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Organizational Conflict The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

1372 words - 6 pages

In my work, the issue that generates the most emotion and frustrated comments is conflict within the organization. We generally do not look at conflict as opportunity-we tend to think about conflict as unpleasant, counterproductive, and time consuming. Conflict that occurs in organizations need not be destructive, provided the energy associated with conflict is harnessed and directed toward problem solving and organizational improvement; however, managing conflict effectively requires that all parties understand the nature of conflict in the workplace.Two Views: The Good, the BadThere are two ways of looking at organizational conflict. Each of these ways is linked to a different set of ...view middle of the document...

Problems arise when we do not realize that this way of looking at organizations and conflict only fits organizations that work in routine ways where innovation and change are virtually eliminated. Almost all government organizations work in a very disorderly context-one characterized by constant change and a need for frequent adaptation. Trying to "structure away" conflict and disagreement in a dynamic environment requires tremendous amounts of energy and also suppresses any positive outcomes that may arise from disagreement, such as improved decision making and innovation.The GoodThe functional view of organizational conflict sees conflict as a productive force, one that can stimulate members of the organization to increase their knowledge and skills, as well as their contributions to organizational innovation and productivity. Unlike the position mentioned above, this more modern approach considers that the keys to organization success lie not in structure, clarity, and orderliness, but in creativity, responsiveness, and adaptability. The successful organization, then, needs conflict so that diverging views are put on the table and new ways of doing things are created.The functional view of conflict also suggests that conflict provides people with feedback about how things are going. Even "personality conflicts" carry information to the manager about what is not working in an organization, affording the opportunity to improve.If you subscribe to a flexible vision of effective organizations and recognize that each conflict situation provides opportunity to improve, you then shift your view of conflict. Rather than trying to eliminate conflict or suppress its symptoms, your task becomes managing conflict so that it enhances people and organizations, rather than destroying them.So, the task is to manage conflict and avoid what we call "the ugly"-the sininrion where conflict is allowed to eat away at team cohesiveness and productivity.The UglyWe have the good (conflict is positive), the bad (conflict is to be avoided), and now we need to address the ugly. Ugly occurs when the manager (and perhaps employees) attempt to eliminate or suppress conflict in situations where it is impossible to do so. You know you have ugly in your organization when:* Many conflicts run for years.* People have given up on resolving and addressing conflict problems.* There is a good deal of private complaining but little attempt to fix the problem.* Staff shows little interest in working on common goals but spends significant time and energy on protecting themselves.When ugly occurs in organizations, there is a tendency to look to the manager or formal leader as the one responsible for the mess. In fact, that is how most employees look at the situation. It is true that managers and supervisors play critical roles in determining how conflict is handled in the organization, but it is also true that the avoidance of ugliness must be a shared responsibility. Management and...

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