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Effects of Conflict on Employee and Organizational Performance

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Abstract: Conflict exists in all types of working environments. If you are working with people or interact with people on a daily basis, at some point you will be involved in or have to deal with some form of conflict. Every employee hopes for a healthy, conflict free working environment. Conflict within the working environment has a direct impact on an employee’s job satisfaction and performance and on that of the organization’s performance. This paper is an attempt to understand and know the effect, causes, types and strategies on managing employee’s job satisfaction and job performance when having to be involved in, or have had to deal with any type of conflict. 1.1INTRODUCTION

Today, the majority of business organizations are doing business in a turbulent environment where there is a constant search to find a way to improve their competitiveness and performance (Dodd, 2003). With reference to organizations, conflict is the disagreement between employees, departments, managers or groups of people within the business. Disagreements may occur due to differences in points of view, ideology or unhealthy competition that may yield to either a positive or to a negative consequence. No matter what type of conflict or level of conflict occurs, there a number of functional and dysfunctional consequences that can arise from that conflict (Esquivel and kleiner, 1997). In addition, organizational conflict is regarded as the discord that happens when the goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible with those individuals or groups block or frustrate each other in attempt to reach their objectives. Conflict is an inevitable part of the organizational life since the goals of various stakeholders such as managers and staff have various and different points of view and are incompatible (Jones et al., 2000). Conflict is a fact of life in any organization as long as people compete for jobs, resources, power, recognition and security (Adomi and Anie, 2005).

As the term and sound of “conflict” generally has a connotation of something negative for most individuals, it can have an effect of both a positive and a negative. Researchers have stated that most organizations need more conflict, not less (Rico, 1964). It has also been stated that the absence of conflict may be an indication of autocracy, uniformity, stagnation and mental fixity; the presence of conflict may be indicative of democracy, diversity, growth, and self-actualization (Pondy, 1992). Furthermore, conflict is considered psychologically and socially healthy. It is psychologically healthy because it provides an outlet for frustrations and gives a feeling of participation for those involved in the conflict (Tjosvold, 1998).

In most organizations today, employees are organized into manageable groups in order to reach a common goal, thus making the probability of conflict to be high. There is no one source of conflict that occurs in organizations at all levels of management (Barker et al., 1987). In the social realm of conflict, conflict occurs but is handled by family members, friends and relatives. The same approach applies when the conflict is within the organization, when conflict arises; it needs to be resolved by management for the sake of growth of the organization, survival and enhance employee and organization performance. However, conflicts are rarely resolved easily, to a certain extend most conflicts are managed, as individuals work out difference (Barker, 1987). 1.2 Causes of Conflict

With any organization, there are many causes of conflict; however, the conflict with an Individual usually arises when an individual is unclear about what they are expected to do, this happens when the manager or supervisor in charged has not clearly defined their expectations to the employee (Henry, 2009). A survey conducted by Psychometrics Canada, surveyed 357 HR professional’s employees about what they see as the main causes of conflict, employees often report that personality, leadership, communication and the work environment play considerable roles. Personality clashes and warring egos, scored the highest percent of 86 % of the majority of respondents indicated being a frequent conflict.

Lack of leadership is the second most commonly mentioned cause rating at 73 %. Poor leadership from the top of the organization plays a significant part in generating conflict at work. Issues related to communication and work environment followed closely with a score of 67% reporting lack of honesty and openness as their cause of conflict, and 64% indicate that work is stress is their main cause. Over half of those surveyed identified scoring a 59% as the cause of clash of values as their main cause of conflict within an organization. Incompatible personalities, which are psychological, might affect the employees not to get along with each other and this difficulty might lead to conflicts, which result from formal interactions with other employees (Robbins, 1987). Conflicts would arise between individuals and groups if the goals are not specified for individual within a group (Duke, 1999). Additionally, the following are other sources of conflicts within an organization namely: sharing of resources especially manpower, money materials, equipment and space required among departments. When resources may be scarce, people will always have to compete for them and the end result will lead to conflict.

1.3 Types of Conflict
There are three basic types of conflict: task conflict, interpersonal conflict and procedural Conflict. These types of conflict then divide into what is identified within the organization as either vertical or horizontal (Imazai, 2002). Task conflict can be productive by improving the quality of decisions and critical thinking processes. Interpersonal conflict is used to indicate the disagreement that most people call a personality clash. This type of clash may present in the form of antagonistic remarks relating to personal characteristics of another employee, or disregard any organizational goals to antagonize another group member. This type of conflict is expressed through more subtle nonverbal behaviors. For example, there may be icy stares or, or to an extreme pure avoidance of eye contact. Interpersonal conflict may be inevitable and must be managed for optimal group co-existence. Another example of interpersonal conflict is avoidance (Robert, 1969).

