Conflict in the workplace is defined as the difference in the wants, expectations and needs of the workers as a result of people who have different cultures and behaviors. Conflicts in the workplace may either be assets or liabilities to the organization. In cases when the conflict is an asset, the organization treats the conflict as a chance for creativity or as a way of collaborating with some of the workers so as to achieve the strategic goals of the organization.
This scenario has occurred in some workplaces although it is not very common and in most cases conflicts are costly to the organization. The problem that most organizations are facing is not the fact that conflict exists but the major problem is how the organizations deal with the problem or the effects of unresolved conflicts in the organization. The impact of conflict in the workplace can be destructive to the people involved, team members or colleagues, clients and to the overall organization.
In the ideal workplace it is expected that the workers get along smoothly without cases concerning the terms of employment. There would be no cases or incidents of sexual harassment. It is also expected that in the ideal workplace employees would be responsible for their actions instead of placing the blame on other workers. It is also expected that in a conflict free working place there would be no workplace gossip and the managers would promote and reward workers exclusively on the basis of merit without any discrimination.
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But in the real world working place conflicts are very frequent and the human resource or the counselors department has the responsibility of solving these conflicts to reduce their impact on the organization. 2. 0 PROBLEM STATEMENT Unresolved conflicts on the workplace has for a long time caused a lot of problems to organizations. Workers who are in conflict find it hard working together to achieve the strategic goal of the organization. Workers tend to work below their optimum working capacity.
Most of the organizations that have had conflicts in the workplace have had the following problems: anxiety, stress and frustration of workers, increases complains from clients, workers absenteeism, reduction in the productivity of the organization, low employee turnover, numerous grievances from the workers and in some cases accidents and injuries may take place in the working place. One of the major expenses that organizations have been faced with as a result of conflict in the workplace is litigation.
This takes place when a ruling involving some kind of conflict is made against the organization. Conflict in the workplace is not only between individuals but it may be between two or more units of the organization or between two or more organizations. Studies have shown that most of the managers spend almost 30% of their daily working time dealing with some kind of conflict resolution. This means that for a manager earning $20, 000 in a year, $6, 000 per year is spent on dealing with conflicts and for cases where the managers earn significant amounts it may be more than this value.
The other major problem facing organizations due to conflicts is absenteeism, meaning that organizations work below their optimum levels and this reduces the productivity of the organization. Commu7nication breakdown in organizations may be as a result of conflicts and this leads to poor communication channels which may cause significant harm to the organization. 3. 0 LITERATURE REVIEW Conflict in the workplace is as a result of differences in the perceptions, values and goals in a place where people are careful about their outcome.
A breeding place of conflicts in the workplace may be as a result of lack ways to deal with it effectively due to confusion or disagreement regarding how to deal with a certain form of conflict. Conflicts may also be as a result of competition of the limited resources in or out of the organization. Interdependency between individuals or organizations may also lead to conflict. Studies have shown that open communication is one of the best ways to deal with conflicts in the workplace. Lack of an open means of communication may breed conflicts underground and eventually lead to high levels of hostility within the employees.
The opportunity for conflicts is increased because a workers ability to achieve his or her goals greatly depends on cooperation and help from other workers. Due to the fact that no one person can do a job without the input of other people, lateness or different opinions or misunderstandings may lead to conflict between the workers. Increased interaction among the workers or organizational units may also lead to conflicts because the higher the interaction levels there higher the chances of conflict.
An organization that requires workers to work in teams needs to come up with effective means of conflict resolution due to the high chances of conflicts. The three major components of conflicts in the workplace are: it involves two or more people, there is lack of compatibility between the goals, ideas beliefs or actions and lastly the opposing parties consider their own opinions as the only way to achieve the targeted goals and objectives. Communications is a cause and at the same time a remedy to conflicts in the workplace.
3. 1 CAUSES OF CONFLICTS AT THE WORKPLACE According to Cahn and Abigail, (2007) the following are the major causes of conflicts: conflict may be as a result of conflicting needs between people and/or organizations. At any time when there is competition for power, resources or recognition in an organization there is the likelihood of conflicts because all the participants need a portion of the resources so as to complete their activities and so such a conflict should not come as a surprise to the managers.
Conflicting styles is another cause of conflicts in the workplace. Individuals differ in the way they approach different situations or other people in the workplace. The managers of organizations therefore need to understand their own style and develop a way of accepting conflicting styles from their workers. Managers can recommend personality tests in their organizations to help people identify and accept their own styles and those of others.
Conflicting perceptions is also a cause of conflicts in the work place as two or more workers in an organization may view the same incident in different ways. A good example of this is what may be the perception of employees in the case of a new manager, one of the employees may see the manager as an advantage while the another employee may see him as an insult to the other managers. Conflicting goals may be another cause of conflicts in the workplace. This comes into place when two or more different workers are assigned different duties but they have a similar goal.
