In a healthy workplace, conflict is inevitable. Conflict occurs when people clash or when people fail to agree on an issue, decision or action (Flage, 2011). It is an ongoing situation that results when a dispute is not resolved. When conflict is not resolved, the situation escalates and a potentially dangerous workplace situation is quickly created.
Basically, conflict is defined as the difference in opinion between people. It can be on the basis of substantive issues (such as rules and regulations, tasks, budgeting, objective achievement, performance appraisal, etc) or emotional issues (such as anger, hatred, distrust, personal clashes, etc).
When a dispute between employees is not resolved, an uncomfortable working environment is created. This is characterized by rumor, gossip, and lack of cooperation. This further leads to arguments and complaints. Other people may get involved and take sides. The situation escalates creating more tension as the employees pass blames and increasingly become non-productive. This calls for management interventions before the situation gets out of hand.
Workplace conflict can be managed through structural or integrative ways. Structural ways include making the goals more appealing to attract the interests of everyone, availing more resources to avoid competition and scramble, changing the physical atmosphere of the workplace, and using trainings to modify the behavior of employees and enable them understand each other (Ramsbotham et al., 2011). The integrative ways include increasing personal coordination by forming teams, embracing fairness and merit especially on the reward systems, improving the interpersonal skills through training, and making the rules and regulations more comfortable.
Before conflict gets out of hand, it can be managed by avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration (Flage, 2011;
Deutsch et al., 2006). Avoidance is simply the withdrawal from the conflict and denying it even existed. It is uncooperative and unassertive and results in lose-lose situation (Tidwell, 2001). Accommodation involves smoothening over as the differences in the individuals are suppressed. It is a cooperative and assertive method and results in lose-lose situation. Competition involves exercising power by taking authoritarian command. It is uncooperative and assertive, and results in a win-lose situation. Compromise involves negotiations and compromising on the conflict. It is moderately cooperative and assertive, and results in win-lose situation. Finally, Collaboration involves trying to solve the problem with emphasis on the group solution. It is cooperative and assertive, and there is no winner or loser. It presents a win-win situation (Deutsch et al., 2006).
Flage, L. (2011). Managing Conflict. Retrieved October 3, 2012 from http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs1563.pdf
Ramsbotham, O., Woodhouse, T., & Miall, H. (2011). Contemporary Conflict Resolution. Polity.
Tidwell, A. (2001). Conflict Resolved?: A Critical Assessment of Conflict Resolution. Continuum International Publishing Group.