Procedural conflict exists when various group members disagree about the steps in which to take in accomplishing a group goal. New procedures may be formulated and a new agenda suggested. Procedural conflict, like task conflict, may be productive (Barker, 1987).

According to research compiled by O M Hotepo, vertical conflict occurs in groups of different hierarchical levels, such as supervisors and salesmen, whereas horizontal conflict occurs between individuals of the same level, such as managers in the same organization. In vertical conflict, differences in status and power between groups are in general larger than in that of the horizontal conflict (Robbins, 1983) because these aspects tend to equalize in equivalent hierarchical levels. When a vertical conflict occurs between staff employees and administration, their sources refer to: (i) psychological distance: workers don’t feel involved in the organization and feel as if their needs are not being met, (ii) power and status: employees feel powerless and alienated, (iii) differences in values and ideology: this is the difference represents personal beliefs on objectives and goals of an organization and (iv) scarce resources: disagreements regarding benefits, salary and work conditions.

In vertical conflict, individuals in lower organizational level seek to avoid conflicts with management levels (Brewer, 2002). It is expected that the top management peers perceive more conflict internally between their groups than those of lower position (Pondy, 1992). This happens because of the following reasons: (i) people in management, are engaged in non-routine activities and development of policies, where the orientation for the actions are less clear and chances for disagreement, bigger and; (ii) people in higher management, rather than the lower levels, are probably less flexible in their points of view. Conflict resolution at this point becomes more difficult.

Vertical conflict is researches examine the short-term and long term effects of perceived fairness in organizational conflicts between employees and supervisors (Imazai, 2002). This author concluded that employee’s fairness is important in the resolution or organizational conflicts. That when employees realize that there was fairness in the conflict resolution, the bond between the group was only strengthened. It was added that the perceived and distributive fairness increased job satisfaction. 1.4 Reason Conflict Occurs

Conflict is clearly associated with power and can emerge when goal achievement of an Organization is avoided (Jung, 2003). It is also believed that people are aware of the factors that generate conflicts such as scarcity, obstruction and incompatible interest or goals (Robinson, 1983).

Various reasons that cause conflict to escalate are as follows: (i) departments grow, people lose contact with other departments, or members of a department start to think differently from other areas: (ii) the increase of emphasis in the financial measures as a tool for motivation for managers and the establishment of different profit centers inside an integrated business system end up crating many conflicts; (iii) the increasing rise of emphasis in functional specialization, politics or promotion and recruiting reinforce the isolation of departments, generating conflicts; (iv) today there is more room for workers to show criticism among each other, while this freedom of speech can be beneficial for society as a whole, in organizational context can be transformed into conflicts and (v) consumers demand lower prices, better quality in products and services, creating pressures so that departments work more effectively which can result in conflicts among departments (Ikeda, 2005).

Not all conflicts are bad and not all conflicts are good, according to Hocker and Wilmot (1995). Conflict can create negative impact to groups but may also lead to positive effects depending on the nature of the conflict. Unresolved conflicts tend to grow into bigger conflicts, the more it grows, the greater the chance of collecting more problems (Knippen and Green, 1999). Similarly, some of these problems which might arise due to conflict, are lack of cooperation, poor communication, wasted and contagious conflict (Knippen and Green, 1999). 2.1 Controlling and Managing Conflict

There are many ways that conflict can be managed, some focusing on interpersonal relationships and some on structure changes within the organization. Robinson and Clifford (1974), advocates that managing conflict toward constructive action is the best approach in resolving conflict in an organization. When conflict arises, it needs to be handled appropriately so that it can result in a positive action rather than that of a negative result. Parker (1974) argued that if conflicts arise and are not managed properly, it will lead to delays of work, disinterest and lack of action and in extreme cases might lead to complete breakdown of the group.

Knippen and Green (1999) argued that the best way to handle conflict objectively is to follow six step process that involves describing the conflict situation to the other person, asking the other person how he/she sees the conflict situation, responding the way the other person sees the situation, jointly deciding how to resolve the conflict, making commitment to resolve the conflicts, and promising to be committed in the future to continue resolving conflicts that may arise. Another way to handling organizational conflict is to adjust or make structural changes within the organization. This means modifying and integrating the objectives of groups with different viewpoints. Moreover, the organization structure may have to be changed and authority-responsibility relationships clarified (Knippen and Green, 1999).

The contingency Theory according to Derr (1975) is one of the conceptual tools useful for managing organizational conflict. He stated that there are three major conflict management approaches from which interviewer can draw to formulate an approach appropriate for resolving a dispute; Collaboration, Bargaining and Power play. The appropriate use of these methods depends on the individual and the state of the organization. Derr (1975) continues to define Collaboration as involving people surfacing their differences (putting it all on the table), and then work on the problems until they have reached a mutual solution. By using this approach, it is assumed that people will be motivated to voice their differences and invest in the time to have them resolved.

