Conflict in Organizations

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            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?

2 Comments

Definitions of conflict from Webster's Dictionary: 1) a serious disagreement or argument 2) an incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles or interests.

While conflict may at times be present within a sports organization, I'm not sure that the word conflict is necessarily the most accurate description possible. While I'm sure that some sports organizations have significant real conflict between groups or individuals within an organization I do not think this is normally the case.

Definition of Competition from Webster's Dictionary: 1) the activity of competing 2) the person or people with whom one is competing.

To me competition is a much better fitting word choice. In the work place, especially as sports managers, we will often be competing with the individuals around us. We all want a raise and that big promotion. We are all competing with the people around us. It is my opinion that the word competition should be substituted for conflict in most of these situations.
-David Dahlstrom

I believe that it is inevitable that conflict will happen. People do not go through life agreeing with what other people have to say. Since this is true, conflict will occur. If an organization has no conflict than the organization will not be able to survive. The conflict takes place when people disagree. It drives the organization to find new ways to solve those problems and allows them to adapt to the changing environment.
The stages in Pondy’s model describe how conflict first develops and what it takes to acknowledge and disarm it.
The first stage in Pondy’s model of conflict is the latent stage of conflict. The book states that there is a competition for scarce resources, drive for autonomy, and a divergence of subunit goals. The second stage is perceived conflict. The third stage of Pondy’s model is felt conflict. The fourth stage is manifest conflict. Lastly, the fifth and final stage is conflict aftermath.