Managing conflict – Theory and perspectives

So many articles, researched that deal with managing the conflict in organization. They give different ways to manage conflict but most of the ideas are overlapping. However, examining the conflict nature without knowing the appropriate approaches to handle the conflict only solves half of the problem. Likewise, the effectiveness of a particular conflict management approach has to be evaluated in the context of the conflict nature in order to really benefit from this literature. Tjosvold et al. (2006) empirically examined both conflicts and conflict-handling approaches, effects on team effectiveness. He found that the role conflict types for team effectiveness is ambiguous; and that a cooperative approach was related to perceived team effectiveness, Nevertheless, their examination appears too simplified because it polarizes conflict handling approaches into two types: cooperative and competitive. Their findings show that team leaders should understand how and why relationship conflict occur, and encourage the use of cooperative approach in solving the problem.

Thomas (1976) labels two dimensions: cooperatives, when individuals’ concerns for others are higher; and assertiveness, when the concerns for self are higher. Alongside these two dimensions, five approaches were identified. First, collaborating this is assertive and cooperative, or so called integrating and win – win; Second, Competing known as assertive and uncooperative, also called dominating or zero-sum; Third, accommodating this is unassertive and cooperative, also called obliging; fourth, known as unassertive and uncooperative, also called inaction or the ignoring style. Lastly, compromising it is a mid-range on both assertiveness and cooperatives.

Jun, PingPing and Songbo (2009) identify two-dimensional model of conflict-handling approaches reflects how individuals/teams negotiate between their own and the other party’s interest while dealing with conflict. The nature of conflict dictates the approach to be used (Tjosvold, 2006). Jun, PingPing and Songbo (2009) believes that relationship conflict is believe to interfere with team collaboration, decreasing team cohesiveness and negatively affecting team performance. While interpersonal distress and distrust surfacing from this type of conflict makes it impossible for members to take approaches that would enhance cooperatives in team. Task conflict, on the other hand, is believed to trigger information sharing and encourage team members to consider multiple perspectives when seeking solution to problems, and thus members are likely to take assertive approaches to prevent premature consensus and increases team effectiveness in general (Jehn, 1995).

The implications for conflict management theory are twofold: first, the behavioral strategies adopted in the management of these conflict will be highly complex and will be determined by a number of influencing factors; and second, this moves theory beyond the two dimensional duel concern perspective, in that the adaptive manager dealing with these multiple, simultaneous conflict will also need to consider the possible implications of their chosen strategy along with the changing micro environment in which they operate (James, S. and Lynette, R, (2010).

A Deweyian perspective sees conflict as an inevitable, healthy force of change. According to this view, conflict should result in attempts to resolve disruption and be used as a creative force for positive change; indeed, in some organization, dissent is desirable and conflict resolution is used as a creative force for positive change (Labich, 1998). On the other hand the political perspective does not view conflict as either a problem or a sign that something is amiss. In this perspective, resources are in short supply; individual compete for jobs titles, and prestige; and conflict is natural, inevitable, and not necessarily bad (Michael and Wayne, 2001). However, Bolman and Deal (1991) argue that because of scarce resources and enduring differences, conflict is critical to organization dynamics, and power is crucial resource.


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