Conflict! - Reality of management and organizational behavior

Essay, 2004

29 Pages, Grade: 1,3




1. Case of a Conflict

2. Some Definitions of a Conflict

3. Transitions in Conflict Thought
3.1 The Traditional View
3.2 The Human Relations View
3.3 The Intereactionist View

4. Functional versus Dysfunctional Conflict

5. The Conflict Process
5.1 Stage I: Sources of Conflict
Different goals
Different values and beliefs
Task interdependence
We can distinguish a few types of interdependence:
Lack of rules
Scarce resources
Communication problems
5.2 Stage II: Conflict Perceptions and Conflict Emotions
5.3 Stage III: Manifest Conflict
5.4 Stage IV: Conflict Outcomes

6. Conflict Management Styles
6.1 Choosing the Best Conflict Management Style
6.2 Minimizing Dysfunctional Conflict

7. Résumé



Conflict can be regarded as a reality of management and organizational behavior. Most of us will understand what is commonly meant by organizational conflict and be aware of its existence and effects. Yet conflict is another term which can be defined and interpreted in a number of ways. We can see conflict as behavior intended to obstruct the achievement of some other person’s goals. Conflict is based on the incompatibility of goals and arises from opposing behaviors. It can be viewed at the individual, group or organizational level.

In our essay we would like to begin with a case about a law company in which conflict is the cause of its end. In the introduction we focus clear on some definitions of conflict out of several areas. Then we give a short history about the developing of the different views of conflict. The paragraph about the functional versus dysfunctional conflict represent that a conflict can be constructive (“positive”) or deconstructive (“negative”). After all the basics we explain the conflict process with its four stages from the sources to the outcomes and its conflict escalation circle. Finally we close our topic with the conflict management styles which includes the choice of the best conflict management style in a suitable situation and the minimization of dysfunctional conflict.

1. Case of a Conflict

In the mid-1960s one of New York’s best known law firms was founded, Shea & Gould, by William A. Shea, Milton H. Gould and some others. Their main clients were the Mets, the New York Yankees, Apple Computer, Marine Midland Bank etc. In the early 1994, the company had 80 partners, 200 lawyers, and offices in New York, Los Angeles Washington, and Miami. Shea had tremendous leadership skills but less legal prowess, while Gould was an extremely talented lawyer. Together with their complementary talents they made a great team. The firm grew fast through their success and soon played a leading role in New York politics, banking, real estate, and sports.

At its peak Shea & Gould’s partners decided to dissolve their firm in January 1994. The dissolution had nothing to do with the finance; revenues were even higher than before. But what brought the end of Shea & Gould?

It was just that these partners could not get along with each other!

The problems at Shea & Gould began in the mid-1980s, when the founding partners start to give control to younger lawyers. After a while and many process in the company finally younger partners clustered together against older partners. No one group was strong enough to get control over the whole firm. Five partners resigned as the conflict escalated in December 1993, others looked at opportunities at other firms.

In January 1994, the partners gave up the fight and decided to dissolve the firm. As reason for that happening was that the firm had basic and principled differences among the partners which were incompatible. They did not have an economic problem, they had a personality problem. The main cause was that they just hate each other! (Robbins, S. P. (2001), pp. 918-919)

2. Some Definitions of a Conflict

A conflict is a process in which one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party. Looking more explicitly into this definition two tendencies can be recognized.

A conflict exists when non-agreeable operational tendencies collide. These non- agreeable tendencies can occur in a person, a group or a nation; these conflicts are called intra-personal, intra-group or intra-national (see also in Exhibition 1). They can also reflect divergent tendencies of two or more persons, groups or nations; those conflicts are called inter-personal, inter-groupal or inter-national. An operational tendency which is non- agreeable with the other one obstructs, blocks and disturbs this one and makes it less promising and effective.

