Conflict in the workplace is a painful reality and a primary source of low productivity and dissatisfaction. Conflict is a natural and normal part of any place of employment. When this happens, there is a tendency to reduce morale, a rise in absenteeism and a decline in productivity. Leaders have been estimated to spend at least 25 per cent of their time resolving workplace conflicts causing lower office performance.
One of the biggest challenges facing managers and staff members is the management and settlement of disputes that occur on the job. Through learning to resolve conflicts constructively, we will turn a potentially destructive scenario into an opportunity for creativity and increased performance. In order to promote positive results in conflicting situations, administrators should enact laws and legislation and encourage staff to forgive and excuse the errors of their fellow colleagues.
On the other hand, Baron (1997) wrote that mismanaged conflict is disastrous and questionnaire pre-sets that one important reason to impose conflict is to manage the stuff. Conflict arising due to differences in gender, culture or knowledge. Differences in the personality of workers were the final issue that was highlighted by the respondents as a major cause of organizational conflict. People sometimes scold others for minor reasons due to perceptions they have made out about others.
The impact of conflict on the work environment and employees
- The productivity level of the employee decreases:
In a UAE case study (2013), most of the participants believe that leaving conflicts alone can cause bigger problems in the future that would be hard for a human resources department and the management of the organization to handle. Interviewee # 5 said “such problems include an exhausted workforce, a lot of turnovers, and lack of interest in work. For example, being a careless employee for a long time will lead to a conflict between employees who compared themselves with careless people”.
- Development of passive aggression in the behavior of employees
An employee tends to gossip more and work less, and so they often do not deliver important messages” (Interviewee # 2 of the UAE case study, 2013). Half of the respondent mentioned that keeping information to one’s self that is important for others to know often leads to conflict in organizations. This, therefore, shows us that there are multiple working attitudes and behaviours that can indicate that the worker is showing passive-aggressive behaviour.
Conflict management styles
- Collaborating style
In this style, a person breaks free of the “win-lose” paradigm and seek the “win-win.” This style is effective for complex scenarios where a novel solution is needed. This can also mean re-framing the challenge to create a bigger space and room for everybody’s ideas.
- Competing style
On the other hand, is the “win-lose” approach. You act in a very assertive way to achieve your goals, without seeking to cooperate with the other party, and it may be at the expense of the other party. This approach may be appropriate for emergencies when time is of the essence, or when you need quick, decisive action, and people are aware of and support the approach. Moreover, competing is assertive and uncooperative—an individual pursues his own concerns at the other person's expense. This is a power-oriented mode in which one uses whatever power seems appropriate to win a position—your ability to argue, your rank, or economic sanctions. Competing means standing up for your rights, defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.
This style is unassertive and cooperative, the complete opposite of competing. When accommodating, the individual neglects his own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person's order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another's point of view.
- Avoiding Style
It emphasizes eluding the conflict topic, the conflict party, or the conflict situation altogether, in order not to embarrass the other person’s face directly. This is a non-confrontational style that involves withdrawing from the situation and avoiding the other party. It is unassertive and uncooperative—the person neither pursues his own concerns nor those of the other individual. Thus he does not deal with the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.
- Integrating style
Also referred to as a collaborating or problem-solving style, it indicates a need for solution closure in conflict and involves mutual concern for both self and others in conflict’s substantive negotiation. Individuals who use the integrating style strive to satisfy the goals and needs of both parties during a conflict.
- Compromising Style
It refers to a give-and-take concession solution to reach a midpoint agreement or mutually satisfactory concerning the conflict issue. It can be placed between the styles of compromising and accommodating and often involves the equal distribution of resources. Compromising is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. It falls intermediate between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating.
The case study (UAE Organizations), highlighted conflicts reasons, which were mentioned most frequently in the data, include a lack of coordination and communication, and the lack of properly defining responsibilities. As many interviewees agreed, a proper set of rules and regulations must be defined so that people know what they must do and how they are expected to behave. Limited channels should not be relied upon for delivery of important information.
Step by step ways of solving conflicts
- Define the root cause which is causing the problem in the organization.
- Conduct research to find the root of the problem. This should include a friendly focus group so that employees can discuss their problems without hesitation.
- Member meetings can be conducted to resolve issues. In these meetings, representatives from each department level should actively participate so that everyone must have a say in the matter.
- Once a resolution has been identified by workers, it should be suggested to management with the expectation of mutual consent at a later stage. Management should keep in mind that they cannot be directive all the time. The best solutions must have the interests of both workers and administration in mind.
- Finally, the implementation of the solution to resolve organizational conflict. Responsibilities of implementation must be assigned to both workers and higher management.
- After implementation, measure whether the solution was successful or not.
Keithley Tongai is a Consultant intern at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.