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In the fever and fret of daily life, conflicts are inevitable. Conflicts refer to the presence of differences (actual or perceived) in values, opinions and ideas and can be both intrapersonal (within one’s mind) as well as interpersonal. Teams generally are comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, aptitudes, personality characteristics, approach towards learning, and the way they react to the behaviors of others they encounter in day to day activities. Thus it is quite natural that conflicts come to pass within and amongst teams. Thus in today’s management scenario, conflict management assumes immense significance.
Understanding of the nature of conflict
In this context we need to analyze teambuilding issues at the outset of the discussion. Teambuilding activities are a vital feature in every group and need to be directed towards an ideologically shared goal. The lack of team dynamics in the workplace results in the cropping up of conflicts. Dissatisfaction and annoyance start to creep in. Thus efficient team building should be in place to counter these misbalances. Teambuilding should organize the workforce and encourage them to acknowledge change and concentrate on incessant enhancement of initiatives and projects. It should also promote suppleness, improvement and creativity amongst the employees. Team dynamics facilitates the workforce to focus on designated tasks and inspire each other. They assist in building faith, reliability and enhance communication (Hofstede 2005).
Communication, or lack of it, is more often the fundamental nature of conflict. Thus under such circumstances few conflict issues has been observed with regards to the different teams. It has been frequently observed that incapability to communicate and work effectively results in individual, team, or organizational conflict circumstances. In this case the key issues and the grievances must be taken care of before it affects the overall performance of the teams and stalls the project operations. Individual interviews may be carried out to identify the issue and subsequently needs to be addressed effectively.
Minute team conflicts may involve situations such as such as disparity, insensitive or offensive remarks, or complicated behavior exhibited by some team members that may aggravate tension throughout the entire team and negatively impact efficiency. Team-wide disagreements or enmity thrust by inherent viewpoints can considerably decrease team fluency and holdup or interrupt the team’s productivity – be it in inventory management, engineering, customer relations, or internal operations for example human resources and finance (Black and Mendenhall 2008).
With regards to conflict management here are some significant aspects to be considered by a manager. Conflict isn’t essentially always a negative feature. When occurring in an open and direct manner, it assists in handling issues and generating a constructive consensus. An organizational culture that holds such a viewpoint is called “constructive confrontation” and can be a constructive instrument (Hofstede 2005).
Conflict is the consequence of individuals hold dissimilar conjectures. It is important to reflect on what beliefs ones stance is based on and then analyze perspectives of the others involved. It is also important to concentrate on the issues rather than the involved parties. To a large extent conflict arises from underlying issues that manifest into problems in due course of time. Since they’re never brought to the fore, they never heal and leak out in all your interactions with that person. Thus as a manager it is important that one encourages his subordinates to be open, direct and honest.
Characteristics of conflict
The primary characteristics of any conflict are the presence of discords or differences among values, goals and desires. Secondly, any kind of interpersonal conflict involves at least two persons whereas intrapersonal conflict refers to the conflict within one’s self.
Very often power hungriness is prevalent in a conflict. This is because in a conflict, the persons concerned are primarily bothered about the outcome of their action. Finally, a conflict is always characterized by some form of action or expression. Whether it is implicit or explicit, action forms an integral part of interpersonal conflict (Hofstede 2005).
Types of conflict
Based on the characteristics mentioned above, conflicts may be broadly classified into five types.
Relationship Conflicts: Conflicts in relationships emanate from misunderstandings, miscommunication, misconceptions or strong negative emotions. Relationship problems often give birth to destructive conflicts (Black and Mendenhall 2008).
Data Conflicts: Data Conflicts arise due to the lack of information necessary for proper decision-making, disagreement on the relevance of data, misinformation, misinterpretation of data and competing data assessment procedures (Hofstede 2005).
Interest Conflicts: Interest Conflicts encompass a broader spectrum of issues ranging from substantive issues such as money, physical resources, time etc; procedural issues as well as psychological issues such as respect, faith, desire for participation etc.
Structural Conflicts: Structural Conflicts refer to the external factors that facilitate dispute like limited physical resources or authority, geographic constraints like distance or proximity, time and organizational changes (Black and Mendenhall 2008).
Value Conflicts: Values define our concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘just’ and ‘unjust’. Conflicts do not arise due to difference in values. Value Conflicts occur when one attempts to force one set of values on another (Hofstede 2005).
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All conflicts, however, are not undesirable. Conflicts may be destructive or constructive depending on the way the situation is managed. Hence is the need for Conflict Management which is defined by Fred Tanner as “…the limitation, mitigation and/or containment of a conflict without necessarily solving it” (Swanström and Weissmann 2005).
Barriers to Conflict management
Certain factors, though, act as barriers to Conflict management such as:
- Escalation: Sometimes people use anger as a defense mechanism to protect themselves in a conflicting situation. This further aggravates the situation.
- Dirty fighting: It is the worst form of barrier including verbal attack, reference to past experiences and total lack of rational communication.
- Avoidance: People usually consider ‘conflict’ as a negative attribute and try to deal with it by avoiding the situation instead of facing it (Hofstede 2005).
- Non-assertiveness: It discourages people from speaking their mind out. These people, in turn, may allow themselves to be guided by others or stop others from speaking out.
- Misanalysis: Failure to judge the real cause of a conflict often leads to poor management of the situation.
- Competing: In a conflict, the involved parties, instead of cooperating with each other, engage in competing with each other. Thus, from a “win-win” situation, they compromise for a “win-loss” situation ultimately resulting in total loss (Black and Mendenhall 2008).
Effective use of conflict management skills can go a long way in strengthening both our personal as well as professional relationships. Thus, an awareness of the barriers to conflict management proves beneficial in understanding the nature of the conflict and selecting the best possible mode to resolve it.
Black, J. S., and Mendenhall, M. (2008). A practical but theory-based framework for selecting conflict management training methods. Human Resource Management 28(4), 511-530.
Hofstede, G. (2005). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. London: SAGE.
Swanström, N., and Weissmann, M. (2005). Conflict, Conflict Prevention, Conflict Management and Beyond: a conceptual exploration. Washington, D.C.: Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program.