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Learn How to Resolve Conflict at Workplace in 10 Easy Steps

What is a conflict?

An organization is a network consisting of human element as the major functional source and as such is prone to weaker vulnerable aspects of human psychology. Conflict is, of course, one such weak point.

The diverse functional groups in the organization get into conflicts while setting up objectives and goals; in prioritizing and weighing the objectives, the methods of their achievement and their evaluation. Though there are numerous kinds of conflicts, this is the major one affecting the functioning of the firm.

Organizational conflict, or workplace conflict, is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between people working together. Conflict takes many forms in organizations.

How to resolve conflict at workplace

Certain examples of conflicts:

  • For work force, their personal goals come before the organizational goals.
  • The objective of the production department to increase productivity may go against the objective of maintaining the product quality.
  • The objectives of the marketing department to increase the sales through promotions may not be welcome by the finance department whose objective will be to cut the cost.

types of organizational conflicts

Reasons for conflicts:

  1. Lack of clarity as to the scope and relevance of functions in achieving the corporate objectives.
  2. Clash between line and staff authorities.
  3. Ignorance or lack of knowledge needed for decision making in the part of chief executives
  4. Different sets of beliefs and views, along with one’s personal interest and ego.
  5. Different kinds of attitudes of members of the organization
  6. Absence of clarity in organizational policy, procedures, rules and guidelines.

reasons for organizational conflict

The Results of Conflict:

The most affected element in a group conflict is “Employee Morale.” Conflicts undermine professionalism and lead to under utilization of organizational capacity.

Loss of Importance: A particular group of employees feel that their importance is being undermined. When a manager is being inducted from an outside source, the prospective employees of the firm feel that they have been let down by the management.

Frustration: There are certain rules and regulations to be stuck to when issues arise. If the finance department is not consulted regarding issues related to insurance claims, there are chances that the company might lose a good deal. In such cases frustration arises which is not good for the health of the firm.

Feeling of Insecurity: This affects severely the morale of an employee. A clerical staff feels insecure if new technological system is introduced in the company where he is a novice. When one’s importance is persistently reduced, he may start feeling redundant.

Blocked Personal Growth: Persons who experience reduced importance may apprehend a situation where they don’t expect much by way of personal growth through increments and promotion.

results of workplace conflicts

Functional Conflicts:

Functional conflicts support the goals of a group, improve its performance and are constructive in nature.

Dysfunctional conflicts hinder the performance of a group and are destructive in nature. It has not been precisely defined, as to what criterion demarcates functional from the dysfunctional.

It is only the group’s performance and the delivered result or outcome that determines the nature of the conflict. Conflicts, irrespective of their type can bring these benefits to the firm:

  • Bring hidden issues to the surface.
  • Encourage creativity and innovation.
  • Improves communication and make changes more acceptable.
  • Increases group cohesion.

functional conflicts

Conflict Management – Conflict is a Part of  Organizational Life

Managers need to be alert to the presence of conflicts. Their focus should be oriented towards the goals to be accomplished. If there is a conflict, they should aim to resolve it smoothly by not over-reacting to the situation.

They should take the help of persons who can best settle the issue, be ready to bargain and not issue orders. Their concentration should be on the problem and not on persons.

True to the saying – Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?- President Abraham Lincoln

conflict resolution quote by shannon l alder

Conflicts are Functional and Healthy:

Conflicts in organisations are generally considered to be dysfunctional. On the contrary, many top executives of big companies view conflicts, as a means, to sufficiently analyse a problem and postpone decision making until all critical aspects of an issue are evaluated properly.

Conflicts may occur within the individual, between individuals, between the individual and the group or between groups.

There are many potential sources of conflict in today’s corporate organisations. The complex inter personal relationships and high degree of interdependence causes friction.

Difference of Opinion:

When many people must work together, conflict is inevitable, as it is human nature to clash and complain. Conflict is the personal divergence of interests between groups or individuals.

