felt conflict What people likely recall about conflict .

Relationships Among Conflict Episodes • Episodes link through the connection of conflict aftermath to latent conflict • Effective conflict management: break the connection • Discover the latent conflicts and remove them .

Relationships Among Conflict Episodes (Cont.) Conflict reduction Latent conflict Manifest conflict Conflict aftermath Latent conflict Manifest conflict Conflict aftermath Latent conflict Manifest conflict Conflict aftermath .

Conflict Frames and Orientations • Conflict frames – Perceptual sets that people bring to conflict episodes – Perceptual filters • Remove some information from an episode • Emphasize other information in an episode .

Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont.) Relationship-Task Conflict frame Cooperate-Win Emotional-Intellectual .

) • Conflict frame dimensions – Relationship-Task • Relationship: focuses on interpersonal relationships • Task: focuses on material aspects of an episode – Emotional-Intellectual • Emotional: focuses on feelings in the conflict episode (felt conflict) • Intellectual: focuses on observed behavior (manifest conflict) .Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont.

) • Conflict frame dimensions (cont.Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont.) – Cooperate-Win • Cooperate: emphasizes the role of all parties to the conflict • Win: wants to maximize personal gain .

) • Conflict frames – Limited research results • End an episode with a relationship or intellectual frame: feel good about relationship with other party • Cooperation-focused people end with more positive results than those focused on winning .Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont.

conflict is a battle – Collaborative: wants to find a solution that satisfies everyone – Compromise: splits the differences – Avoidance: backs away – Accommodative: focuses on desires of other party .) • Conflict orientations – Dominance: wants to win.Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont.

) • Can change during conflict episode – How firmly the person holds orientation – Importance of the issues to the person – Perception of opponent's power • Collaborative orientation: more positive long-term benefits than the others .Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont.

Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont.) Conflict orientation and the conflict aftermath Collaborative Compromise Avoidance Accommodative Dominance High residue No residue Conflict aftermath .

dominance. compromise. collaborative. avoidance Dominance. compromise. avoidance Dominance. accommodative .Conflict Frames and Orientations (Cont. avoidance. compromise Collaborative.) • Combinations of conflict orientations in a group – – – – – – Dominance. avoidance Collaborative. dominance Avoidance.

Latent Conflict: The Sources of Conflict in Organizations • Antecedents to conflict episodes • Many natural conditions of organizations act as latent conflicts • Lurk in the background. trigger conflict when right conditions occur • Does not always lead to manifest conflict • Give us clues about how to reduce dysfunctionally high conflict .

procedures. policies: behavioral guides that can cause clashes – Cohesive groups: value and orientation differences among groups . equipment.Latent Conflict: The Sources of Conflict in Organizations (Cont. facilities – Organizational differentiation: different orientations in different parts of organization – Rules.) • Some representative latent conflict – Scarce resources: money.

) – Interdependence: forces interaction – Communication barriers: shift work and jargon – Ambiguous jurisdictions: areas of authority not clearly defined – Reward systems: reward different behavior in different parts of the organization Sales on commission.Latent Conflict: The Sources of Conflict in Organizations (Cont. manufacturing rewarded for meeting schedules. . Communication differences.) • Some representative latent conflict (cont.

Conflict Management Model • Maintain conflict at functional levels – – – – Not complete elimination Reducing to functional levels Increasing dysfunctionally low conflict Choose desired level of conflict based on perceived conflict requirements – Varies in different parts of an organization – Manager’s tolerance for conflict plays a role .

Conflict Management Model (Cont.) Organizational culture Product or service Fast-changing environment Perceived conflict requirements Desired conflict level .

2 .Conflict Management Model (Cont.) Dysfunctionally low conflict Increase conflict Normal Dysfunctionally high conflict Decrease conflict Text book Figure 11.

) • Symptoms of dysfunctionally high conflict – – – – – Low trust Information distortion Tension/antagonism Stress Sabotage of organization’s product or service .Conflict Management Model (Cont.

Conflict Management Model (Cont.) • Symptoms of dysfunctionally low conflict – – – – – Deny differences Repress controversial information Prohibit disagreements Avoid interactions Walk away from conflict episode .

Reducing Conflict • Overview – Lose-lose methods: parties to the conflict episode do not get what they want – Win-lose methods: one party a clear winner. other party a clear loser – Win-win methods: each party to the conflict episode gets what he or she wants .

stay away • Does not permanently reduce conflict – Compromise • Bargain.Reducing Conflict (cont.) • Lose-lose methods – Avoidance • Withdraw. negotiate • Each loses something valued – Smoothing: find similarities .

Reducing Conflict (Cont.) • Win-lose methods – Dominance • Overwhelm other party • Overwhelms an avoidance orientation – Authoritative command: decision by person in authority – Majority rule: voting .

Reducing Conflict (Cont.) • Win-win methods – Problem solving: find root causes – Integration: meet interests and desires of all parties – Superordinate goal: desired by all but not reachable alone .

) • Summary – Lose-lose methods: compromise – Win-lose methods: dominance – Win-win methods: problem solving .Reducing Conflict (Cont.

Increasing Conflict • Increase conflict when it is dysfunctionally low – Heterogeneous groups: members have different backgrounds – Devil’s advocate: offers alternative views – Organizational culture: values and norms that embrace conflict and debate .

Conflict Insights • • • • • • Possible positive effects of conflict Latent conflict Conflict aftermath Conflict episodes Links between episodes Latent conflict and methods of reduction .

International Aspects of Conflict in Organizations • Cultures that emphasize individualism and competition – Positively value conflict – English-speaking countries. conformity – Negatively value conflict – Many Asian and Latin American countries. cooperation. Italy. Turkey . Greece. Portugal. the Netherlands. Belgium • Cultures that emphasize collaboration.

) • No direct research evidence • Cultural differences imply different functional conflict levels .International Aspects of Conflict in Organizations (Cont.

) • Cross-cultural research has dealt with intergroup processes • Collaborative and cooperative cultures expect little conflict during intergroup interactions • Favor suppression of conflict with little discussion about people's feelings • Felt conflict likely part of some conflict episodes but hidden from public view .International Aspects of Conflict in Organizations (Cont.

International Aspects of Conflict in Organizations (Cont.) • Managers from an individualistic country operating in a less individualistic country – Acceptable to express feelings during a conflict episode – Suppression of feelings could baffle them – Increasing conflict can confuse local people – Almost immediate dysfunctional results .

Ethical Issues in Conflict in Organizations • Tolerance for conflict – Manager with a high tolerance for conflict. keeps conflict levels too high for subordinates – Should such managers reveal their intentions about desired conflict levels? – Full disclosure: subordinates could leave the group if conflict levels became dysfunctionally stressful – Ethical question applies equally to newly hired employees .

) • Deliberately increasing conflict is an effort to guide behavior in a desired direction – Subtle methods of increasing conflict (forming heterogeneous groups) connote manipulation – Full disclosure: manager states his intention to use conflict to generate ideas and innovation – If people are free to join a group or not.Ethical Issues in Conflict in Organizations (Cont. the ethical issue likely subsides .

Ethical Issues in Conflict in Organizations (Cont.) • Experiencing intrapersonal conflict – Requests to act against one's moral values – Observing behavior that one considers unethical • Reduce intrapersonal conflict – Report unethical acts – Transfer to another part of the organization – Quit .

) • Different cultures place different values on conflict – Optimal conflict levels vary among countries – Lower levels conflict in collectivistic countries than individualistic countries Should managers honor such values even if their home country values support higher levels of conflict? .Ethical Issues in Conflict in Organizations (Cont.

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