Corporate Conflict and its Effects on Workers' Behavior

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2012

84 Pages



1.1 Background to the study
1.2 Statement of problem
1.3 Research questions
1.4 Objective of the study
1.5 Hypothesis
1.6 Significance of the study
1.7 Justification of the study
1.8 Scope of the Study
1.8.1 Conceptual scope
1.8.2 Geographical scope
1.9 Conceptual framework
1.10 Definition of terms
1.11 Research methodology
1.11.1 Type of study
1.11.2 Research design
1.11.3 Study Population
1.11.4 Sampling Procedure Sample size Sampling Techniques
1.11.5 Sources of Data
1.11.6 Data Collection Methods
1.11.7 Data Processing and Analysis
1.12 Limitations
1.13 Organization of the Study
1.14 Ethical Consideration

2.1 Introduction
2.2 Causes of conflicts in organizations
2.3 Effects of conflict on workers’ behavior
2.4 Effective ways of managing corporate conflicts
2.5 Theories of corporate conflict
2.5.1 Organizational conflict and the rise of the factory system
2.5.2 Organizational conflict and scientific management
2.5.3 Bureaucratic theory and sources of conflict
2.5.4 The post-bureaucratic paradigm and organizational harmony
2.5.5 Current trends and future directions Micro-foundations of organizational conflict Worker dignity and conflict
2.6 Conclusion

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Type of study
3.3 Research design
3.4 Study Population
3.5 Sampling Procedure
3.5.1 Sample size
3.5.2 Sampling Techniques
3.6 Sources of Data
3.7 Data Collection Methods
3.7.1 The Questionnaire
3.7.2 Document Review
3.8 Data Processing and Analysis

4.1 Introduction
4.2 Bio data of respondents
4.2.1 Age group of respondents
4.2.2 Gender of respondents
4.2.3 Marital status of respondents
4.2.4 Religion of respondents
4.2.5 Level of education of respondents
4.2.6 Length of working period of respondents
4.3 Causes of corporate conflict
4.3.1 Communication barrier as acauseof organizational conflict
4.3.2 Category of people most responsible for workplace conflict
4.3.3 Competition for scarce resources as a cause of organizational conflict
4.4 Effects of corporate conflict on workers’ behavior
4.4.1 Employee absenteeism as an effect of organizational conflict
4.4. 2 Employee turnover as an effect of organizational conflict
4.4.3 Corporate conflicts and positive workers’ behavior
4.4.4 Forms of positive effects of corporate conflict on workers’ behavior
4.5 Management of corporate disagreements
4.5.1 Conflict evaluation as a necessity for effective conflict management
4.5.2 Integrating top management in conflict management systems
4.5.3 Expression of interests by parties in conflict resolution process
4.5.4 Best approach for conflict management in organizations
4.5.5 Strategy that does not hurt parties to a conflict situation
4.5.6 Approaches that prevent re-emergence of conflict in organizations
4.5.7 Type of management style and organizational peace
4.6 Test forhypothesis
4.6.1 Chi-square test for relationship between communication barrier and employee absenteeism
4.6.2 Chi-square test for Communication barrier and employee turnover
4.6.3 Chi-square test for competition for scarce resources and employee absenteeism
4.6.4 Chi-square test for competition for scarce resources and employee turnover

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Summary of key findings
5.3 Conclusion
5.4 Recommendations




1.1 Background to the study

The establishment and continuous existence of organizations through the realization of set goals and objectives requires the continuous and effective functioning of its material inputs with the human elements being indispensable. However, it is appalling to note that the human elements required to facilitate goals attainment often engage in disagreement and variance over factors such as interest, views, style of management among others. The reactionary effect is due to the perceived incompatibilities resulting typically from some form of interference or opposition. This can be referred to as conflict. Schramm-Nielsen (2002) defined conflict as a state of serious disagreement and argument about something perceived to be important by at least one of the parties involved.

In organizations, as is constituted today, conflicting behavior is perhaps most frequently labeled as “organizational misbehavior” (Vardi and Weiner, 2007; Ackroyd and Thompson, 2001). However, a variety of other labels, such as “workplace deviance” (Robinson and Bennett, 2004), “antisocial behavior” (Giacone and Greenburg, 2000), “dysfunctional behavior” (Griffin et al., 2002) are also used. Clearly, some of these writings imply that employees recognize differences between their interests and those of their employers, but that they are mistaken or their perspective on this is somehow wrong thus, “deviant,” “antisocial” or “dysfunctional.”

