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Functional Conflict, Its Sources and Resolution Styles Case Study

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Updated: Nov 15th, 2020

Sims defines functional conflict as disagreements that arise in an organization resulting in positive impacts not only on business but also on all stakeholders (246). The parties affected by the conflict reach a compromised position that ends in a win-win situation. According to Sims, functional conflict promotes analytical thinking (246). The affected parties work together to identify alternative solutions to a current stalemate. Sims alleges, “Functional conflict helps in diffusing tension among the members of a group” (247). Individuals get an opportunity to express themselves freely and share their concerns, thus minimizing anxiety. On the other hand, dysfunctional conflict refers to squabbles that arise in an organization, which results in one party benefiting at the expense of others. Increased employee turnover, high tension, distrust, and augmented dissatisfaction are some features that characterize dysfunctional conflict. According to Liu et al., dysfunctional conflict is costly to business as it kills employee motivation and reduces customer satisfaction (225). Moreover, an organization drifts away from its goals because leaders engage in a supremacy battle, thus diverting their attention from organizational mission and vision.

The conflict affecting Synergon and Beauchamp companies is dysfunctional. The leadership of Synergon is taking advantage of the business’s financial strength to dominate the operations of Beauchamp (Cliffe 32). It does not consider the interests of the employees, customers, and suppliers of Beauchamp Company. The decision to shut down the cafeteria and do away with the bonus plan does not consider the interests of the employees who work hard to ensure the success of Beauchamp. The bureaucracy in the provision of consumer credit is meant to benefit Synergon at the expense of customers.

Source of the Conflict

According to Spaho, task conflict arises when “two parties are unable to move forward on a task due to differing needs, behaviors or attitudes” (107). The conflict can be over organizational policies and procedures, modes of executing projects, or resource allocation. Limbare identifies three components of task conflict, which are cognitive, behavioral, and affective (175). The cognitive component entails disagreements between parties due to discrepancies in objectives, interests, and needs. The behavioral component arises when one party meddles with the aims or goals of another. The affective component is due to negative emotions such as resentment, anger, and aggression. The conflict between Synergon and Beauchamp is due to task issues.

The leadership of the two companies does not agree on various organizational policies. For instance, Julian is not happy with the management of Synergon changing travel policies for the company due to his health conditions. Additionally, Synergon has introduced numerous policies aimed at helping the company to realize its targets. The policies contravene Beauchamp’s business culture. They have resulted in Julian receiving numerous complaints from customers as well as suppliers, which are hurting Beauchamp’s operations. At one point, Julian tells Nick that the only way Beauchamp can realize the goals set by Synergon is by allowing it to stick to its business culture. Nick is not happy with J.J d’Amato, Synergon’s chief executive officer’s (CEO) attitude. The CEO does not consider the views of his juniors in decision-making. He believes in taking by force whatever he sets his eye on without taking into account the plight of other parties. Nick is not happy with the way the CEO treats the merger between Synergon and Beauchamp. He is also not pleased with his ultimatums.

Styles of Conflict Management

Shearouse identifies five styles of conflict management, which are accommodating, compromising, dominating, collaborating, and avoiding (39). The accommodating style entails embracing the views of another party at one’s expense, especially when one does not have adequate skills on the matter. It minimizes resistance and encourages cooperation between the affected parties. Additionally, it helps to maintain future relations amid the parties. The compromising approach entails paying moderate attention to the interests of the concerned parties. Shearouse claims that the plan seeks to adopt a solution that results in minimum “pain’ for the parties involved in a conflict (42).

The dominating style entails not paying attention to the needs of other parties. An individual that uses this technique seeks to satisfy his/her interests at the expense of other parties. The approach may be effective in a situation that requires critical decision-making (Shearouse 44). However, it may result in resistance, thus not resolving the conflict effectively. The collaborating technique entails engaging other parties in making decisions. It ensures that both sides are happy with the arrived resolution, and is most suitable in resolving complex conflicts. The avoiding technique entails circumventing the conflict at all costs. It involves abandoning goals that might result in a conflict and is helpful in dealing with trivial issues.

The best style to resolve the impasse between Synergon and Beauchamp is the collaborating technique. For both companies to realize their goals, they require working together to come up with feasible solutions. Synergon may have financial resources, but it cannot succeed in the British market since it does not understand its dynamics. On the other hand, Beauchamp understands the market’s dynamics but lacks financial resources to grow. Thus, the two companies should collaborate and share their resources for them to succeed.

Advice to Nick Cunningham

A major mistake that workers commit is making decisions to please their bosses. Such decisions are short-lived and cannot help to realize the long-term goals of a company. While it is imperative to consider the interests of the organizational leaders, one should ensure that they make decisions, which will benefit the entire organization even if they do not meet the interests of the managers. Nick should evaluate the situation and make a decision based on the challenges at hand. Meeting the conditions set by the CEO will only please Synergon’s leadership for a short period as it will result in the failure of the merger. Thus, Nick should sit down with the leadership and explain to them the importance of considering the views and interests of Beauchamp’s leaders such as Julian and other employees. He should make sure that Synergon’s leadership understands the current problem.

Nick’s bosses believe that Beauchamp’s managing director does not have an option but to give in to their demands. They do not appreciate the role that the managing director and other top leaders at Beauchamp have played in establishing a strong customer base in Britain. Nick should ensure that the bosses appreciate the dangers of imposing policies on Beauchamp’s leadership. They should realize that Synergon’s culture cannot apply in Britain, thus the need to have a good relationship with Beauchamp’s leaders and to allow them to continue with their management techniques. Nick should use hard facts like the employee complaints already being witnessed due to a change of policies to defend his argument.

