Conflict is the struggle between incompatible or opposing needs, wishes or individuals. This arises when individuals or groups of people encounter goals that both parties cannot obtain satisfactorily.
Organizations, especially large and complex ones, employ different groups of people which have to be coordinated in the best way possible in order to achieve both individual and organizational goals. This means that the management has to create an environment in which members can co-operate with each other. Work groups usually have a tendency of competing for limited resources, power and status to the extent of disrupting the co-operative efforts. Besides, internal conflict management also faces conflicts from external forces which may include government, trade unions and economic conditions. Conflict can desirable or undesirable depending how is applied to the organization to meet their target.
Traditionally conflict has been considered destructive and something which should be avoided at all costs. However conflicts should be considered undesirable only when:
1. It results in stress and anxiety for those experiencing it.
2. It causes discontent and frustrations.
3. It threatens harmony and unity within social groups.
Managers are evaluated and rewarded on the basis of how well they have maintained peace and harmony in the work group. Whereas conflict can be painful and could produce undesirable consequences, its absence can be dysfunctional to organizational effectiveness. Since conflict could be valued in strengthening organizational changes, conflict and disconnect helps stimulate the need for change. Without change an organization would stagnate. If people get dissatisfied with the status remain, they become concerned about doing things better and discover the necessity to remove inadequacies and change. Organizations will benefit form renewed improvement.
Conflict could lead to employee's dissatisfaction and poor job performance if it becomes excessive and unmanageable. Unresolved conflict usually leads to high absenteeism, staff turnover, and prolonged disruption of activities and lack of concerted efforts by members of the organization.
Interpersonal conflict resulting from personality variables such as dislikes, distrust or prejudice usually hinders group performance. People are concerned with gaining advantage over others than with performance of tasks. Since the value of conflict can be determined by how it is managed, managers should know its source and consequences so that they can find ways of managing it. However, it is necessary to understand another aspect of conflict; Inter-group conflict; this is a conflict which can be found between groups. Sources of inter group conflicts can be many namely:
Different in group goals
When groups in organizations perform different functions they develop their own goals and norms. This can lead to group conflict especially when the reward system is related to group performance rather than to overall organization performance. As a result, group complete against each other for better resources allocation and even seek to undermine the activities of rival groups.
This occurs when two or more groups interact with each other so as to accomplish a task. This may occur when each other two groups do not directly interact with each other but are affected by each others action or where two or more groups are mutually interdependent in accomplishing their tasks. When one group is unable to meet the expectations of the other group, inter-group conflicts occurs.
Competition for limited
Sharing of resources by two more groups can easily lead to groups can easily lead to group conflict. The resources may either lead to group conflict. The resources may either be tangible such as raw materials, money and facilities or intangibles such as power, status and prestige in the working place.
Competition on reward systems
Competition increases the level of performance in job situations where tasks are performed independently. But when tasks require a high level of interdependence, competition can hurt co-operation among members and work groups. Reward systems based on departmental can cause inter-group conflict
When influential members of different groups are not able to get along with each other it can lead to adverse relationships between groups. When group members are aware that the influential members are especially some leaders have some conflict with members in the group, they may limit their co-operative interactions as a way of dealing with their own inter-personal problems.
Inter-group conflicts have a lot of consequences to both the workers and the organization in general
Unresolved inter-group conflicts could have negative effects on inter-group relations but can have a unifying effect on inter-group behavior. Changes could occur within groups and between conflicting groups. Such changes include; Leadership which becomes more directive, organization structure becoming more rigid and clearly defined, group unity being stressed since groups demand increasing loyalty and conformity from its members, group climate changes from informal to task oriented in order to deal with any external threats.
Unresolved conflicts could cause one or more of the following changes in relationships between groups: Groups become antagonistic towards each other as an enemy only interested with its goal oriented behavior, perception could be distorted with each group developing a positive perception towards itself and a negative perception towards other people, communication may cease to exist because when in conflict, members of one group avoid interaction with members of the other.
And if the groups are forced to interact, they tend to show hostility and aggressive behavior towards each other and groups tend to apply double standards with each group only seeing the vicious acts of the other while remaining completely blind to the same acts are performed by its members.
Conflict has some positive effects to the organization and workers these may include: conflict clarifies the real issues, conflict increases innovation, inter-group conflict solidifies the groups, conflicts serves as a catalyst to change, and conflicts resolution solidifies the inter-group relationships, managing inter-group conflicts
Managing inter-group conflict is a major responsibility of every manager. Before management starts to resolve a conflict, it has to be ascertained that it really exists. Conflict management involves both stimulating functional conflicts and resolving and resolving dysfunctional ones.
The following could be indicators that conflicts stimulation is necessary: Employee's being afraid to admit ignorance, managers putting too much emphasis on harmony and peace, people being afraid of hurting the feelings of others, new ideas not forthcoming, people showing great resistance to change, once a need to stimulate conflict has been identified, management may adopt one or more of the following techniques: Use of nominal group process which will encourage members to generate diverse viewpoints, increase individual information, create role conflict, change organizational structure, restructure the organization.
1) News line: the professional journal of KASNEB
2) Likert,R(1961) New Patterns of Management, McGraw-Hill