Conflict management is an applied branch of management practices involving quarantine measures for seemingly noncompliant issues. Conflict, in literal sense refers to the disagreement between two or more parties or between two or more positions. Conflict is not always bad for an organization although it leads to wastage of organizational resources and managerial effort. Creative problem solving energies emerge out of conflicts and make way for innovative steps within the organization.
Differences and conflicts can be regarded as a constant force within the modern organization to manage them in a beneficial manner. Every organization, irrespective of its scale of operation and popularity, is prone to encounter crisis at some point during their operation.
Some of the common causes of crisis include natural calamities, riots, terrorism, warfare, disruption in law and order and so on. Critical infrastructure has become more dominant these days necessitating the requirement for an effective crisis management system able to deliver across both vertical as well as horizontal results. In times of contingency, an organization has to scan its environment to identify new threats for assessing the impact of current crisis and laying down key management strategies to be adopted. This paper is going to take a closer look at conflict management primarily from the perspective of new organizations defined by corporate principles.
Various models and frameworks have been propagated so far to address the issue of conflict and resolution in structured setups. What is singularly identifiable in majority of these models is the presence of complementary processes that work in correlation with existing rules. According to the classical concept, conflict is viewed as an “intrinsic and inevitable aspect of social change.” (Ramsbotham et al., p. 13)
Elements such as personal values and beliefs differ a great deal even within a clan otherwise united by common interests. Hence, an individual often takes a stubborn stance in facing up to a problem which goes beyond his/her own circumference of stake. A set of inherited constraints in social outlook is another reason behind the rise of conflicts. Modern management techniques have taken a very important cue from the classical times in that it is a far better approach to mold one’s casual and spontaneous reactions to avert contentious and disputed matters.
Adopting intelligent alternatives to resolve enervating state of affairs was in fact a classical approach which is being practiced globally these days. Since society plays a vital role both in developing conflicts and also in trying to settle them, it is imperative that we should get a clear viewpoint as to how national interests work. Each nation, not by choice but by a varied degree of compulsions, has to ensure its own growth and prosperity. In other words, a nation-state must preserve the interests of its own communities.
Prioritizing what suits a party most in terms of benefits is a basic premise for conflict-related frameworks. Now what is applicable for a nation-state is more than likely to be valid for an organizational setting, for the former serves a broader array of fields than the latter one. As proposed by the famous hourglass model, conflict resolution techniques can be assigned to different modes depending on the nature and time-bound length of the conflict(s) in question.
Barring a few international parameters, this classical framework is made on the basis of a few simple examples that are common to most organizations. Polarization, for instance, is an extremely relevant dispute-settlement technique adept at empowering the management of a particular organization. It allows for gaining a control over the employees without infuriating their wrath or discontentment. If used prudently, this technique is going to yield rich dividend for the overall welfare of the company.
The next three relevant parameters in the hourglass model are Agreement, Normalization and Reconciliation. Agreement refers to transferring the share of one’s own power to the next subordinate level. It has a significant amount of social implications because the societal hierarchy generally demands for decentralization of power. Similarly, Normalizations and Reconciliation too are parts of the long-term process of peaceful and result-driven resolutions (Ramsbotham et al., 2005, p. 14).
In matters of employer-employee or employee-employee relationships, it is of utmost importance to consider the meaning of collective conflict. It will rather be justified to claim that collective conflict management can technically be grouped under the literature of conflict management. Just as the nation-state keeps showing signs of dysfunction and deadlocked scenarios in the wake of grave problems threatening to dismantle the societal peace, a company too has to undergo numerous obstacles at various points.
The problems may vary from mere employee grievances to serious legal issues. If the organization happens to be an isolated regional body without any governing authority elsewhere, it is easier to devise effective strategies to establish a state of order and discipline. This is because for any management, it is easier to predict and take evasive actions as and when a disturbing situation occurs. Physical proximity to the scene of events plays the most pivotal role in such contexts.
As observed by Morrill (1995, p. 68), certain patterns can be traced in the buildup phase of conflict in the executive domains of corporate culture. Bulk of the literature surrounding conflict management focus on these core tractable factors to effectively study and find normative causes. He finds employee grievance as one of the overbearing elements behind majority of conflicts in corporate organizations.
There are twelve direct-seeded entries into the list of grievances, each on its own terms contributing more or less the same to generating difference of opinion and other altercations. They include 1) Promotion and compensation, 2) Management style, 3) Personal life, 4) Personalities, 5) Individual performance, 6) Administrative jurisdiction, 7) Resource allocation, 8) Organizational strategy, 9) Work unit performance, 10) Personal appearance at work, 11) Unethical behavior, and 12) Gender discrimination.
It is clear from the enlisted elements that harnessing human resources properly and humanely is the most equitable solution to lessen the detrimental impact of conflicts. However, one should also take note that these dozen agents directly shape the managerial modes to be adopted in achieving the highest and the most advantageous decree for the concerned organization. While some of the factors might seem outdated or at least trivial, there is no denying the collective importance of all taken as a whole.
Morrill also underlines the five most crucial issues out of the twelve he mentions – promotion and compensation, management style, personal life, personalities and individual performance. What makes these five as the prescriptive unit of any corporate management studies curriculum is the presence of a co-relational constant, e. g. organizational productivity.
In modern corporate ethics, identifying the primary cause of a problem of any magnitude is strongly believed to be a workable way to solving it. By all probabilities, the outbreak of a conflict-ridden situation is very hard to predict. The nature of conflict does not normally give time for the authority to get prepared. Hence, the onus lies entirely on the concerned people to act quickly as well as wisely to cut down on damages.
Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T., & Miall, H. (2005). Contemporary conflict resolution: the prevention, management and transformation of deadly conflicts. Cambridge: Polity.
Morrill, C. (1995). The executive way: conflict management in corporations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.