The terms competition and conflict are often used in a synonym or changeable sense. This is fundamentally wrong. Though competition produces conflict, not all conflict examples are reflections of competition situations. Competition means that two parties referred to each other have completely different aims. The probability that somebody is achieving the aim is sinking in the way the probability is raising for the other person. In the conflict resulting from the competition, the contra productive operations reflect such aims. Furthermore, the conflict can arise if there is no perceptible or actual contradictoriness of the aims. When parents get into conflict about how to undergo medical treatment of an insect bite of their son, it will not happen because the aims are contradicting; here, the aims accord. The difference of competition and conflict is important because conflict that is to say can happen in a cooperative or competitive way and the processes of a conflict’s solution are heavily influenced in this or that way.

This essay engages with perceivable conflicts. That means that the perceptions are not always right not that incommensurateness is always recognized.

The possibility that the nature of a relationship can be perceived in a wrong way conclude that a conflict or its arising refers to a misunderstanding or wrong information about the current situation. Therefore, the existence or non-existence of a conflict is never only dependent from the objectivity status of the things. Moreover, psychological factors are playing a role in a more complex way with being confronted with a conflict a role. The conflict is defined by the opposing party’s idea of morale. Even the classical example of a conflict – two men are sitting in a lifeboat, near to starvation, with enough food for one of them – is losing its effect if both men have social or religious ideas of morale which can get psychologically more dominant as the wish of food or surviving.

The punch line of this remark is that neither the arising nor the result of the conflict is defined completely and entirely by objective circumstances. That means that the fate of the conflict’s participants is not only directed by exterior circumstances in which they are. Whether the conflict has a productive or destructive course is not even clear under the unfavorable objective conditions. (Deutsch, M. (1976), p. 18-19)

The following figure 1 shows a conclusion of the ideas’ differences:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Exhibition 1: The definition terms of a conflict
(Source: Own representation adapted from Deutsch, M. (1976), p. 19)

3. Transitions in Conflict Thought

There are three currents of thought about conflict along the history (see Exhibition 2). They bring conflicts over the conception in a group or organization. One school of thought has argued that conflict must be avoided, that it indicates a malfunctioning within the group; it is called the traditional view. Another school of thought, the human relations view, argues that conflict is a natural and inevitable outcome in any group and that it need not be evil, but rather has the potential to be a positive force in determining group performance. The third, and most recent, perspective proposes not only that conflict can be positive force in a group but explicitly argues that some conflict is absolutely necessary for a group to perform effectively; it is called interactionist approach.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Exhibition 2: The three different views of conflict
(Source: Own representation)

3.1 The Traditional View

The early approach to conflict assumed all conflicts were bad. Its belief is that all conflict is harmful and must be avoided. Conflict was viewed negatively, and it was used synonymously with such terms as violence, destruction, and irrationality to reinforce its negative connotation.

The traditional view was consistent with the attitudes that prevailed about group behaviour in the 1930s and 1940s. Conflict was seen as a dysfunctional outcome resulting from poor communication, a lack of openness and trust between people, and the failure of managers to be responsive to the needs and aspirations of their employees. The view that all conflict is bad certainly offers a simple approach to looking at the behaviour of people who create conflict. Since all conflict is to be avoided, we need direct our attention to the causes of conflict and correct these malfunctionings in order to improve group and organizational performance. Although research studies now provide strong evidence to dispute that this approach to conflict reduction results in high group performance, many of us still evaluate conflict situations utilizing this outmoded standard . As well many directors are doing so.

3.2 The Human Relations View

Its position argued that conflict was natural occurrence in all groups and organizations, and inevitable outcome in some of them. Since conflict was inevitable, the human relations school advocated acceptance of conflict. Proponents rationalized its existence: it cannot be eliminated and there are even times when conflict may benefit the performance of group. This view dominated conflict theory from the late 1940s through the mid 1970.

3.3 The Intereactionist View

While the human relations approach accepted conflict, the interactionist approach encourages conflict on the grounds that a harmonious, peaceful, tranquil, and cooperative group is prone to becoming static, apathetic, and nonresponsive to needs for change and innovation.


Excerpt out of 29 pages


Conflict! - Reality of management and organizational behavior
University of Applied Sciences Bremen
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
878 KB
Conflict, Reality
Quote paper
Hartwin Maas (Author), 2004, Conflict! - Reality of management and organizational behavior, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Conflict!  -   Reality of management and organizational behavior

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free