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Workplace Confict and Resolution

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Autor:   •  March 18, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,702 Words (11 Pages)  •  807 Views

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Conflict is what has allowed us and our society to grow and become stronger. On a large scale it has brought peace and harmony. On a smaller level it allows one to understand oneself and seek out happiness. However, in today's workforce, conflict and competitiveness can be either very destructive or very productive. As one develops an understanding of the inter-workings of their job one develops professional relationships with fellow employees and therefore learns to work together towards a common goal. However a common occurrence as a part of this professional relationship is conflict. Conflict can allow companies or agencies to see their weaknesses and where they are the least effective. Being able to resolve these conflicts leads to a more profitable company, happier and more productive employees, and creates a more effective work environment. Conflict however can be damaging if not resolved quickly.

Types of Workplace Conflict

Conflict in the workplace of one form or another can occur at any time. There are many types of conflict that can arise between two or more employees resulting in a work life that can become very difficult, stressful and unhealthy for a company's employees and very costly for the company if the conflict is not taken care of appropriately.

According to Wilf H. Ratzburg, conflict is caused by incompatibility between actual or desired outcomes, a perceived disagreement, or incompatible

attitudes, motives, values, expectations, or activities (Ratzburg, "Conflict Defined"). The three general causes of conflict are communication, organizational, and personal.

Communication is probably the biggest area for conflict as words can be understood several different ways. Often times "it is not what is said, but how it is said." One must also take into consideration noise, as a form of distorted signals and misunderstandings (Ratzburg, "Causes of Conflict").

Organizational conflict occurs mainly when groups are interdependent upon one another. Conflict escalates if these groups are forced to share resources. Other conflicts can arise due to task specialization, reward systems, authority relationships, and group size (Ratzburg, "Causes of Conflict").

Of course when working together another type of conflict can arise due to personality. These types of conflict are based mainly on morals and value systems but also include the involved parties' personality types (Ratzburg, "Causes of Conflict").

Wilf H. Ratzburg states that conflict can be seen in a positive perspective when the conflict:

* opens up an issue in a confronting manner

* develops clarification of an issue

* improves problem-solving quality

* increases involvement

* provides more spontaneity in communication

* initiates growth

* strengthens a relationship when creatively resolved

* helps increase productivity

(Ratzburg, "Types of Conflict")

Groups tend to be the most effective when they are involved in cognitive conflict. According to conflict theorist, this occurs when the team focuses their debate on the issues at hand. Since each team member brings different opinions and experiences to the table they can examine each issue in detail. By focusing their attention on underlying problems concerning a particular issue they increases the team's understanding and cohesion, therefore increasing the team's effectiveness (Ratzburg, "Cognitive Conflict").

However, conflict can cause real damage to a group or company. According to Wilf H. Ratzburg, conflict becomes destructive if it does any of the following:

* diverts energy from real task

* destroys morale

* polarizes individuals and groups

* deepens differences

* obstructs cooperative action

* produces irresponsible behavior

* creates suspicion and distrust

* decreases productivity

(Ratzburg, "Types of Conflict")

The ugly side of conflict, otherwise known as affective conflict "provokes hostility, distrust, cynicism, and apathy among team members (Ratzburg, "Affective Conflict"). Affective conflict is caused by anger and personal resentment. It is detrimental to the team because such cynicism causes the group to avert their attention away from the team's goals. This also causes less commitment to the team as the cohesiveness of the group declines. This damages the team's effectiveness. It also can incline the individual to not participate as a member of a team in the future (Ratzburg, "Affective Conflict").

Consequences from Unmanaged Workplace Conflict

At some point in a company's life, it will pay the price for mismanaged conflict. "...poorly managed conflict leads to lawsuits, lost productivity, turnover, incorrect decisions, low morale, and unhealthy working environments" (McCormick & Heilmann, 1999, Business Journal). The cost of conflict can be very high especially if the conflict could have been avoided or managed effectively and efficiently but was not taken care of due to managers and supervisors not having appropriate training to be able to manage the conflict. Davis states to Yager that "Unmanaged conflict and its ugly side-effects are perhaps the largest reducible cost in organizations today, and probably the least recognized." Davis estimates that "65 percent of performance problems result

from strained relationships and unresolved problems between employees -- not from deficits in individual employee skill or personal drive" (Yager, 2000,

Enterprise/Salt Lake City, pg. 11, para. 4/5).

Strategies for Resolving Conflict

Effective strategies for conflict resolution and knowing when to use them is a skill needed by all supervisors and managers (Ramsey, 2003). If conflicts in the workplace seem to arise frequently, involve several employees and are blown out of proportion,


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