Research Paper on Constructive Organizational Conflict

7 pages
1830 words
Wesleyan University
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Research paper
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Constructive Organizational Conflict


Any set up that involves interaction between different individuals or groups is not immune to conflicts. Conflicts arise due to the opposition of one's views, actions, values, interests or desires by another person or group. Mainly the opposition may be perceived or at times real. The conflict can also be external or internal between groups or persons. In an organizational setup, the conflict between people or groups usually escalates to larger conflicts that affect the organization at large. Arising conflicts often lead to immediate negative outcomes such as anger, violence, and frustration. However, with a functional and efficient conflict management system in place, the resolution of the conflicts usually creates a positive result that benefits the parties involved and the organization at large. Therefore, the demand for conflict managers has been on the rise as many organizations are in need of the conflict management skills to ensure that conflicts in the organizations do not ruin the functionality of the group.

Bearing in mind that conflicts experienced by a group may either be internal or external, it is always prudent for the conflict manager to be equipped with skills that can quench the effects of both. Additionally, each of the conflicts impacts the organization differently, and therefore each should have well-outlined guidelines to streamline operations. Conflicts are managed by coming up with a decision that meets the needs of the opposing parties and also that help the organization meets its objectives. Excellent organizational conflict management saves the group from low service delivery or productivity that if the experience can negatively affect the organization (Chaudhry, 2012). The paper will focus on various aspect of constructive organizational conflict such as the views, its implication on managers and how it can be solved.

Overview of Constructive Organizational Conflict

Conflict is a concept that has generated a semantic jungle among scholars due to its pervasive and ubiquity nature that has made it acquire many connotations and meanings. Rahim (2002) however draws the line that people usually use the conflicts visible aspect-actions of the opposing party and use of angry words. Psenicka and Rahim (2002) emphasize that this notion of using the visible aspects of conflicts are not adequate as they only represent a small portion of the conflict process. Despite all the ubiquity that surround the concept of conflict, the opposition of a group/ individuals idea, interest, or actions best describes the source of conflicts in an organization. Conflict within and organization can either be constructive conflict or destructive conflict.

Constructive conflict implies to an organizational conflict whereby the benefits of the conflict are more than the costs. The results of the conflict are usually mutually beneficial and productive (Bacal, 2004). Therefore in this kind of conflict, the conflict process is as crucial as the result at the end. Towards the end, the individuals or groups at the center of the conflict come together and strengthen their personal and working relationship. The coming together is for the good of the parties involved and the organization at large (Xenikou, 2012). In contrast, destructive conflicts lead to hostility at the end and the parties concerned, and the organization is affected negatively.

The driving force in constructive conflict is that the parties involved in the conflict can win and that their ideas are flexible. The flexibility is very critical as it is at the core of ensuring that the parties reach a shared decision. For a conflict to be termed as constructive, the parties involved must agree to compromise as the degree of disagreement is even (Xenikou, 2012). Additionally, communication is critical as it promotes the willingness of either of the sides to embrace change.

Views of Conflict

Conflict can either be right or bad. It is usually avoided, but this does not imply that is a bad element. A recap on conflict depicts that is issues that lead to the creation of a significant level of emotions and even frustrates individuals. De Dreu (2008) asserts that effective managers should be in a position to detect the occurrence of positive conflict and thus encourage this form of interaction among the employees. On the other hand, negative conflict should also be detected and eliminated as fast as possible. The comprehension of positive and negative conflicts in the work environment is a fundamental element and should be a part of the effective manager (Elgoibar, Euwema, & Munduate Jaca (2016).

Conflicts may be reserved in a peaceful in an organization. However, their harmful effects can be tough to avoid. One of the wrong views of bad conflict is that it can disturb groups or even people from undertaking their primary duties and they are thus left with less time and resources to conduct other activities. The element of conflict involving the utilization of heavy argumentative tactics results in the involved parties diverting their time and resources from other needs in the workplace (Sandole, Byrne, & Senehi, 2008). The short and long-term effects of conflict on the health of involved parties are also evident. It affects their psychological and even physical health as a result of suffering from trauma and minimal mechanism of coping with the present conflict (Whitfield, 2012).

