Why and How to Use Conflict Management in Organisations

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2008

29 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

1 Overview
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Conflicts and their Reasons

2 Conflict Management in Organisations
2.1 Reading the Signs
2.2 Framework to Minimise Unnecessary Conflicts
2.3 Methods to Handle Unavoidable Conflicts
2.4 Managerial Soft Skills for Resolving Conflicts

3 Conclusion
3.1 Importance of Conflict Management
3.2 Résumé

Appendix 1 Integral Total Management (ITM) Checklist


List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

List of Figures

Figure 1: Conditions for Minimising Conflict Potential

Figure 2: Four Ways of Thinking

Figure 3: The Bargaining Zone

Figure 4: Mediation Process

Figure 5: Consequences of Unresolved Conflicts at the Workplace

Figure 6: Hidden Costs of Conflicts

1 Overview

1.1 Introduction

The American William Ellery Channing1 once said that “difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”2

Life is full of conflicts. Wherever choices exist there is potential for disagreement. Such differences, when handled properly, can result in richer, more effective, creative solutions and interaction. But it is difficult to consistently turn differences into opportunities. Poorly managed disagreements could lead to a psychological distance between people based on negative feelings like competition and disregard.

Conflict is inevitable in business relationships, as it is in social relationships. Without conflict, growth is limited. Unresolved conflict can be poisonous to the productivity of a company. Conflicts that are not handled or that are handled in an inappropriate way could become expensive for a company.3 Thus, managers spend a lot of time dealing with conflicts or its aftermath. This indicates how much resources are wasted by wrong conflict management; a huge amount of a company’s workforce is kept away from daily business and productive work. The challenge is to identify conflict situations in their beginning stage and to manage them constructively to discover new opportunities and to transform conflict into a productive learning experience.

Whereas chapter 1.2 describes some important conflict types and the reasons for their arising, chapter 2.1 describes the first signs of conflict arising to sensitise to the roots of conflicts. By focussing on the business environment, chapter 2.2 and 2.3 show ways to minimise unnecessary conflicts and to manage unavoidable conflicts. Chapter 2.4 states important soft skills managers must develop to resolve conflicts successfully. This assignment ends with interesting facts and figures about the importance of conflict management in organisations to underline the topicality of this issue.

1.2 Conflicts and their Reasons

Generally, a conflict occurs if two or more values, perspectives, needs, interests and opinions are contradictory in nature and have not been aligned or agreed about yet.4 Usually, one party has more power.5 Both parties assert having “a right to a limited resource or course of action, assuming there are no conflicts about unlimited resources.”6 Conflict management is the identification and control of conflict within an organisation.7 It describes the process of implementing measures to avoid escalation or the development of an existing conflict.

A conflict can be internal/intrapersonal (within oneself, e.g. by not living according to your values) or external/interpersonal (between two or more parties/individuals e.g. if values are threatened).8 Another classification suggests dividing conflicts into more diverse types.9 There are interpersonal conflicts, such as chauvinism vs. feminism for ideological clashes, youth vs.

maturity for age clashes, Arabs vs. Jews for cultural clashes or conservative vs. liberal for value clashes. There are team conflicts e.g. between sales and production. Moreover, there are organisational conflicts, including e.g. conflicts between Unions and Management. National conflicts display disputes between wealth classes or even civil wars; international conflicts stand for clashes between countries such as the Cold War.

Conflicts can be assessed from three perceptions, saying that a conflict:10

1. is bad and destructive
2. is unavoidable and managers/people should try to use it positively
3. is fundamental to the survival of an organisation and should be encouraged

As the first perception assesses, conflicts are problematic and impediment as they hamper productivity and lower morale. Consequently, additional conflicts can come up and inappropriate behaviour may occur.11 Higher stress and the time spent on dealing with the problem redirect resources away from the daily work load.12 The second perception accepts that conflicts can be expected everywhere and the goal has to be to get the most out of contradictory values, perspectives and opinions.13 Nevertheless, as indicated before, a conflict can even help to improve business life, as perception number three claims. It can help to reveal and address a significant problem which leads to the initiative to work on it. People are motivated to participate in discussions and to learn and to benefit from different opinions and values, although it is a difficult task to always turn differences into opportunities. The conflict itself is hardly the problem – it is when a conflict is poorly managed.14

