During the last few years, I have been speaking to
different professional groups on the subject and every time I do so some
new dimensions are added to the topic with reference to our own
organizational culture as my groups comprise well informed middle and
senior level executives from Public and private sectors. Organization
conflict is different than individual conflict, which topic is also
indirectly related to organizational conflict, but has its own
importance also. The focus of this article is on organizational
During the recent times, views of conflict have
changed. Three decades ago, conflict was considered a harmful result of
failure in applying management principles. Now conflict is thought to be
not only inevitable but also, at times essential to maintain a
competitive spirit and "life' within the organization. One very
seasoned executive once remarked it is like a pinch of salt added to
flour to make a good dough for bread, but then, he asked, if we mix a
pinch of flour to a kilogram of salt, what will happen? It is very true
, conflict should be within palatable limits.
There are various types of organizational conflicts.
Conflict between two or more groups in an organization may arise from
difference in perception, management structure itself and difference in
perception of roles, goals, values and expectation. Sharing resources
especially when these are limited, is very often a source of conflict.
Unfair treatments, unjustified privileges to some employee(s), are some
other sources of conflict. Conflicts may give rise to groups cohesion,
selecting strong leaders; distorted perceptions about ones own group and
the other camp. Such group cohesion may help achieve the goals of the
groups but will adversely affect the achievement of the corporate goals
that are definitely more important. The structure of the organization,
level of conflict and the organization's method of dealing with it will
affect the ultimate outcome of the conflict.
Method of managing conflict may include stimulation,
reduction or integration. In stimulation method we bring third party,
even outsiders into picutre, encourage competition, restructure the
organization and redistribute, power within the organization. Reduction
method means establishing super ordinate goals, and bringing the
conflicting camps together to help solve the problem that is common.
Integrative method helps the Managers to solve the problem in a way that
is beneficial to all the groups. It is a desirable method, while
suppressing conflict, may help for the time, but in the long run, it is
Other types of conflict in the organizations,
include, line-staff conflict, Management-labour conflict. Line-staff
conflict in turn gives rise to inter groups conflict mentioned earlier.
Management-labour conflict is more adversarial in nature and is often
heightened during negotiations, and may result into strikes, lockouts,
and other such consequences.
Organizational creativity is one of the methods of
keeping conflict at the minimum desirable limit. It requires
understanding of the creative process, encouraging the flow of creative
thinking among employees, rewarding on positive contributions and
encouraging it in all possible ways. Keeping minds open to accept
change, providing clear objectives, regular training and development of
employees and management hierarchy and tolerating failures of new ideas
are some of the methods of encouraging creativity in organizations. It
should be kept in mind that creativity does not bring immediate results.
Ideas take time to be integrated with the system through improvement,
and even if fail apparently, have their potential value for the
organization. Ideas have to be generated, developed and implemented
which is a time consuming process. Brain storming, groups decision
making, regular task forces and other activities bring people together
to ponder on corporate affairs and problem help and foster creativity.
If we were to sum up the entire subject of managing
organizational conflict, then we have to create a climate in the
organization that ensures, free flow of communication in the
environment, and among organization members, and integration of