The bad view of conflict can also be analyzed in the traditional vision. Wheelock & Mariussen (2012), this is an early approach where all conflict was seen to be bad and should thus be avoided. The occurrence of conflict was often connected to terms such as destruction, violence and even illogicality to reinforce the negative consequence. With this view of the traditionalists, it means that individuals should direct their attention to the causes of the particular conflict at hand. They should the analyze them and come up with effective measures to correct the identified malfunctions for the benefit of the group and performance of the organization as a whole (Kristovics et al., 2011).

On the other hand, there is the view of the conflict in a positive or healthy way where it is seen from the perspective of human relations. They see conflict as being a natural and unavoidable spectacle and thus cannot be eliminated from any organization. As such, this point of view depicts conflict in a positive manner in that it may result in the improvement of the performance of a group. The human relations view of conflict may also be compared to that of the interactionist who see conflict as a force that encourages a group and also a necessity for the performance of the team to be productive (Schu, Jones, Harper & Kornives, 2011). According to the view of interactionist, conflict should be encouraged as long as it is pleasant, peaceful and brings collaboration in a group. Moreover, the compliant group is disposed to becoming non-responsive to the needs for change in innovation. The view of interactionist is that leaders of the organization should encourage a minimum level of conflict that will be adequate to keep the group modest, worthwhile and even stimulated (Oosterlynck, 2011).

For those who are of a positive view of the conflict, they have pointed to it as an aspect that encourages creativity. Although positive conflicts may be hard to identify or even determine, when the productive employees are observed to be arguing about the good ideas that they have to assist the firm, then that depicts positive competition (Lederach, 2015). Individuals who are proactive also inspire each other to accomplish set targets at an advanced point. In other cases, that form of inspiration may occur in confrontations or arguments. Nevertheless, the outcome is that both parties are pressed to their extreme points of productivity. The ability of the management to keep the conflict healthy means that everybody will obtain an advantage (Savary, Kleiman, Hassin, & Dhar, 2015).

Personal conflict is another tendency that occurs from the occurrence of encounter in an organization. By people bringing in their feelings at work, it results in the creation of negative conflict. The efficiency of workers or even productivity of the organization is not related to personal issues being brought to work. However, the organization only ends up being in a crossfire of confrontation that results in a frontline. Goffee & Jones (2013) depicted that the management should intervene in a case where an employee is threatening another one in their work. Moreover, they should remind the parties involved that personal conflict is not to be endured in the workplace. On the other hand, Griffin & Moorhead (2014) pointed out that the human resources department and even managers should consider coming up with severe actions such as the termination of employees if they keep bringing up unconstructive conflict in the organization.

The presence of conflict in an organization results to harassment. It may be in verbal or physical form and in most cases it is hidden from the management. The presence of this type of conflict can be evidenced when the workers start to be more contemplative. Furthermore, they may also be involved in an argument in a persistent way or even show signs of being abused physically. This form of damaging conflict should be acted upon immediately and brought to an end in the organization (Rahim, 2002).

The bad view of conflict may also be observed as being catabolic. This is the type that is usually characterized prolonged and has unresolved issues of role identity, confusion, communication and powers and duties imbalances. Additionally, it also has problems with perceived injustice, exclusion and an account of disagreements that have been handled in an inappropriate way. Divergent to this is the real aspect of the conflict that is referred to as anabolic. It is usually characterized by honesty, open speech and an investigation and introspection of the main players and processes. It also has elements of approval of various ideas and association (Todorova, Bear, & Weingart, 2014). An anabolic form of conflict usually demands constant innovation and even collaboration by open dialogue. As such, it is efficient when the leaders, workers and other major stakeholders are open to change. On the other hand, catabolic conflict is perceived to occur from previous opportunities that were never eliminated. It may happen when communication is broken down such that no one knows what the other party does or even what actions they may need to take to perform effectively in their job (Schneider, 2008).

Conflicts usually result to the development of open minds. Organizations may opt to teach the workers the management of conflict in an efficient manner. In this way, there will be a climate of innovation created in the organization that will encourage the aspect of creative thinking. It will also open up minds to new possibilities and those that had also been unexplored. In this case, the occurrence of conflicts will lead to the development of new ways that can be applied to tackle various challenges and even meet the competition demands that are in the world of business (Lederach, 2015). In the end, there will be improvements that will be beneficial to the organization and even the workers as well.

Another good view of conflict is in its ability to overcome the aspect of s...

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