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What Is the Role of Conflict in Organizational Behavior?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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The role of conflict in organizational behavior depends upon its frequency, intensity, and the manner in which it is addressed. Lengthy or significant conflicts can overwhelm an organization, while smaller issues may serve as a catalyst for improvements in the way the business is run. The way that an organization manages conflict also plays a role in how it affects the company overall.

Conflict in organizational behavior can be debilitating if managed poorly. An organization that becomes adept at catching signs of trouble before they develop into full blown issues will tend to be healthier overall. If conflict does develop, companies with a procedure for managing this kind of trouble often create a more positive, constructive environment for employees.

The role of conflict in organizational behavior can be overwhelming if it is not addressed promptly. Problems that are ignored or inadequately resolved often become a part of organizational culture. In essence, the company gets in the habit of being dysfunctional. The long-term results of this inattention can range from causing inconvenience to destroying the organization.

If conflict in organizational behavior is addressed quickly and effectively, it can help to improve operations. Once disparate elements have been brought into harmony, the effort often not only stops the immediate effects of the conflict, but also helps to improve productivity. In addition to removing the distraction of the problem, solving it will often reveal better methods of working.

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By consistently managing conflict effectively, a company can save resources needed for daily operations. An organization that stays on top of problems encourages a culture of cooperation. Maintaining harmony among employees encourages them to stay focused on the work, rather than negative relational issues that waste time and energy.

An organization that understands why conflicts develop can manage problems before they grow out of control. Understanding this important element can lead to a deeper self-knowledge overall. Thus, the workforce not only avoids conflict, but also understands itself better, which can increase its effectiveness in other areas.

The way that people involved in conflict are perceived can also have an effect on organizational behavior. If the company sees these individuals as antagonists, it can be more difficult to resolve the problem. When conflict is viewed as an inevitable part of human nature, and the people involved are viewed with compassion, it can be easier to create a more positive atmosphere. This can have a powerful effect on overall employee moral as well.

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Discuss this Article

Charred
Post 3

@nony - I definitely agree with the article that companies should not see employees as antagonists. Unfortunately, I think of the sign, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

As cynical as that sign may be, I’ve worked for some companies that operate that way. It begins from the top down, with an atmosphere of yelling and berating your employees. That does not engender a workplace of “harmony.”

You can have all the seminars you want, but if the boss acts that way, it will filter down into the workplace and poison the well. I think that before management decides whether they need to have workshops to “fix” their employees, they should take a good, hard look at themselves and make sure that they exemplify the values they wish to instill, in my opinion.

nony
Post 2

@NathanG - At the beginning of the year all employees in our company will be required to attend a one day seminar on project management and organizational effectiveness.

While it’s not a seminar on conflict management, that is part of the agenda. In particular we will focus on how better to understand fellow employees. I hope it doesn’t turn into a touchy-feely thing where we huddle in groups and sing “Kum bah yah,” but I am willing to listen and learn.

We have all sorts of personality types in our company, from really aggressive, outgoing types to total introverts. I think if we can spend more time understanding what makes each of us tick, we can avoid conflict.

NathanG
Post 1

If there’s one word that characterizes conflict in our organization, it’s drama. Some people are more prone to it than others but whatever the source, it creates unbelievable amounts of tension and bad blood, leading to gossip and backbiting.

We had an employee survey recently where employees were asked to identify the biggest weaknesses in the company and this was it, hands down.

We met to discuss the results of the survey and how to better address problems that we faced. We all agreed that employees should make it a habit to go directly to the person who offended them rather than talking about them behind their backs.

Some people also suggested that the best way to avoid or defuse gossip would be simply to walk away from it. If no one will listen to your gossip, it pretty much kills it dead in the water. I thought that made sense too.

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