A good example of this is in the case of a patient being admitted to a hospital; the finance department is responsible for taking the details of the patient and ensuring that the patient pays all the bills while the nursing sector is responsible for assessing the medical condition of the patient. In this case both activities are important and have a similar goal of ensuring that the patient gets well, but they may lead to a conflict. Conflicting pressures is another cause of conflicts in the work place. This occurs when an employee is required to complete two different jobs by the same deadline.
For example manager A may require a mechanic C to fix a certain machine by 4pm and at the same time a manger B may require the same mechanic to use the broken machine for another purpose. This clearly shows that the extent to which workers depend on each other can lead to conflicts. Conflicting roles may also lead to conflicts in the workplace. Conflicting roles occurs when an employee is asked to carry out a certain task that is nit within is job requirements or another worker is assigned to perform the same job.
This results to power struggles between workers and it can lead to a sabotage behavior in the workers involved. The other issue that may lead to conflict is differing personal values. Due to this people workers tend to segregate themselves on basis of personal values which later leads to gossiping and eventually it yields conflicts. Unpredictable policies are another cause of conflicts. This takes place when an organization changes its policies or policies are applied to the workers inconsistently. This leads to misunderstanding either between the workers or between the workers and the management.
Managers of organizations need to know the rules and policies of the organization to avoid giving wrong information to the workers. An organization that lacks clear policies or one that has policies that are frequently changing creates a working environment filled with uncertainty and these results to conflicts (Schwartz, 2002). 3. 2 CONSTRUCTIVE AND DESTRUCTIVE CONFLICT Research has shown that conflict may either be destructive or constructive although many researchers have argued that conflict in the workplace causes more harm than good.
A conflict may be beneficial to an organization if it brings out an issue in a way that it can be dealt with more easily. A conflict may also be constructive if it clarifies an issue more and if the conflict improves the quality of solving a certain problem. If conflict makes the communication in an organization more spontaneous then it can be seen as constructive. Some kind of conflicts may also help in initiating the growth of the organization while conflicts resolved in a creative manner strengthens the relationship of the people involved and this may increase the productivity of the organization.
On the other hand conflict may be destructive if it causes diversion of energy from the real work to conflict initiated tasks. Conflict can also be destructive if it demoralizes or polarizes the individuals or groups involved. Destructive conflict is one that increases the differences between the people involved and obstructs cooperation between them. A destructive conflict is one that leads to an irresponsible behavior and develops suspicion and distrust among the individuals. All these factors result to the reduction in the productivity of the organization.
A destructive conflict exists in the following instances: when the goals of the group or individual are being diverted by the conflict, when the conflict creates a threat to the group or the individual, when one member is attacked continuously and that member cannot defend himself and therefore he or she embarks in distorting the group so as to save face and lastly destructive conflict may occur when a certain conflict continues for a long time leading to too much energy being expended on the conflict. 3. 3 MAJOR EngineS OF CONFLICTS IN THE WORKPLACE Most of the organizations are faced with two major types of conflict.
The first type is conflict about ideas, decisions, actions and directions. This kind of conflict is referred to as a substantive conflict because it arises due to disagreements concerning the substance of the issue. The second form of conflict is the personality conflict which is also called personalized conflict because it is as a result of a lot of dislike between two or more parties. 3. 3. 1 Substantive conflict Substantive conflict may arise just because of any issue and what really fuels it is the fact that the parties involved disagree about a common issue.
The issue causing the disagreement may either be a bad or good issue but in both cases it gives rise to a substantive conflict. If this kind of conflict is handled in the right way the parties involved may develop for themselves and others among them the ability to resolve the conflict with something that is creative and better than any of the party’s previous position. If this kind of a conflict is resolved in this manner then it creates creativity among the parties involved but on the other hand if the conflict is not resolved it may be very fatal to the organization.
A good example of this kind of conflict is in the case where the supervisor and a worker are in conflict due to working hours. The supervisor expects all employees to have reported to work by 8am and work for the standard hours so as to ensure the organization achieves its strategic goals. The worker in this case feels that he should report to work at 9am because he has a child to take care of and he has arrived late on several days therefore the supervisor feels that the employee is deliberately not following the rules of the organization.
In this case the two parties approach the issue with an aim of solving the problem but not winning. After lengthy discussions on the issue the two parties then realize that there are very few or in some cases no customers between 8am and 9am and the few that show up during this time can be attended to by those workers who are in by 8am. They also realize that there are many customers who come to the organization between 4 and 5pm, therefore the two parties come to an agreement to make a change in the working hours and this result to a happy employee and improved service.
The benefits that come with this situation would not have been realized had the situation not occurred or if one of the parties wanted to win the case instead of resolving the issue. This shows that conflicts in organizations may be resolved for the benefit of both the organization and those involved if the parties are willing to understand the conflict from both ends instead of one party demanding a win in the issue (Moore, 2003).
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