Conflict is very common in organizations and can influence various aspects of an organization as a whole. It can affect organizational effectiveness, structure, power, and politics. Our online reading for this week stated, "in 1976, and American Management Association sponsored study reported that managers spend approximately 20% of their time dealing with conflict (Thomas and Schmidt, 1976)." Conflict has been defined in many different ways but I like the most inclusive definition provided by our text book the best. Conflict can be described as a breakdown in the standard mechanisms of decision making so that an individual or group experiences difficulty in selecting an action alternative (Slack and Parent, p. 217).
There are two different categories that conflict could fall into. These two categories are horizontal or vertical conflict. Distinguishing between the two types of conflict has to do with the structure of the organization. Horizontal conflict is present when conflicts take place among subunits at the same level in the organization. An example of this could be in the athletic department of a university when coaches from various teams are in conflict with one another. Vertical conflict is present when subunits at different levels in the organization are in conflict. An example of this in an athletic department would be when a particular coach has conflicting ideas with the athletic director.
Most of the time conflict is viewed as detrimental to the operations of an organization. Therefore conflict should be eliminated from an organization or managed to have and effective organization. The most common way this is done is through rules and regulations organizational members must follow. On the other hand, what if conflict in an organization could benefit the organization as a whole? After all conflict could encourage creativity and change that ultimately puts the organization in a better position than it was before.
There are many strategies for managing conflict and they include things like avoidance, separating or merging conflicting units, increasing resources, integrating devices, confrontation and negotiation, and third party interventions. One strategy that is directly related to power in an organization is the use of authority to manage conflict. This involves the senior managers of an organization to use their formal authority to resolve an issue which everyone may or may not be happy with but because he has the power to do so it will be recognized. A form of politics that runs through trying to introduce conflict into an organization evolves from manipulating communications. Leaving information or people out of a communication process is a political way to manage conflict.
Some questions for thought include; do you agree with the statement made in the textbook on page 220 that "if conflict isn't happening then the organization has no reason for being?" Why or why not? What are the five stages of Pondy's conflict model?