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Conflict and Its Resolution Within the U.S. Military and Department of Defense Term Paper

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Updated: Jan 8th, 2022

Introduction

The life of military bodies is full of rules, prescriptions, orders, and responsibilities. The system of norms exists in order to solve complex questions in complex situations in the case of urgency. However, regardless of the origins of these regulations, conflicts between militaries and governmental structures are regarded as the inevitable part of military life. It is considered that these conflicts help to reveal the drawbacks of the regulation system, and possible mistakes are checked regularly. However, like in any human controlled organization, conflicts are inevitable regardless of the conflict control effectiveness. Hence, the aim of the paper is to regard the key types of conflicts that appear within the organization, define how does the government manages these conflicts, and what can be made for resolving these conflicts, and get rid of any particular type of conflicts.

As a rule, conflict solving strategies, these are common for any organization or structure ruled by people, therefore, business solving strategies will be applied for analyzing the conflicts between US military and Department of Defense. The possible examples of the conflicts involve the common 24/7 operations, the possibility of deployments, and the possibility of government shutdown/furloughs.

Common Conflicts Overview

One of the most common conflicts that may be traced within the Department of Defense is the conflict of interests, and the necessity to observe military ethic rules. These conflicts are generally explained by the fact that regardless of the military training effectiveness, human nature often overwhelms, and individuals try to pursue their own interests. This causes organizational conflicts within the teams, and may be the reason of advanced conflicts between soldiers / officers, and official bodies. These conflicts are regulated by DoDD 5500.7, Standards of Conduct, however, regardless of the fact that list of norms is increasing, it is impossible to include every instance of conflict for proper normative regulation.

Another type of conflicts is poor communication. These are interpersonal conflicts that are caused by human interaction that includes personal motives and feelings, disagreements associated with organizational moments, disagreement in solving problems etc. As it is stated by Sutterfield and Friday-Stroud (2007), interpersonal conflicts are the most common for organizations with strict hierarchy of jobs and positions. Therefore, in spite of the fact that normative regulations are aimed at controlling the hierarchical norms of inter-personal relations, these norms do not regulate relations between representatives of the same hierarchy level.

Another type of conflicts is linked with the military operations, opportunities of deployment, as well as shutdowns and furloughs. These conflicts often involve features of the previously described conflicts, as such decisions are never taken individually, and require normative confirmation as well as agreement of the persons responsible for solving these questions.

Conflict Solving Strategies

In general, conflict solving strategies applied by government and military bodies may be divided into two main groups: normative, and informal. Normative conflict solving is performed in accordance with the previously regarded regulation documents: statutes, orders, standards of conduct, etc. These are aimed at creating the necessary basis for interpersonal relations, and subordination. Informal strategies involve tools and methods that are used by company managers for soling interpersonal conflicts without resorting to normative regulations, and administrative reprimands that may follow.

Proper solving of a conflict involves clear understanding the nature of a conflict, hence, as it is emphasized by Masters and Albright (2002, p. 341):

Common conflict in the workplace can come from many different ways. Poor communication, change between managers and employees, or broken boundaries of social norms or groups. Poor communication happens when a worker or subordinate is unable to receive the message from supervisors and management. Confusion is a common factor with conflict. With employees unable to understand the requirements from management sparks confusion. When management can clearly describe in a polite professional way, the requirements at hand, then the results will have a lower possibility of ending in some type of conflict.

Hence, the solving strategy is defined by the origins of the conflict, and values of the organizational structure. The key tools that are used by military bodies for solving this type of conflicts are integrity, charisma, and perfectly adjusted managerial contacts. In fact, few companies are able to boast with such perfect managerial structure as military organizations have.

Regardless of the fact that military organizations have strict hierarchical and organizational structure, most conflict solving strategies are similar to strategies borrowed from business sphere. On the one hand, these principles are even more advanced in comparison with strategies applied in commercial organizations, and the reasons of such advance is quite obvious: conflicts in military organizations may have more serious consequences in critical moments, and may affect national security drastically. Therefore, psychologists develop conflict solving strategies with taking into consideration the particularities of military organizations and government bodies.