Rahim (2004) opined that conflict might be interpersonal or inter group with interpersonal conflicts occurring between a supervisor and his subordinate or between two individuals at the same level of the organizational hierarchy. Inter group conflicts often occur between two departments or between management and workers while attempting to implement the policies and programs of the organization.

However, there are many sources of organizational conflicts as categorized by Jones and George (2003) with each category having its unique characteristics. Irrespective of the factors resulting in conflict, it has been observed that organizational conflicts produce considerable effects on workers’ behavior and should be consciously managed as much as possible.

Azamosa (2004) observes that conflicts involve the total range of behaviors and attitudes that are in opposition between owners or managers on the one hand and working people on the other. In other words, it is a state of disagreement over issues of substance or emotional antagonism and may arise due to communication breakdowns, time pressures, and competition over scarce resources. John Dewey, quoted by Pinto (2003) also posits that conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory and instigates invention. It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity and sets us at noting and contriving. Conflict is a “sine qua non” of reflection and ingenuity.

Since the mid of 1970, a new position on organizational conflict has emerged. This theoretical perspective is the interactionist approach (Nurmi and Darling, 2004). They reiterate that the interactionist approach espouses not only accepting conflict, but also encouraging it. These conflict theorists are of the opinion that a conflict-free, harmonious, and cooperative organization tends to become stagnant and nonresponsive to market changes and advancements. Therefore, it is necessary for managers to interpolate a minimum level of conflict to maintain an acceptable employee behavior.

Now, it could be noted that organizational conflict is not very bad. It serves a number of positive functions although too much of it is likely to ruin organizations. Like any other fruit juice production firm, Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd is not an exception. What mattered so much was how conflict was managed. This was because conflict waspervasive in every corporation and could not be eradicated completely but managed to ensure corporate continuity. To understand the organizational conflict phenomenon very well, let us explore its continental origin.

On the global front, corporate conflicts have taken many forms, ranging from mild taunts through shoving and kicking to murder. Smith and Eisenberg (2003) assert that in USA, Disneyland remained, “the happiest place on earth” before 1984. Recently, internal conflict at the family vacation spot (Disneyland) has provided a contrasting image to public perceptions of the park. While dissatisfaction had been mounting for some time, internal strife peaked in late 1984 when a group of unionized employees voted to strike. Initial reports suggested that the strike was centered on hiring and compensation issues, but upon examination, the difference appeared to be more deep-seated. Often, management and employees develop interpretive frameworks or worldviews that are incompatible.

In a recent comparative analysis of labor disputes by the institut der deutschenwirtschaft in 1998, the number of working days lost per 1000 employees due to strikes and lockouts varies considerably across industrialized countries. A comparison of twenty-three(23)Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries shows that in the period 1970 to 1996, Italy, Spain, Greece and Canada recorded exceptionally high volumes of labor disputes (Kartashov, 2007). The factors that accounted for this were competition over scarce status, resources and power. In contrast, industrial action levels were particularly low in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and Germany since labor used traditionally cooperative methods in bargaining for their wants and interests. In Germany, the table 1.1 below provides working days lost due to industrial action from 1970-1996.

Working days lost due to industrial action in Germany (1970-1996)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Tabelle 1.1

Source: ILO; Federal Statistical Office; IW KÖln

In Russian, Kartashov (2007) observed that the construction industry was one of the most risky industrial sectors in terms of occupational hazards. It was the sector with the fourth highest number of injured workers (7,200) and it had the highest number of lethal accidents (19.5 per cent of all deadly accidents, 515 persons), all resulted from nonchalant attitudes of workers in 2005. Kartashov added that these injuries and occupational related diseases in construction created an all-day conflict environment.

On the African continent, the situation could not be underestimated for any reason. In Nigeria for instance, Okolo (2005) averred that the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bookie Products Limited did not seem to have been gotten along too brilliantly lately and now the situation has come to a point with the resignation of Mr. AdebisiUche from the company's helm. Okolo pointed out that Uche held different views from the majority of board members about the importance on scale, growth, customer value creation, brand position enhancement, and on resource allocation and methods of implementation.

In Ghana, the same phenomenon is ubiquitous. The current aperture between Korle-Bu board and management was a case worth citation. According to AdomFm reporter, the conflict between board members of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) and management deepened as more issues cropped up about the hospital.

