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CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Hi Shannon, I enjoyed having you in class the last eight weeks. Excellent work!!!!!!
Your work is vastly superior! May I use your paper (without your name) as an example
with future students? - Dr. Rodgers
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Conflict Management & Negotiation


Shannon M. Scarpello
Edison State College
Professor: Dr. Gary Rodgers

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Managing conflict and negotiating.


Conflict and negotiation in the workplace is unavoidable, therefore, one must become
proactive in effectively managing and resolving organizational conflict, as well as, developing a
firm understanding of negotiation basics and techniques. It is important to understand that over
the years managers have developed three distinct views on conflict and numerous approaches in
addressing, or in some cases, avoiding such conflict. The first view suggested that managers
reduce, suppress, or eliminate conflict since it is bad, always has a negative impact, and leads
to declines in performance, this view was known as the traditional view and emerged in the late
nineteenth century (Verma, 1998, p. 1). The second view, the behavioral or contemporary view,
was favored by managers for approximately thirty years and suggested that managers focus on
managing conflict effectively rather than suppressing or eliminating it, because it was viewed as
inevitable and a natural occurrence in all organizations (Verma, 1998). The third and most recent
perspective assumes that conflict is necessary to increase performance and encourages
conflict based on the belief that a harmonious, peaceful, tranquil, too-cooperative project
organization is likely to become static, apathetic, stagnant, and unable to respond to change and
innovation (Verma, 1998, p.1). In any case it has become increasingly obvious that in order to
be successful in conflict resolution managers must become knowledgeable in the ability to
recognize conflict and its various forms and outcomes. In addition, effective managers must
learn how to identify the components that lead to organizational conflict and decide on which
approach to managing conflict will facilitate the best possible outcomes. Secondly, effective
managers must understand the value of becoming proficient in negotiation tactics. Negotiation is
crucial to managing workplace conflict.

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

With this in mind, conflict is defined as a process in which one party perceives that its
interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party (Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009, p.
276). The word perceives is an important factor in understanding that a conflict is more than just
a disagreement between two or more parties, it represents a perceived threat to ones well-being.
The perceived threat in the workplace can take many forms including physical or emotional
threats, or opposing positions, competitive tensions, power struggles, ego, pride, jealousy,
performance discrepancies, compensation issues, just someone having a bad day, which makes
identifying the antecedent a priority to resolving the conflict (Myatt, 2012, para. 5). Our book
identifies thirteen antecedents of conflict managers should be familiar with if they wish to be
proactive when it comes to organizational conflict. Furthermore, managers should pay particular
importance to the three common forms of conflict in the workplace: personality conflict,
intergroup conflict, and cross-cultural conflict (Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009, p. 279). Equally
important are a managers ability to clarify and address company policy and procedures,
employee involvement, and how people communicate and interact.
Managers must understand that organizational conflict can result in two outcomes. The
first being conflict that impedes organizational performance leading to undesirable results; the
second being conflict that serves in the best interests of the organization and leads to successful
outcomes. The key is whether or not the conflict has desirable or undesirable results or outcomes
for the organization. These outcomes are referred to as either functional or dysfunctional conflict.
Functional conflict, also known as, constructive conflict, can result in positive outcomes,
whereas, dysfunctional conflict, otherwise known as, deconstructive conflict can lead to negative
outcomes (Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009). Furthermore, functional conflict can identify weaknesses
in an organization, while dysfunctional conflict hinders the attainment of organizational goals or

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

objectives. Subsequently, it has become increasingly important for managers to understand the
antecedents of conflict in order to achieve successful conflict resolution.
First, personality conflicts are inevitable and the workplace is no exception. However,
learning to deal with the various personality traits of your co-workers in a professional manner is
important to the success of any organization. Personality traits make up the fundamental
differences in a persons approach to any given situation and represents ones actions, behaviors
and attitudes. There are positive and negative personality traits some of which include honesty,
responsibility, confidence, adaptability, and patience or in contrast, dishonesty, irresponsibility,
impulsiveness, arrogance, or being self-centered. Distinguishing between the qualities or
characteristics that define oneself is important to understanding the various patterns of behavior
in the workplace. Managers who wish to obtain successful outcomes when dealing with
personality conflicts should have proper training in diversity and be able to constructively
reinforce positive feedback in an effort to resolve issues and avoid discrimination lawsuits.
Consider a situation in which the manager of an organization lacks experience in
managing people but understands the organization inside and out. His subordinates are able to
come to him and receive a confident answer pertaining to a business decision, however, when
that same manager is confronted with personality conflicts or insubordinate employees, he lacks
the confidences and assertiveness to address the situation and instead chooses to avoid the
situation hoping the problem will either go away or resolve itself. Unfortunately for the passive
aggressive manager, this type of conflict does not go away and can be counterproductive to the
organization. Employees need guidance and strong leadership, whether that guidance results in
positive or negative outcomes depends on the managers ability to properly address these
situations. As mentioned before, a manager who is properly trained and educated in diversity and

