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Conflict in the Organization. Chapter 9 (pp. 157-171). Overview. Communication & Conflict Defining Conflict Origins Consequences Factors Influencing Conflict Conflict Styles Disputes and Negotiation Conflict Management & Resolution Skills . Communication & Conflict.

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Conflict in the organization l.jpg

Conflict in the Organization

Chapter 9

(pp. 157-171)

Overview l.jpg

  • Communication & Conflict

  • Defining Conflict

  • Origins

  • Consequences

  • Factors Influencing Conflict

  • Conflict Styles

  • Disputes and Negotiation

  • Conflict Management & Resolution Skills

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Communication & Conflict

  • Mild “tensions” vs. Incapacitation

  • Understanding conflict is critical to communication success

  • Communication constitutes the essence of conflict in that it undergirds the formation of opposing issues, frames perceptions of the felt conflict, translates emotions and perceptions into conflict behaviors, and sets the stage for future conflicts (Putnam & Poole, 1987)

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Conflict Defined

  • Two or more interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving that goal (Hocker & Wilmot, 1995)

  • Competition between interdependent parties who perceive that they have incompatible needs, goals, desires, or ideas (Van Slyke, 1999)

  • The interaction of interdependent people who perceive opposition of goals, aims, and values, and who see the other party as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals (Putnam & Poole, 1987)

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Conflict Defined

  • Interdependence

  • Perceived Incompatible Goals

  • Scarce Resources

  • Interference

  • Social Interaction

    • Central to Conflict

    • How conflict is identified and framed

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Origins of Conflict

  • Four Events that precipitate interpersonal conflict


      • Failure to respond to appeal for desired action


      • Unjust or extreme request


      • Unfavorable or demeaning verbal or nonverbal act


      • Repetition of instances that crosses tolerance threshold

  • Five Factors that favor the development of conflict

    • Frequency of Occurrence

    • Goal Mutuality

    • Goal-Path Uncertainty

    • Attribution of Cause

    • Negative Feelings

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Consequences of Conflict

  • Negative Consequences

    • Less Effective

    • Suboptimal Productivity

    • Inhibited Cognitive Functioning

  • Positive Consequences

    • Identify and Better Understand Issues

    • Clarify Issues

    • Creative Solutions

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Factors Influencing Conflict

  • Content Related vs. Personal

  • Size of Conflict

  • Rigidity of the Issue

  • Power Differences

  • Individual Personalities, Traits, and Dispositions

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Conflict Styles

  • Strategy Effectiveness

    • Adapt to the Situation

    • Be Fair and Objective

    • Appropriate and Effective Communication

    • Mutual Awareness

    • Open-minded Attitudes

    • Willingness to Ignore Power Issues

    • Problem-Solving Procedures

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Characterizing Conflict Styles

  • 5 Basic Conflict Styles

    • Withdrawing (Avoiding)

    • Smoothing (Accomodating)

    • Forcing (Dominating; Competing)

    • Confronting (Collaborating, Problem Solving, Integrating)

    • Compromising

  • Ethical Climate Determines Effectiveness of Conflict Style

    • Formal Procedures / Rules

    • McKinney, Kelly, and Duran (1997)

    • CMMS scale Ross & DeWine (1988)

      • Concern for other, self, and issue

    • Nicotera (1994)

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Conflict Styles Research

  • McKinney, Kelly, and Duran (1997)

    • Concern for other and issue positively related to social confirmation

    • Concern for other and issue positively related with social experience

    • Concern for self negatively related to social composure

  • Nicotera (1994)

    • AVOID - evasive vs. estranged

    • ACCOMMODATE - accommodate vs. patronize

    • COMPETE - assertive vs. aggressive

    • COLLOBORATE - consolidate vs. begrudge

    • COMPROMISE - ?

  • Flexibility is influenced by liking, loyalty, and personality factors (aggressiveness, tolerance, and innovativeness)

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Conflict Styles Research

  • Superior’s Conflict Styles and Rewards for Subordinates

    • System Rewards (salary, benefits, promotions)

    • Performance Rewards (responsibility, decision making input, meaningful/challenging work)

    • Interpersonal Rewards (recognition, friendship, status, appreciation, feeling of belonging)

  • Results

    • Collaboration and Forcing styles predict Interpersonal and Performance Rewards

    • No relationships identified . . .