The country’s (Ghana) premier hospital had been in the news recently as accusations ranging from corruption to administrative lapses were leveled against the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Professor Otu Nartey, while a fierce blame game seem to be going on between the board and management. He added that, the confusion indeed affected health delivery in the hospital, which was a tertiary health facility that served neighboring countries like Togo, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. The report further stated that in 2009 Auditor General’s report on the hospital; the board wrongly interdicted about thirty (30) people.

To extrapolate this situation to the study area, the human resource manager had said in a confrontation that an organization like Blue Skies was not conflict-free. Information from the human resource management department showed that the company in 2002 experienced a sit-down strike by employees in the quest for 10% salary raise. Management however negotiated with workers to accept 4% since there was a free feeding program underway for all workers.

Again, the human resource manager stressed that often there were complaints about the quantity of meal served, transportation system as well as occasional petty squabbles among employees. In view of this, she added that whenever the company experienced conflict, there was a slight reduction in productivity (0.02%). On the contrary, output increased by 0.17% whenever there was a relatively stable and harmonious working environment.

1.2 Statement of problem

There was little to indicate that organizations actually attempted to establish underlying causes of institutional conflict. However, in order to resolve conflict, individuals or groups resorted to conflict management instruments without first determining what the sources (causes) of conflict were – a key element in developing appropriate conflict resolution strategies (Havenga, 2004). Mayer (2000), for instance, argued that if the causes of conflict were known and understood, a conflict map could be developed, which could guide conflict resolution processes. Based on this, Dijkstra (2006) argued for immediate attention to the resolution of the conflict rather than a careful and systematic (and invariably more time-intensive) approach to investigating the underlying causes of it.

Managing conflict by avoiding or ignoring it or coercing employees to give up their demands seems to inhibit organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). The major problem with conflict was that it yielded strong negative emotions. Extensively, these emotional reactions marked the beginning of a chain of reactions that may have harmful effects on workers’ behavior. These negative reactions, besides being quite stressful were also problematic, in that, they could divert people’s attention from the task.

An important consideration, however, was the likelihood of organization-specific conflict perceptions. In much the same way, employees at different levels within the organization differed in their perception and characterization of common change of events (Van Tonder, 2006). In particular, communication between individuals or teams could be so adversely affected that any coordination or efforts between them was difficult if not impossible. This was not surprising since such lowered coordination brought about abysmal worker behavior. In short, organizational conflict could have serious effects on workers’ behavior, although, this was not always the case.

In the organizational conflict model, conflict could lead to failed communication (Robbins, 2005). This was where communication included only a part of the necessary information; when it incorporated ambiguous or threatening information or when it either offered too much information in terms of quantity or was too highly coded for workers to comprehend.

All too often, newspapers in the United States (US) were full of stories of ex-employees who went berserk and returned to the workplace to murder their former bosses and co-workers. In fact, each week, average of 15 people was murdered at work in the US (Glendinning, 2001). Such aggressive acts were merely one form of more general reactions to conflict known as workplace aggression.

It appeared that every employee should know his or her job content. This could be referred to as span of jurisdiction. Most often than not, some workers had difficulty knowing whom they were responsible to within the organogram not because they did not know but sure negligence as a result of corporate discord. Where job description was vague, workers found it uncomfortable and became cognitively jarring. Eventually, employees developed nonchalant attitudes toward work.

Pervasively, organizations were time conscious entities that made sure that work started at particular hour and stopped at specific period. Organizations like Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd valued its time so much. It was in this vein that buses were provided daily to convey workers to and from workplace. Within the company, workers were required to do what they were supposed to do at the expected time. Some workers who felt pressurized had always absented from work and eventually quitted, the human resource manager of Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd had said. She added that where employees had undergone a lot of training and gained experience, their absence affected the company negatively. To this effect, the company had always employed workers based on contract in order to avoid unexpected shocks resulting from startling employee turnovers.

1.3 Research questions

The study examined the following questions:

- Do scarce resources cause organizational conflict?
- Does communication barrier create conflicts in organizations?
- Is employee absenteeism an effect of corporate conflict?
- Does corporate conflict result in employee turnover?
- How could organizational conflict be managed?

1.4 Objective of the study

The general objective of this study was to explore the nature of conflict, its causes and effects on workers’ behavior in organizations.

Specifically, the study sought to find out;

- whether scarcity of resources caused organizational conflict,
- whether communication barriers created conflict in organizations,
- whether employee absenteeism was an effect of corporate conflict,
- whether corporate conflicts led to employee turnover and
- how organizational conflicts could be managed.