Bargaining on the other hand assumes that neither party will emerge feeling the issue was resolved from the confrontation but that both, through negotiation, can get something they do not have at the beginning, or more of something needed, usually by giving up something of lesser value and importance to them. The victory is usually unbalanced where as one party generally wins more than the other; by the skillful use of tactical trades, the employee can get the maximum possible from the other side. The final approach is Power Play; it differs from the other two approaches because its emphasis is on purely self-interest. In collaboration and bargaining the two sides join forces to try to resolve their problems, when power is the dominant mode, the actions are unilateral or in coalitions acting unilaterally (Derr, 1975). Causes of Conflicts| Conflict Management Technologies|

External pressures| Open systems planning| Negotiation| Force and threats of force, use of laws co-optation, strategic use of information, coalition building| Individual stress| Counseling, coaching, problem solving| Contracting| Transfer, careful job description| Power Struggles| Build organizational climate, make decisions close to information source, best ideas prevail, encourage participation problem solving| Negotiation, solve substantive issues of scarce resource, allocation, establish power party| Use of legitimate authority, co-optation, coalition building, favor system| Low interdependence| Increasing group interaction| Negotiation to enhance interaction| Use of legitimate authority to structure more interaction| Role disputes, differentiation, high interdependence| Team building, communication skills, problem solving, confrontive style, imaging, third party consultation, climate| | Support with formal authority and rewards| Source: Derr, G.B. (1975): Major causes of organizational conflict: Diagnosis for action; Working paper, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California

2.2 Methods to resolve Conflict
In researching ways to resolve conflict within organizations survey conducted of one hundred thirty managers from government department, and private companies. This survey was conducted by Ongori Henry in Botswana, Botswana. His conclusion of methods to resolve conflict was that most conflicts in organizations are resolved by the involved compromising, followed by using mediation to resolve conflicts. In addition other approaches are also supplemented in resolving conflicts. This study places strong responsibility on management to apply more than one approach to resolve the conflicts within the organization. The study also indicates that avoidance and withdrawal are approaches often used in their organization, but are not given priority compared to other approaches of compromising or encouraging open communication. 3.1 Effects of Conflict

Conflict depending the type, cause or reason can affect individuals and organizations differently. No one person will always respond or react the same way about everything. If conflicts are managed properly, the outcome may not end up negatively. If the organization would use the best course of action, the organization could in fact increase its performance in terms of utilizing the scarce resources and achieving the objectives of the organization (Jehn, 1995).

Conflict can improve decision making outcomes, especially on task-related conflict and group productivity by increasing the quality of criticism and individuals adopting a “devil’s advocate” type role (Amason, 1996). Research has also found that task related conflict is beneficial to the organization since it allows the exchange of ideas and assist better performance amongst the group members (Jehn, 1995). Other benefits include group learning and accuracy in situation assessment (Fiol, 1994). Robinson (1994) advocate that managing conflict toward constructive action is the best approach in resolving conflict within an organization.

Conflicts as stated before can have both positive and negative results for the individual as well as for the organization. Field survey results (2009) from study of ninety six managers from Hotels, Airlines, Road Transport and Insurance companies indicated that positive results for the employee from conflict can lead to building cooperation, helps the individual to develop, improve the employees skills on how to manage such conflicts, improves quality decisions, and increases their innovativeness and productivity. Negative results for the employee from conflict are interferes with organization operations, lack of cooperation, wasting of time and resources, no cohesion to organization, and no productivity.

According to Brookins (2008) conflict for an employee results in mental health concerns causing frustration and feeling of being unrecognized. The result is the employee becomes stressed, which adversely affects their professional and personal lives. They may experience problems sleeping, loss of appetite or overeating, headaches and become unapproachable. Employees involved in conflict often show a decrease in their productivity. The time dealing with the conflict interferes with their job performance; their focus has shifted from the goals to gossiping about the conflict or venting about their frustrations. Many employees when having to deal or face unresolved conflict often leave the organization all together. Violence has even occurred in some organizational situation because a conflict has escalates without any mediation, and an intense situation may arise between its employees. 4. Conclusion

Conflicts are part of our human nature and sometime unavoidable. We understand that any conflict that has an effect on an employee can also have a strong effect on the organization and must be resolved. Pawlak (1998) suggests that conflict analysis and its resolutions has an important role in private, public and political organizations, as well as in judicial and work disputes, in military operations and many other institutions. The cause of the conflicts becomes irrelevant if they are never resolved. Though conflict is usually viewed as a negative, it is capable of increasing organizational productivity, thereby improving the organizational performance. All this is achieved by addressing the employee’s conflict to eliminate any further negative result. Conflict management systems should be integrated within the organization. This process begins with assessment and inquiry, addresses the design, implementation and evaluation (Ford, 2007). If conflicts occur, which they will, conflicts should build the spirit of teamwork and cooperation among the employees of an organization (Henry, 2009).


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