Reasons for conflicts

There are various reasons for the development of conflicts. First of all, poor communication can lead to frustration as people are not informed about important managerial decisions or business programs and thus are not able to understand them. If people are unable to express themselves, failing to verbalise needs, conflicts arise.15 A lack of communication goes hand in hand with a lack of information, even with emails, newsletters and meetings; conflict arises as employees do not know how to use it effectively.16 Consequently, a low level of leadership qualities, evidenced e.g. by incoherent decisions, leads to decreasing respect among people.17 Accordingly, rumours develop and lead to uncertainty among employees. There is often a lack of skills for negotiation, interpersonal communication, and collaborative problem solving.18

This is also mainly the reason for conflicts between races, and religions, but also for teams or departments at work; perceived differences can result in disputes.19 If resources such as workforce or facilities are insufficient,

employees are dissatisfied, get stressed and motivation decreases.20 If there is not enough space for individuals, an overcrowding effect leads to an uncomfortable atmosphere where conflicts can develop.

In workplaces, conflicts may develop due to hierarchical structures or switching to a different workplace. The most recognised reason might be the mismatch of personal chemistry among managers and employees.21

2 Conflict Management in Organisations

2.1 Reading the Signs

As conflicts do not crop up suddenly, there is a chance for identifying them at an early stage. The higher the level of escalation is, the increasingly difficult problem resolving is. Therefore, a key managerial skill is to read the signs for potential conflicts in order to deal with them. If discussion is actually brought up it should be assessed by asking the following questions:22 Is it cumulative? Am I seeking short- or long-term results? Will confronting make a difference? What is my intention in confronting? Is the timing right?

Signs for workplace conflicts are non-productive meetings and withholding of information and undermining activities.23 Managers need to accept that employees’ judgements of situations and conflicts can be diverse, not only differing from their own but from other employees’ perceptions as well. That requires social competency, meaning to recognise tensions and interests, acknowledging and validating fears, sadness and frustration which are also signs for developing conflicts. Furthermore, backbiting and sabotages increase.

To recognise disputes is even harder if they are subtle and less simple to spot. If a team member is less engaged, seems insecure, radiates anxiety, anger and resentment, conflicts are most likely in development.24 Employees become less creative and effective, decision making declines. Moreover, conflicts can also affect employees’ physical condition, time off due to sickness increases. Arguments are exchanged in a heated atmosphere, no longer suitable for the initial situation.

Independent of the chosen strategy to resolve problems, a helpful instrument is to keep the channels of communication open, to walk through the office with open eyes and try to become aware of particularly noticeable changes in mood, temper and manners of employees.


1 William Ellery Channing (April 7, 1780-October 2, 1842), minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts, was a spokesman during the Unitarian controversy for liberal churches.

2 www.studygs.net, 12.06.2008.

3 See Eggert et al. (2004), p. 9.

4 See www.managementhelp.org, 16.06.2008.

5 See Eggert et al. (2004), p. 6.

6 Eggert et al. (2004), p. 6.

7 See www.dictionary.bnet.com, 16.06.2008.

8 See Herzlieb (2006), p. 11.

9 See Eggert et al. (2004), p. 6.

10 See www.dictionary.bnet.com, 16.06.2008.

11 See www.cnr.berkeley.edu, 16.06.2008.

12 See Eggert et al. (2004), p. 9.

13 See www.managementhelp.org, 16.06.2008.

14 See www.cnr.berkeley.edu, 16.06.2008.

15 See Eggert et al. (2004), p. 13.

16 See www.ezinearticles.com, 16.06.2008.

17 See www.managementhelp.org, 16.06.2008.

18 See www.ezinearticles.com, 16.06.2008.

19 See Eggert et al. (2004), p. 13.

20 See www.managementhelp.org, 16.06.2008.

21 Ibid.

22 See www.ezinearticles.com, 16.06.2008.

23 See www.learnthat.com, 16.06.2008.

24 See www.changeboard.com, 16.06.2008.

Excerpt out of 29 pages


Why and How to Use Conflict Management in Organisations
University of Applied Sciences Berlin
Soft Skills & Leadership Qualities
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Conflict, Management, Organisations, Soft, Skills, Leadership, Qualities
Quote paper
N. Pahl (Author)A. Richter (Author)I. Rohrschneider (Author), 2008, Why and How to Use Conflict Management in Organisations, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/124625


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