1.5 Hypothesis

- Scarcity of resources created conflicts within organizations.
- Communication barriers created organizational conflict.
- A corporate conflict led to employee absenteeism.
- An organizational conflict brought about employee turnover.
- Conflict management enhanced organizational citizenship behavior.

1.6 Significance of the study

The findings from this study highlighted the various causes of conflict in organizations and were a great benefit to human resource managers and policy makers. The results from this study also enabled both management and employees to better understand how conflict affected workers’ behavior negatively and helped ascertain effective ways of managing organizational conflict. Apart from academic reference, it was also a useful reference material to governmental and non-governmental conflict management and peace building experts.

1.7 Justification of the study

Today, the multicultural nature of workforce makes the working environment an area prone to petty disagreements, squabbles and violence, most of which results in serious physical injuries if not loss of lives. In the wake of this, this study provided a critical and analytical perspective for identifying some causes of organizational conflict and its effects on workers’ behavior. The study also found appropriate styles for the management of conflicts in organizations.

1.8 Scope of the Study

1.8.1 Conceptual scope

This study covered the nature of corporate conflict. That is, the forms of conflicts in companies and how they manifest, their intensity and escalation levels. As part of the aims of this study, it made efforts to ascertain causes of organizational conflict in Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd. Both individual and organizational related factors were considered. This notwithstanding, there was effort to identify consequences of corporate discord on workers’ behavior as well as to recommend appropriate strategies for managing organizational conflict.

1.8.2 Geographical scope

The study was done in Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd at Doboro in the Akuapem South Municipality. The choice of this company was based on recent peaceful demonstration waged by employees against management cadre in 2010. Doboro is a town between latitude 5.78 (5°-46° 60N) and longitude -0.3 (0°-18°0W). It is about 310 kilometers south east (143°) of the approximate center of Ghana and 20 miles north (340°) of the capital city, Accra near an old Cocoa town called Nsawamon the eastern corridors of the Accra to Kumasi highway. The town shares boundaries with Koleman, 1.83 kilometers to the south and 2.84 kilometers to the west is Oyinso. To the east is Mpehuasem, about 1.84 kilometers and Nsawam, about 2.59 kilometers north.

Blue sky Products (GH) Ltd is a fresh fruit producing company started in 1998 with the aim of cutting and packing harvested fruit and delivering it to Europe. Currently, the organization has branches in Egypt, South Africa and Brazil. The organization has grown through an ongoing commitment to delivering consistent and very high quality prepared fruit products such as smooth cayenne pineapple, fair-trade MD2 pineapple, fair-trade organic sugarloaf pineapple, mango, and papaya, coconut, passion fruit and Banana juices to customers.

In Ghana, the company employs a little over 700 employees. It supplies to a variety of customers including some of the biggest supermarket chains in the United Kingdom (UK), Europe, and South Africa. In an interview with the human resource manager, she stated:

“ Our Ghanaian operation is the first of our network of production sites and remains the biggest. Like all of our sites, the Ghanaian facility is a modern facility with state-of-the-art refrigeration systems and high tech communications. As a company, we employ a diverse mix of people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. We believe this makes us collectively strong and better positioned to take the business forward although we have had occasional squabbles and rivalries, some between management and employees and sometimes among employees.”

Providing a pleasant working environment was an important aspect of the organization’s culture. At the factory, trees were planted to create parkland to help improve wellbeing of staff and nurture a natural respect for the environment. As part of Blue Skies’ corporate social responsibilities, thehuman resource manager indicated that the Abortia primary school, Amanfrom toilet facility, as well as Sekyikrom kindergarten school were few of their numerous contributions to society.

1.9 Conceptual framework

Conflicts crop up in organizations from a list of sources. These include status inconsistencies, scarce resources, and incompatible goals, overlapping authority, task interdependence, biased reward systems and stress. In the wake of all these causes, workers’ behavior is affected either positively or negatively. Positive effects of conflicts on workers’ behavior include a sense of improved decision-making, innovativeness and organizational citizenship behavior. On the other hand, negative impacts of conflict on workers’ behavior encompass regular worker absenteeism, employee turnover, and reduced employee commitment, strike action, and sabotage, symbolic disrespect for management, non-cooperation and theft. In the same way, these negative effects cause organizational conflicts.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1.10 Definition of terms

For purpose of clarity therefore, some important terms used in this study were defined as below:

- Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) - it relates to actions of employees that go above and beyond the call of duty or exceed the formal requirements of one’s job
- Workplace aggression – the term refers to acts of harming other people in one’s organization or the organization itself.
- Psychological contract- a set of expectations held by the individual employee, which specifies what the individual and the organization expect to give to and receive from each other in the course of their working relationship.
- Employee cynicism- a negative attitude that involves a belief that an organization lacks integrity that generates negative emotions towards the organization and a tendency for employees to show critical behavior in the organization
- Emotional overload- a condition when an individual is swamped with sensation to the extent that he or she cannot function or think effectively.