General conflict solving strategy involves three basic steps:

  • Avoid solving the problem with anger. Emotions are inacceptable advisors for conflict solving, while a soldier / an officer (on a battlefield or in headquarters) should be cold-blooded, objective, and sober-minded.
  • The next step is the necessity to eliminate personal attitude towards the problem, feelings, bias and so on. The problem itself should be restated objectively, clearly, and with the opportunity to create the conflict-solving basis.
  • Finally, both conflicting parties should be able to listen to the opponent, and examine the opposing viewpoint for logic, wisdom, and common features with your own position.

If there is a strong necessity to mediate the conflict, a mediator may resort to normative strategies, prescribed by statute, or use progressive, psychology based techniques. These steps are outlined by Rahim (2003), and are intended for managers that have to mediate or resolve a conflict between their employees. The key steps are as follows:

  • Avoid using threatening tone for communication. Both parties have to be listened and understood. First, they may be listened to in an isolated environment tete-a-tete, and then jointly.
  • Explain both parties the essence of the general conflict-solving strategy, and offer them an opportunity to solve the conflict by themselves.
  • Listen to both, and find the common basis for implementing the necessary changes into organizational policies. If the conflict is business oriented, this may be used as a creative basis for finding a decision-making alternative.
  • Keep the conflict confidential for encouraging trust of the workers.

In fact, these steps may be effective only if they are performed by an experienced mediators, and conflict experts (Pulhamus,2004; Brewer and Lam, 2009) recommend resorting to this strategy only if a mediator may be objective and neutral, without giving preferences to people, while preferences should be given to ideas. Pammer and Killian (2003, p. 184) emphasize the importance of controlling emotions and feelings:

Getting peoples feelings out means nothing without follow through. The whole process is meaningless if you are not committed to trying to come to solid conclusions. Do not treat conflict resolution like something to get past for one moment in time. A conflict generally represents something that’s been festering a while. Get it out, deal with it, and come to solid conclusion everyone can live with over the long term. Otherwise, you will be right back where you started.

Playing attention to the fact that conflict solving in Department of Defense or US military bodies is performed with strict consideration of the specifications of military relations. As a rule, soldiers of US corpses, and officers of authorized bodies are not interested in non-statute relations, while such instances are the direct pointing on the existence of the possibility of non-statute relations. Therefore official conflict-solving measures are mainly intended for observing the normative rules.

Effective conflict solving is regarded as one of the ethical values stated in the Standards of Conduct. Therefore, any conflict solving that is performed on the basis of statutes, and normative regulations involve:

  • Honesty. Soldier of the US army should be truthful, straightforward, and candid. These are the necessary components for proper solving of the stated task, as well as adjusting proper relations with colleagues, and superiors.
  • Integrity. This is the key basis for objectiveness and unbiased judgments.
  • Loyalty. This is the bond that helps to keep the unity of the team. Unity within the militaries is the key premise of unity within the army, and invincibility in outer conflicts.
  • Accountability. Soldiers and officers should be responsible for their words, solutions, and decisions. This will help allocate responsibilities for conflicts as well.
  • Fairness. Soldiers and officers have to be committed to justice.
  • Caring. Kindness, tolerance, willingness to help are highly valued.
  • Respect. Privates and superiors are encouraged to treat people with dignity, honor their privacy and right for freedom.

In the light of this statement, it should be emphasized that the actual importance of controlling conflicts by normative regulations, and statue prescriptions is explained by the opportunity to encourage employees / soldiers resolve conflicts in-private. However, they may be resolved by force, or by applying ethic values, stated in the Standards of Conduct. Sutterfield and Friday-Stroud (2007, p. 218) emphasize the following:

Management is able to reduce conflict at work by reiteration of position requirements, task descriptions, and also by being receptive to gripes or statements from subordinates. Listening from the top will make or break productivity from the bottom. Supervisors are the first line of defense to intentionally upgrade communication with all subordinates that they lead. This can be done with positive results by meeting with employees on a one on one basis, with timely and professional ways.

