Available literature demonstrates that although police are the best known and most noticeable officials of the United States justice system, they are required to routinely deal with conflicts owing to the nature of their job roles and functions (Kania, 2008). Unquestionably, the general police agency would benefit immensely from having the right kind of conflict management strategies in light of the fact that work-related contexts expose police officers to a multiplicity of conflict interactions that are occasionally unavoidable (Lau, Li, Mak, & Chung, 2004). This paper not only explains the conflict management strategies used in the police agency but also describes and analyzes internal and external areas of potential conflict for police agencies.
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It is demonstrated that conflicting parties can make use of five conflict management strategies to reach an amicable agreement: “confronting/collaborating, withdrawing/avoiding, forcing/competing, smoothing, and compromising” (Lau et al., 2004 p. 99). In the police agency, parties may use the collaboration strategy involving information sharing, openness, and elucidation of the various conflicting issues not only to reach a common ground that is satisfactory to the conflicting parties but also to spur positive work behaviors. In situations where collaboration is not feasible, parties may employ the compromising or the give-and-take strategy to ensure that each party gives up something that may be of significance to the other party so as to maintain positive work behavior and attitudes (Stojkovic, Kalinich, & Jofas, 2012).
The competitive strategy of conflict management has found wide usage in the police agency, whereby one party employs whatever power is available to pursue own concerns at the other party’s expense, implying that one party forces the other party to accept a particular position particularly when such a position is generally felt to be correct. It is important to note that this approach is generally assertive and uncooperative, hence it may lead to a reduction of motivation and consequent negative work behavior in the police agency (Lau et al., 2004). The smoothing approach operates by desisting to emphasize the differences that may exist between parties and instead focusing on points that are common to both parties, with the view to settling minor conflicts that may lead to a major conflict.
Moving on, the avoidance conflict management approach occurs when one party desist from actively pursuing or addressing own concerns or those of the other party in the conflict scenario, with the view to either sidestepping/ignoring issues or withdrawing for a cool-down period before attempting to resolve the conflict again (Stojkovic et al., 2012). In the police agency, this approach not only results in loss of self-esteem and confidence but is also blamed for the tendency to entrench counterproductive work behavior (Lau et al., 2004).
Lastly, some internal areas of potential conflict for police agencies are entrenched in the day-to-day disagreements among police officers (vertical conflict), sharing of scarce resources, rank-and-file orientations (horizontal conflict), faulty communication networks between superiors and juniors (line-staff conflict), as well as the normal human drive to promote one’s own concepts at the expense of others (role conflict). External areas of conflict are entrenched in budgetary allocation issues, dealing with public dissatisfaction regarding the delivery of policing services, and day-to-day interactions with the other components of the criminal justice system (Stojkovic et al., 2012).
Overall, it is important to note that some conflict management strategies address these areas of conflict better than others, hence the need to carefully select an approach based on the source of conflict (Kania, 2008). For example, collaborating and compromising strategies are better placed to deal with conflict that occurs over scarce resources in the agency due to their unassertive and cooperative nature, while the competing strategy is better placed to deal with police officers who only want to enhance their own concepts due to its assertive nature. The smoothing strategy may be used by senior police officers in attempts to address rank-and-file issues involving junior staff, while the avoidance strategy may be employed by seniors to first cool-down tempers before addressing salary or allowance concerns of junior police officers.
Kania, R.R.E. (2008). Managing criminal justice organizations: An introduction to theory and practice. Newark, NJ: Lexis Nexis Mathew Bender. Web.
Lau, E.Y.Y., Li, E.K. W., Mak, C.W.Y., & Chung, I.C.P. (2004). Effectiveness of conflict management training for traffic police officers in Hong Kong. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 6(2), 97-109. Web.
Stojkovic, S., Kalinich, D., & Jofas, J. (2012). Criminal justice organizations: Administration and Management. Stamford CT: Cengage Learning. Web.