1.11 Research methodology

According to Payne (2004) cited by Carey (2009), research methodology relates to a “grander scheme of ideas orienting researcher’s work.” The methodology contains sections on type of study, research design, target population, sample size, sampling techniques, and source of data, data collection methods and analysis.

1.11.1 Type of study

This was a quantitative research that determined the relationship between one variable (an independent variable) and another (a dependent or outcome variable) in a population. The study type was appropriate since it showed the relationship between corporate conflict and workers’ behavior.

1.11.2 Research design

This study employed a descriptive case study whose purpose according to Sekaran, (2003), is to collect detailed and factual information that describes an existing phenomenon. Sekaran added that case study is where data is gathered at one point in time in order to answer research questions on a particular phenomenon.

1.11.3 Study Population

The study population comprisedall employees and management staff of Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd. According to the human resource manager, 2011 recruitment and selection records indicated that there were approximately seven hundred (700) employees and eighteen (18) management personnel making an estimated total population of seven hundred and eighteen (718). She added that the minimum level of educational qualification for employees was the senior high school and Bachelor’s degree for management.

1.11.4 Sampling Procedure

The procedure for sampling respondents did not provide every employee and manager equal opportunity to be selected for this research. The criterion for special screening and assessment for respondents was based on the period of stay of employee or manager in the company. Employees and managers who had spent less than one month in Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd did not qualify to form part of the researcher’s sample size. Sample size

The sample for this study represented categories of workers with different educational qualification, religion, age group, and marital status. Out of total population of 700 employees, 70 were conveniently selected. This represented 10% of the employee population. The 18 management staffwas selected. In all, this research employed eighty-eight (88) people to form the researcher’s unit of analysis.Israel’s (1992) table for sample size determination supported the choice of the researcher’s sample size. However, the researcher was able to administer to eighty (80) subjects. This was because some questionnaires were not returned by subjects whereas others were answered haphazardly beyond usage. Sampling Techniques

A convenient sampling technique was used to select respondents from Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd. The convenient sampling was preferred because as per the busy schedules and strict supervision on workers at Blue Sky Products (GH) Ltd, it could only be prudent for the researcher to position himself strategically to get passerby employees to respond to structured questionnaires.

1.11.5 Sources of Data

This study relied on both primary and secondary data.The secondary informationwas sourced from published materials, such as: books, journals, and newspapers. Data were collected from existing documentation on the subject from libraries, internet. Primary sources such as discussions with employees and management as well as questionnaire were used to collect first-hand information.

1.11.6 Data Collection Methods

In order to support the reliability of data for this study, quantitative research tools were used. To obtain quantitative data, the researcher employed structured questionnaire and document review tools.

1.11.7 Data Processing and Analysis

The raw data that were collected using structured questionnaire were sorted, edited, coded, and reviewed to obtain the required quality, accuracy, consistency, and completeness. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the raw data with specific tools such as bar graphs, pie charts, tables and percentages with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) computer program.

Finally, the results were interpreted and analyzed in relation to causes of corporate conflict, its effects on workers’ behavior, as well as conflict management strategies.

1.12 Limitations

In relation to this study, the researcher targeted the free periods of employees and management which enabled the collection of information for the study. Again, the researcher made a budget surplus of 20% to take care of sudden price escalations in printing, photocopying, typing, binding, and café charges as well as transportation. More so, the researcher took an introductory letter from the Department of Sociology and Social Work of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to endorse his credibility in as much as the academic purpose of the research was concerned.

1.13 Organization of the Study

This study was organized in five chapters. Basically, the first chapter introduced the project topic by identifying the problem and stating researchable objectives. The same chapter anticipated possible challenges the researcher was likely to encounter as well as significance and scope of the study. It also outlined conceptual and geographical scopes of the study. Brief information on methodology was also carried out in the first chapter.