The need to share scarce resources, difference in goals between organisational units, difference in values, attitudes and perception, ambiguously defined work responsibilities are some of the major sources of conflict. 

conflict management process

Strategies to Resolve Conflicts:

So, what kind of strategy do you think best suits in resolving conflicts? Avoiding or smoothing conflicts may be a temporary measure, only to bounce back in full force. Forcing might create undesirable consequences.

The only option left is to confront the situation, face-to-face meeting of the conflicting parties for the purpose of identifying the problem and resolving it through an open discussion.

Make Structural Changes to Lessen Conflicts: 

By making structural changes, conflicts can be managed. The objectives of a group are modified and then integrated to suit the purpose. Also changes in the structure of the organization, that is, clarification of authority-responsibility relationship, improving the working atmosphere, ambience and work locations help in resolving conflicts.

Proper Communication:

Lack of proper communication, ego clashes between the people in line and staff positions, a superior’s autocratic leadership style, differing educational backgrounds, lack of co-ordination between inter-departments are all rich sources of conflict. These can be resolved with the right kind of attitudinal approach and an open mind from the management’s end.

conflict management modes

Follow these 10 steps to resolve conflict at workplace

  1. An Open Frame of MindLine and staff authority should be open with each other and come out of their compartmentalized state of mind. Rationale thinking and logical action is what is required to understand and resolve conflicts.
  2. Be a Manager rather than a Technocrat: Specialization has made people to stick to their line of action and they act merely like tech wizards and conveniently forget the human element of flexible mental purview and compromise. Development of each individual’s managerial qualities will minimize conflicts. A manager has to harmonize functions of diverse natures and bring about co-ordination.
  3. Think as an Entrepreneur: Thinking about the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats an organization faces makes each individual realize that he or she is part of the organization and whatever happens to the firm directly affects his/her  stability and security.
  4. Make others feel a Sense of AchievementIt is the job of a manager to appreciate and encourage the achievements of his sub ordinates that bring greater joy in the minds of individuals and motivate them to work for the cause.
  5. Interaction among Functions: Cross functional interactions on a continuous basis are found to be useful in preventing and resolving conflicts. Informal groups serve as the best example of a committee consisting of members from different functional groups but with a common interest. These groups can be best identified and utilized by the management to resolve conflicts by seeking the help of the key person in the group.
  6. Roles, Responsibilities and the Scope of other Functions: The basic requirement is to first clearly define the objectives and sub objectives, the process, the roles of each function as a tool and their rights and responsibilities. One should know the roles and responsibilities of all functions having common interface: their position in the firm as well as their relevance and contribution towards the organizational goals.
  7. Communication and Information Sharing: The informal communication system helps in achieving group dynamics and cohesion while the formal channels take care of organizational directives. A quick and effective means of communication can considerably reduce the conflict level that arises out of communication disorders.
  8. Adequate Planning and Co-ordinations: At each operational level, hasty actions must be avoided to stop conflicts from arising. Planning and Co-ordination go hand in hand: Say, if a new product launch is aimed at without proper promotion, what would happen to the success of the project?
  9. Evaluation of Functional Performance: A standard mechanism must be set to evaluate managerial performance in terms of their ability to achieve an integrated set of objectives in a balanced manner.
  10. Necessity of Transparency: Transparency is needed at all functional levels or the initiator appears to be tainted with the accusation of having an ulterior motive. In case of big corporate firms all the policy decisions are taken by the board and not by a single person to avoid conflicts.

conflict management styles

Conflict need not necessarily be viewed as an evil but a disorder to be curbed. Sometimes a conflict might showcase the inherent inflexibility and malfunctions in the firm  to be corrected paving way for innovations. Sometimes it causes frustration for the management by preventing synergy amongst the sub-systems.

All said and done, conflict once identified have to be immediately dealt with and resolved by the management in order to facilitate smooth functioning of the organization.