In the light of this statement, it should be emphasized that the actual importance of soling conflicts may be explained by the opportunity of personal growth of the military employees, as well as their opportunity to cooperate with each other, help newcomers cope with the common problems, and increase the unity of US army.

Improving Conflict-Solving

Regardless of the theoretic effectiveness of conflict-solving strategies applied by the DoD, the necessity to improve these strategies is evident: conflicts are evolving, and statutes are not able to consider all the possible variants. Improvement may be performed by reviewing the existing management strategies, and comparing them with the innovations of military psychologists. Hence, as it is stated by Rahim (2003, p. 219):

Depending on certain management styles and leadership qualities, conflict can be minimized. It’s up to managements experience with handling these conflicting situations. Smaller organizations can have lower conflicting incidences. This is because most workers handle their fair share and mind there manners. Smaller organizations seem to be a tighter knit workplace, where large corporations aren’t able to bond. Most conflicts are escalated up the chain and end up as a memo. Smaller companies with less people resolve most conflict on the spot, only because managing less people can be easier to communicate with.

From the perspective of these considerations, the opportunity of improving conflict management strategies will be based on the statement that statutes and standards will be he bases for managing personnel, while conflict solving may be performed by human resource managers analogues. In fact, Department of Defense should take commercial HRM patterns for avoiding conflicts within DoD employees. These patterns are intended for managing people, and solving conflicts among them in the case of free commercial performance, and right to act without considerable restrictions. Employees of commercial bodies have an opportunity to quit, sue against abusers, transfer to another department, and the key task of a manager is to solve the conflict without allowing dramatic consequences. DoD employees do not have an opportunity to quit, sue, or transfer as freely as business workers, hence, military HR managers will not have the necessity to stimulate them resolve the conflict. However, he/she will have to apply conflict solving strategies for improving relations, and stimulating conflicting parties to reach mutual agreement regardless of the origins of the conflict.

Another improvement strategy is costly enough, though, it has already confirmed its effectiveness: checking psychological compatibility of individuals. This will not resolve existing conflicts, however, this will be an effective basis for decreasing the amount of conflicts within departments. Additionally, the actual importance of checking compatibility may be explained by the fact that people are able to adapt to each other, and such a checking may help to define this ability (Brewer and Lam, 2009).

The next step is qualification improvement of those who are responsible for conflict solving. DoD HR managers need to have sufficient experience level for coping with energetic, willful, and restricted males. They will have to share their experience with each other, study business cases, and develop a reliable theoretic basis for solving conflicts in US army.

Conclusion

The key types of everyday conflicts that are faced by Department of Defense, and US military bodies are linked with human factor within these organizations. These are mainly interpersonal or organizational conflicts that may violate the smooth performance of these organizations. Consequently, conflict solving strategies should be directed at encouraging people to communicate, follow standards of conduct, and act in accordance with statute. On the one hand, soldiers, officers, and DoD employees are obliged to follow statutes, however, conflicts arise. The key strategies of solving these conflicts are similar with managerial strategies in business organizations: employees have to be listened to, and mediator has to find the common basis for their compromise.

Reference List

Brewer, B., & Lam, G. K. (2009). Conflict Handling Preferences: A Public-Private Comparison. Public Personnel Management, 38(3), 1.

Masters, M.F., Albright, R. (2002) “Complete Guide to Conflict Resolution in the Workplace”. AMACOM.

Pammer, W. J. & Killian, J. (Eds.). (2003). Handbook of Conflict Management. New York: Marcel Dekker.

Pulhamus, A. R. (2004). Conflict Handling – a Common Sense Approach to Appraising Supervisory Performance. Public Personnel Management, 20(4), 485.

Rahim, M. A. (Ed.). (2003). Theory and Research in Conflict Management. New York: Praeger.

Sutterfield, J. S., Friday-Stroud, S. S., (2007). How Not to Manage a Project: Conflict Management Lessons Learned from a DOD Case Study. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 8(3), 218.

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