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

management tactics can overcome his own weaknesses in personality and build functional, rather
than dysfunctional outcomes.
Secondly, intergroup conflict pertains to organizational competitiveness and affects work
groups, teams, and departments (Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009, p. 281). In any organization,
intergroup relationships are necessary to complete various tasks, accomplish goals and
objectives, or simply operate day-to-day business. To some extent (demographic) diversity in
team composition cannot be controlled and trust is a dynamic and fragile rather than a stable and
robust characteristic of teams (De Dreu & Van Vianen, 2001, p. 311). Any environment that
fosters an us against them mentality can lead to conflict. Since an intergroup situation
embodies the characteristics and behaviors of its members, it is important to understand the
positive and negative effects group behavior can create and the inevitable eruptions of conflict
inherent in any organization.
Some positive outcomes of group behavior is the ability of the group to overlook
individual differences in an effort to become more efficient and effective in reaching
organizational goals. Some solutions to intergroup conflict include simple avoidance where
possible, problem solving, changing certain variables in the workplace, and in-house alternative
dispute resolution (ADR ) programs another solution might be a superordinate goal [which]
not only helps alleviate conflict, it focuses more on performance, which is what the organization
needs to survive (Belak, 1998, para. 6-7). Another tool managers can use in circumventing
intergroup conflict is by understanding the Theory of Cooperation and Competition developed by
Morton Deutsch. The theory states that Cooperation is aimed at working together with the other
conflict parties and seeking solutions that satisfy all participants involved. Competition, in
contrast, is aimed at working against the other conflict parties and seeking solutions that satisfy

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

ones own goals without taking others goals into consideration (De Dreu & Van Vianen, 2001,
pp. 311, 312). It makes perfect sense that the majority of conflicts contain a combination of these
two elements and that the majority of people are driven by goals and the various actions taken to
achieve those goals and pertain to any given situation. Managers who understand this will be in a
better position to resolve conflict in the workplace.
Lastly, cross-cultural conflict occurs for a variety of reasons. Culture is routinely defined
as the attitudes and behavioral characteristics inherent in a groups ideas, customs, and learned
behaviors and values. Other associated characteristics can be defined by religion, language,
social habits and numerous other tell-tail traits, like, everyday habits or routines. Organizations
are embedded with their own unique cultures known as organization culture. Our book defines
organizational culture as the set of shared, taken-for-granted implicit assumptions that a group
holds and that determines how it perceives, thinks about, and reacts to its various environments
(Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009, p. 36). Keep in mind that cross-cultural conflict is unavoidable
especially in an organizational setting that is comprised of different cultures and demographics.
Organizations employ men and women whose backgrounds include various statuses and
religious practices including other elements such as: nationality, ethnicity, age, marital status,
geographic histories, position in the workplace, and educational background. Each of these
components can lead to cross-cultural conflict when members are subjected to various situations.
Managers must learn to navigate such a diverse and dynamic workplace if they hope to avoid
negative cultural conflict.
Communication is crucial in avoiding the negative consequences of organizational
conflict. A lack of effective communication or miscommunication leads to negative outcomes
including role conflict and/or ambiguity, missed goals, deadlines and/or time pressures, lack of

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

focus or other stressors, isolation, or other forms that could be considered as perceived threats.
Other forms of threats could be the introduction of new technology or restructuring of an
organization due to the economy, downsizing and/or budget cuts, or mergers and even
acquisitions. To avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and prevent further escalation of conflict,
managers must clarify company policies and procedures, employee involvement, and stress the
importance of communication.
To put it simply, clearly defining the objective and effectively outlining the parameters of
a project or goal, in conjunction with planning and sharing the necessary information essential
for meeting the objectives or parameters is a driving factor in communication. A managers
ability to solve organizational conflicts and negotiate the best outcome is achieved by developing
the necessary skills to facilitate effective communication and negotiate incremental changes that
redress the issues that ignited the conflict. Managers can address policies and procedures and
readjust various expectations and power by nurturing a healthy environment in which
communication is key in fostering a functional resolution to conflict. Managers who understand
the importance of communication and realize the value of negotiation tactics will be in a better
position to implement change and address the various forms of conflict inevitable in any
organization.
Not surprisingly, negotiation requires significant communication skills in order to
coordinate a successful negotiation between conflicting parties. Our book defines negotiation as
a give-and-take decision-making process involving interdependent parties with different
preferences and establishes two basic forms of negotiation, distributive and integrative (Kinicki
& Kreitner, 2009, p. 290). Distributive negotiation is a competitive negotiation strategy in which
one party wins and the other loses (think of bargaining the price of a new car with the salesman).

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Distributive negotiation usually occurs during a one-time situation, transaction, or bargaining


position; while, integrative tactics are used more often and result in a win-win bargaining
situation, such as during the hiring process when two parties are negotiating fair compensation
(Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009). Managers who utilize the integrative approach can take advantage of
the five added-value negotiation steps essential in building long-term internal and external
relationships; these negotiation steps are central to developing strong, negotiating skills
necessary for successful conflict resolution. In addition, to the added-value negotiation steps,
managers can choose to utilize the four principles of negotiation developed by Fisher and Ury as
an alternative tool in conflict resolution. The four principles were designed to allow individuals
(especially managers) to get a clear view of the substance of the conflict in the hopes of
addressing the problem itself. They include: (1) Separate the PEOPLE from the Problem; (2)
Focus on INTERESTS, not Positions; (3) Invent OPTIONS for mutual gain; and (4) Insist on
using objective CRITERIA upon which to base agreement (Cutts, n.d. p.2). Seems selfexplanatory; however, in order to be effective these four principles must be addressed
collaboratively and it is the managers duty to ensure a successful outcome by negotiating an
agreement between the disputing parties without damaging the relationship or the outcome itself.
All things considered, it is important for managers to understand how conflict or conflict
avoidance can affect the organization and the parties involved. Proactive managers who are
trained to identify the antecedents of conflict and understand the value of utilizing negotiation
tools will effectively circumvent conflict leading to overall organizational success; whereas,
managers who choose to avoid conflict, or more importantly conflict that leads to dysfunctional
or destructive forms of conflict can stifle or hinder organizational performance. This type of
conflict if left unresolved can escalate and manifest into rather monumental interpersonal and/or

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
organizational problems. Organizations who choose to invest in conflict management training
will achieve more positive outcomes Therefore, it is in the best interests of the organization to
establish clear guidelines and properly train their managers in the art of identifying and
proactively navigating and negotiating interpersonal conflict.

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