The second chapter contained information on review of related literature. This covered review of writings from published magazines, books, and the internet on causes of corporate conflict, its effects on workers’ behavior and possible management strategies. In the same chapter, there were scholarly theories to support the research.

Chapter three also contained research design, study population, sampling procedure, sampling technique and sample size, sources of data, data processing and analysis. The chapter spelt out clearly, how this research was conducted.

Chapter four also encompassed analysis of research data presentation and analysisof results as well as testing of hypothesis. Information generated from respondents through structured questionnaire were analyzed and interpreted. The last chapter delineated summary, conclusion, and recommendations on the research topic.

1.14 Ethical Consideration

As part of ethical consideration for this study, the researcher respected the right to participation of subjects (informed consent). Again, the researcher made sure that research subjects remained unidentifiable; that is, their names were not used in any written material concerning the research or in discussion of it. In short, subjects were assured of confidentiality and anonymity. More so, the researcher acknowledged every source of information in order to avoid academic plagiarism and bootlegging. Lastly, the researcher made sure the private periods of respondents were not invaded(invasion of privacy).


2.1 Introduction

Organizations are widely acknowledged the site of a good deal of conflict and contestation. Abundant evidence for conflict of various kinds from absenteeism to xenophobia has been turned up in many corporations. Research has noted wide variation in the kind as well as the intensity of conflict in organizations. It can vary from dissent to violence and destructiveness such as sabotage, riot, and arson. This affects organizations in many ways, most of which include positive effects such as creation of deep bonds, ability to learn new skills, as well as innovativeness and negative effects such as stress-related health costs, employee turnover, absenteeism, and reduced organizational commitment.

Although, conflict is foreseeable in every organizational setting, there should always be management strategies to help resolve it to minimize its repercussions on workers’ behavior. Scholars have suggested approaches such as compromising, avoiding, integrating, accommodating, collaborating, and competing.

The chapter inherently explored scholarly works that are related to the research topic, “corporate conflict, and its effects on workers’ behavior, the situation at Blue Sky Products (GH) Limited at Doboro in Akuapem South Municipality.” It critically and analytically reviewed literature vis-à-vis potential causes of organizational conflicts, consequential effects of organizational conflicts on workers’ behavior as well as recommended effective management strategies for corporate conflict resolution.

Conflict is not an aberration from norms (Palmer 2007).It is inevitable and, therefore, in some sense is itself normal. Moreover, it was argued that conflict is either neutral (rather than intrinsically bad) or can be manipulated to be either good or bad. According to this pattern of reasoning, conflict in itself is neither good nor bad. It was the way people reacted to conflict that was the issue. Within this new perspective, some scholars go further to assert that conflict performs some positive functions. Examples of such propositions include Avis’ assertion (2005) that conflict is “not only inescapable, but indispensable” and Townsend’s argument that conflict is the sign of a healthy, not dysfunctional element in organization (cited in Mullins 2002).

2.2 Causes of conflicts in organizations

According to Duke (2002), conflicts arise between individuals or groups in an organization. He added that when goals are not specified, conflict may emerge and or when management shifts blame on employees who are involved in work process. However, Duke reiterated that not all conflicts are bad. It appears conflict only occurs between two parties. Duke forgot that there could be intrapersonal conflicts- conflicts that emanate fromthe cognitions of the individual that can create dissonance- a feeling of discomfort and unpleasant arousals.

In a Malaysia bank, Tseveendorj (2008) observed that employees rate communication, perception, values and culture problems as moderately serious sources of conflict. Although the staff differed from the officers in their perception to the degree of seriousness of these problems, Okolo (2005) identified conditions of service, opportunity, salary, or wages, implementation of new management techniques, extent, and content of work, implementation of new technology and misuse of power as the leading sources of conflict in Nigeria. Both Tseveendorj and Okolo look at conflict from different angles. Tseveendorj seem to consider factor that are a little away from the organization itself whereas Okolo believes that corporate disagreement emanate from the organization. This sharp divergent view means that corporate conflict can emerge from both within and without of the company.

Every work environment is closely aligned to organizational commitment. If the work environment is not seen as friendly or co-operative, and the relationship between employees is generally not amicable, then individuals are unlikely to feel committed to the organization (Hrebiniakand Alutto cited in Sing, Gupta and Venugopah, 2008). For an organization to achieve employee commitment and eventually lead to increased output, employees must be comfortable with the job setting. Therefore, as can be deciphered from the interactionist perspective, there is no solitary individual and that a friendly, co-operative environment is preferable for positive worker behavior.

