It is part of any relationship, either between individuals or organizations, that conflict sometimes may occur. Conflict means opposing of interests and it is usually arise because of differences in handling related issues and/or relationships between two or more parties. Conflict is not always a bad thing to handle, yet it may lead to a better understanding of the situation. Conflict could be handled by several ways and styles that may lead to different results.
Overview on Conflict
Definition: Conflict is defined as an “interactive process manifested in incompatibility, disagreement, or dissonance within or between social entities”(Rahim, 1992:16).
Conflicts happen everyday in organizations on intrapersonal and/or interpersonal levels. It may be related to different factors and reasons that may include: lack of job satisfaction, low self esteem and motivation, too much work or personal life pressures, and opposing of goals and interests.
Conflict Management: ’Conflict management consists of diagnostic process, interpersonal styles, negotiation strategies, and other interventions that are designed to avoid unnecessary conflict and reduce or resolve excessive conflict’ (Hellriegel & Slocum,Jr. 2004:226). This process is very important and vital in controlling the conflict because conflict itself may be unavoidable.
Symptoms of Conflict: The most important symptoms of conflict were described by C. Handy in his book, Understanding Organizations (1976). These symptoms are shown in the following diagram.
Levels of Conflict: ‘Four primary levels of conflict may be present in organizations: intrapersonal (within an individual), interpersonal (between individuals), intragroup (within a group), and intergroup (between groups)’(Hellriegel & Slocum,Jr. 2004:227).
A person that has to decide between a job that is secure but with low payment, and a job that is less secure with more salary and other advantages will be in an intrapersonal conflict situation.
An interpersonal conflict happened two months ago in my workplace, when me and my colleague had a different point of view on how to register prescribed drugs either manually in registration book or electronically in the computer.
Intragroup conflicts occur frequently between top shareholders of a company on the chief executive (C.E.O.) position.
An example of intergroup conflict is the conflict that occurs in the election process between two different parties, such as the democrats and the republicans in the United States president election.
Interpersonal Conflict Handling Styles
The way of handling conflict between two persons differs widely according to different internal and external factors. Internal factors are mostly inherited, gained by time, and come from the person him/her-self. For example, gender, nationality, age, personality…etc. External factors are usually related to the environment around the person. For example, job satisfaction, job security issues, motivation, organizational pressers…etc.
There are many theories and models explaining interpersonal conflict handling styles. One of the best models was presented by Thomas and Kilmann in 1974 (Aritzeta, et al., 2005).
‘Styles of managing interpersonal conflict have primarily been defined based on two dimensions, assertiveness and cooperation (Thomas, 1976). Assertiveness is defined as a concern for self and cooperation as a concern for others. These two dimensions can be crossed to yield five independent styles: integrating (collaborating), obliging (accommodating), dominating (forcing), avoiding, and compromising (Rahim, 1983)’ (Antonioni, 1998:340).
Conflict is an everyday action that happens in an organization or between organizations. It could be handled by many ways leading to positive or negative results. Conflict is not always unhealthy. Never the less, in some occasions it is very helpful in understanding different viewpoints and ideas and in pushing the organization forward to meet its needs.
Antonioni, D. (1998). ‘Relationship between the big five personality and conflict management styles’. The International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 9, No. 4:336-355.
Aritzeta, A., Ayestaran, S., & Swailes, S. (2005). ‘Team role preference and conflict management styles’. The International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 16, No. 2:157-182.
Handy, C. (1976). Understanding organizations. (4th ed.). England: Penguin.
Hellriegel, D., & Slocum,Jr., J. W. (2004). Organizational Behavior. (10th ed.). Canada: Thomson.
Rahim, M. A. (1992). Managing conflict in organizations. (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Thomas, K. W., & Kilmann, R. H. (1978). ‘Comparison of four instruments measuring conflict behavior’. Psychological Reports, 42:1139-1145.