A Case of Past Organizational Conflict

Two years ago, doctors at Hope Medical Center downed their tools demanding salary increment and improvement of working conditions. They complained that the facility did not have adequate equipment and medical staff worked under deplorable conditions. Additionally, they complained that the hospital’s management was reluctant to raise their salaries in line with the country’s labor laws. The employees claimed that doctors in other facilities were well-remunerated and worked under the right conditions. Despite the doctors generating high revenues for the facility, the management did not appreciate their contribution. They vowed to paralyze operations in the hospital until the management pays attention to their demands. The strike lasted for two months. The hospital’s management relaxed its position and accepted to negotiate with the workers. It was agreed that the hospital would raise the doctors’ salaries by 27%. The administration also promised to enhance working conditions by recruiting more staff and procuring the necessary equipment. The parties signed an agreement that led to the doctors ending the strike.

The current conflict was functional as it affected the interests of both the workers and the organization. The employees’ concerns were to benefit both the hospital and the staff. The hospital could not enjoy high revenue without meeting the needs of the employees. The doctors were not concerned with their interests only but also those of the patients and the hospital at large. Improvement of the working conditions would enhance service delivery, thus leading to the hospital earning high revenues due to increased traffic. On the other hand, it would ease employees’ working conditions, therefore minimizing burnout. Burnout is one of the leading causes of employee turnover. Hence, addressing the issue would have saved Hope Medical Center the burden of recruiting workers occasionally to replace those that leave due to dissatisfaction.

The conflict arose due to task issues. Huan and Yazdanifard aver that task conflict arises due to differing behaviors, attitudes, or needs (147). The attitude of hospital management towards doctors contributed to the strike. The doctors had championed for enhancement of working conditions and salary increments for many years. However, the management did not consider their complaints. Instead, it issued threats against individuals who seemed to invite their colleagues. Even though the doctors had genuine reasons to go on strike, the management trivialized the matter and threatened to fire all those who could not report back to work. The needs of the doctors and the hospital’s management differed significantly. The management was out to make a profit at the expense of the patients and physicians. Increasing the salaries and enhancing the working conditions would have adversely affected the revenue. On the other hand, the doctors advocated salary increment and enhancement of working conditions to ensure that the facility delivers quality services. It would have benefited the hospital, employees as well as patients.

The management used the collaborating technique to resolve the doctors’ problem. It realized that ignoring the doctors’ concerns was harming the image of the hospital. Thus, the management called the doctors’ representatives and requested them to negotiate and come up with amicable solutions. Both parties presented their concerns and agreed to arrive at solutions that would not hurt either side. The management promised not to take disciplinary actions against the doctors. On the other hand, the doctors’ representatives promised not to demand a salary increment that is beyond the hospital’s financial ability. Eventually, they all arrived at agreed terms, which led to the termination of the strike and the facility resumed its operations.

The negotiation followed integrative bargaining. Caputo defines integrative bargaining as a situation where parties to conflict work together to come up with a solution that meets their interests (378). It entails developing agreements that are mutually valuable. The hospital’s management and doctors reached a consensus to implement resolutions that would not affect either party adversely. The negotiation process entailed four stages. They were problem identification, problem analysis, generation of potential solutions, and evaluation and selection of the most suitable resolution (Sims 254). The doctors’ representatives in liaison with the management sat down and defined the problems that affected the facility. They stated the issues as organizational goals to help determine the factors that might inhibit their realization. Then, they analyzed the problems to determine the interests of both parties. Each side presented its concerns and desires. The negotiating team used the identified concerns to generate possible solutions. They brainstormed and came up with numerous solutions. The team then evaluated the solutions based on their feasibility and settled on one that met considerable interests of both parties. The management agreed to raise the salaries of the employees and enhance working conditions. It also decided not to punish the employees for staging a strike. On the other hand, the doctors promised to offer quality services to ensure that the hospital’s revenue increases. Both parties were contented with the resolutions.

Works Cited

Caputo, Andrea. “A Literature Review of Cognitive Biases in Negotiation Processes.” International Journal of Conflict Management, vol. 24, no. 4, 2013, pp. 374-398.

Cliffe, Sarah. “Can This Merger Be Saved?” Harvard Business Review, vol. 77, no. 1, 1999, pp. 28-44.

Huan, Lim, and Rashad Yazdanifard. “The Difference of Conflict Management Styles and Conflict Resolution in Workplace.” Business & Entrepreneurship Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 141-155.

Limbare, Sameer. “Leadership Styles & Conflict Management Styles of Executives.” Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 48, no. 1, 2012, pp. 172-180.

Liu, Wu, et al. “Culture and Accountability in negotiation: Recognizing the Importance of In-Group Relations.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 117, no. 1, 2012, pp. 221-234.

Shearouse, Susan. Conflict 101: A Manager’s Guide to Resolving Problems So Everyone Can Get Back to Work (Chapter 5), New York, NY, AMACOM, 2011.

Sims, Ronald. Decision Making: Conflict and Negotiation at Work (Chapter 10), Westport, CT, Greenwoods Press, 2002.

Spaho, Kenan. “Organizational Communication and Conflict Management.” Journal of Contemporary Management Issues, vol. 18, no. 1, 2013, pp. 103-118.

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