Bagshaw cited in Suliman and Abdulla (2005) notes that conflict is an unpleasant fact in organizations as well as other areas of life where people compete for jobs, resources, power, acknowledgement, and security. By nature, every individual feel inferior. The driving force to achieve superiority is not void of competition for resource, power, and esteem. This means that both employees and management in every organization compete one another to gain popularity, security and power. In the process, conflict may crop up either between two employees or an employee and management or better still between employees and management.

Psychological contract refers to employees’ perceptions of the mutual obligations that exist between themselves and their employer (Chen and Chiu, 2009). Research reveal great support for the relationship between organizational conflict and psychological contract, since the violation of the latter may result in a number of attitudinal or behavioral responses. (Chi and Chen, 2007) assert that workers attitudes are influenced in a positive way by the fulfillment of the psychological contract. Chen and Chiu argue that psychological contracts are key determinants of employees’ attitudes and behaviors in the work place. Shore and Tetrick, cited in Chen and Chiu (2009) contend that psychological contracts afford employees a sense of control and security in their relationships with employers while at the same time providing employers with a means of managing and directing employee behavior without heavy-handed supervision. According to Rousseau, cited in Chen and Chiu (2009), employees derive the terms of their psychological contracts in three different ways:

- Individuals can receive persuasive communications about mutual obligations from others. For example, during the recruitment process, prospective employees receive implicit or explicit promises from recruiters or interviewers. Once hired, employees are likely to learn the opinions of fellow employees and supervisors about the obligations that exist between employees and their employer(s).
- Employees observe how their fellow workers and supervisors behave and are treated by the organization, and these observations provide social cues that inform employees of their contractual obligations.
- The organization provides structural signals, such as formal compensation systems and benefits, performance reviews, and organizational literature that play a role in creating the terms of the employee’s psychological contract.

Morrison and Robinson cited in Pate (2006), elaborate further that psychological contract breach or violation refers to the cognitive identification that an employer has not fulfilled one or more of its perceived obligations. Triggers of psychological violation may be rooted in an organization’s inability to meet obligations regarding distributive, procedural, and interactional aspects of justice. Distributive breach occurs when outcomes are perceived to be unfairly distributed for example, financial rewards. Procedural breach refers to the perception of the unfair application of procedures, such as promotion. Interactional breach is linked to employees’ perception of trust of superiors and the organization as a whole and occurs if employees felt they have been treated badly.

To Nair and Ahmedabad, (2008), emotional overload is a key cause of organizational conflict. They described emotional overload as the condition when one is swamped with sensation to the extent that he or she cannot function or think effectively. This source of conflicts in organization is very dangerous since it emerges from within of the individual and as such is not seen by outsiders. It is critical and must be given the most attention due to its ability to cause stress, anxiety or hysteria. A sound mind is always in a sound body- an emotionally unstable employee or manager cannot portray positive worker behavior.

Above all, Jones and George (2003), posit that organizational conflict may emanate from many sources such as incompatible goals, status inconsistencies, and overlapping authority. Other sources include task interdependencies, scarce resources and incompatible evaluation or reward systems. This has been illustrated in figure 2.1

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.1 the various sources of corporate conflict

Source: Jones and George (2003), Organizational Conflict, Negotiation, Politics, and Change, contemporary management 3rd edition; PowerPoint Presentation by Charlie Cook The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. USA

Basically, it can be understood that Jones and George did not consider factors outside of the organizational setting which are also capable of causing discord. Unlike other scholars who believed that corporate conflict could originate from other sources far from the company’s environment, Jones and George and colleagues’ postulations mean that conflicts affect the organization so much after emanating from it.

2.3 Effects of conflict on workers’ behavior

People view conflict as a negative force operating against successful completion of group or common goals. Conflicts have negative effects on groups but may also lead to positive effects depending on the nature. Figure 2.2 from Jones and George’s (2003) research depicts the level of conflict that is ideal and essential for an organization to attain optimum performance through a sense of effective employee decision making.


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Corporate Conflict and its Effects on Workers' Behavior
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology  (college of arts and social sciences)
sociology and social work
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conflict, corporate conflict, workers behavior
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Samuel Kwafo (Author), 2012, Corporate Conflict and its Effects on Workers' Behavior, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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