      • between accommodation and perceived rewards

      • between manager conflict styles and system rewards

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Conflict Styles Research

  • Diversity and Gender

    • Workplace diversity and orientations toward conflict can heighten the frequency and intensity of conflict situations

    • Lack of understanding of cultural differences can result in conflict

    • Personality has a greater impact on conflict style than biological sex

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Disputes and Negotiation

  • Bargaining as Compromise

    • Participants negotiate mutually shared rules and then cooperate within these rules to gain a competitive advantage over opponent

    • Bargaining and Negotiation are interchangeable

    • Organizational Responses (Disputing Process Instrument (DPI) Morrill & Thomas, 1992)

      • Aggressiveness - expense of others

      • Authoritativeness - resources of social position

      • Observability visible to social audience

    • Seven Conflict Behaviors (DPI)

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The Negotiation Process

  • The goal of negotiation is no longer exclusively getting an effective settlement

    • Redefinition of the problem

    • Perceptual change in the elements of the problem

    • New appreciation of the socio/historical context of the dispute

  • Communication-as-Negotiation

    • Transformational power that transcends notions of technical and instrumental rationality

    • Participants define the conflict and its environment

    • Rationality and Effectiveness (and Appropriateness) help define many aspects of organizational life

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Conflict Management & Resolution Skills

  • First, understand the factors contributing to conflict

  • Next, we identify the methods for resolving conflict

  • Two Forms of Conflict Resolution

    • Distributive Conflict Resolution

      • Winning through the use of negative behaviors

      • Disagreement to prevent others from reaching their goals

      • Serves personal needs and goals at the expense of others

      • Conflict as WIN - lose

    • Integrative Conflict Resolution

      • Foster cooperation and shared solutions

      • Modifying ideas, bargaining for an acceptable compromise

      • Search for solutions and provide support for others

      • Cooperative and not mutually exclusive

      • Objective is to share values, highlight common objectives, and help achieve consensus

  • Transition from distributive to integrative conflict resolution occurs when the need to accomplish a common goal is recognized.

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Conflict Management & Resolution Skills

  • Once individuals realize that it will be impossible to achieve the desired goal without resources and abilities beyond their own, the transition can take place.


    • Ability to establish effective working relationships

    • Must have cooperative and problem-solution attitudes

    • Must be able to manage the group process and group decision making be knowledgeable about the issues

    • Interpersonal Relationships are at the core of our ability to resolve conflict

      • Effective development of interpersonal relationships among co-workers can potentially decrease the severity of grievances filed

      • Metaphors to describe attitudes toward conflict

        • CONFLICT as WAR (great personal cost)

        • CONFLICT as IMPOTENCE (powerless to impact)

        • CONFLICT as RATIONAL PROCESS (collaboration)

      • Most frequent - conflict as impotence

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Conflict Management & Resolution Skills

  • Having skills and knowledge of different approaches to conflict may help one overcome a sense of helplessness in conflict settings

  • Resolving conflicts depends on the perceptions of the negotiation

  • Misinformation can lead to negative perceptions

  • Organizational conflict can be one of the most frustrating and difficult aspects of working in an organization

  • Especially frustrating when people feel they have no control over the outcome

  • Be sensitive to your own style of interacting and managing conflict and pay attention to the styles of others

  • Conflict is expected and anticipated in the communicative organization (CO)

  • The only UNKNOWN is how parties respond to conflict

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Strategies for Dealing with Conflict

  • Be Objective

    • Analyze and separate content and personal issues

    • Planning stage for strategic communication

  • Be Aware of Preferred Style of Conflict Resolution

    • Plan, Recognize, Contain, and Cope

  • Distinguish Symptoms from Causes

    • Symptoms let us know a conflict is present

    • Causes of conflict are issues underlying the symptoms

  • Identify Success of Methods already Implemented

    • Ignore problems

    • Persuasion

    • Compromise

  • Be Sensitive to Different Approaches and Views of Conflict based on Gender and Cultural Diversity

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  • Communication & Conflict

  • Defining Conflict

  • Origins

  • Consequences

  • Factors Influencing Conflict

  • Conflict Styles

  • Disputes and Negotiation

  • Conflict Management & Resolution Skills