CH 9 Com 3S03

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Published on 22 Apr 2013
McMaster University
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Chapter 9; Conflict and Negotiation
Conflict is not always bad for a group or organization, but improperly diagnosed or left unchecked, it can
be a highly destructive force.
Too much conflict can create a toxic workplace environment where satisfaction and performance are
low and absenteeism and turnover are high.
Myths of Conflict and Negotiation
- Conflict is always dysfunctional
- Conflict is generally a “personality” problem
- Negotiation creates a winner and a loser
- Good conflict mediators are born, not made
Types of Conflict and their Effects
Task Conflict: conflict over tasks, ideas, and issues and is divorced from evaluations of people’s
- Can be beneficial to more effective decision making and problem solving and can lead to greater
accuracy, insight, and innovation.
- May induce a healthy level of constructive criticism and the stimulation of more spireited and
evidence-based discussion.
Relationship Conflict: is personalized and, therefore, highly threatening and damaging for personal
relationships, team functioning, and problem solving.
- Threatens productivity and interferes with the effort people put into a task, because they are
preoccupied with retaliation, increasing their personal power, or attempting to restore
cohesion, rather than working on the task.
Positive Effects of Conflict:
- Brings problems into the open that might otherwise be ignored
- Can motivate people to try to understand others’ positions and ideas
- Encourages people to voice new ideas, facilitating innovation and change
- Forces people to challenge their thinking and assumptions, often improving the quality of
Negative Effects of Conflict:
- Can lead to negative emotions and stress
- Often reduces communication between participants, which can hurt work coordination
- May cause leaders to avoid participative leadership and instead rely on “top-down”
authoritarian decisions
- Can result in negative stereotyping and workgroup divisions, since members of opposing groups
tend to emphasize the differences between themselves and the opposition.
Project Stage (High-Performing Teams)
Conflict Type
Project Stage (Low-Performing Teams)
Conflict Type
Very High
Managing Conflict
Goal isn’t to eliminate conflict, but to manage it in a way that reduces its potential harm to engagement
and performance.
Diagnosing Conflict Sources
Informational factors: people have developed their point of view on the basis of a different set of facts.
- In an organization, if two people have different information, they are likely to find themselves in
conflict as a result of their different understandings.
Perceptual Factors: when people have different images or interpretations of the same thing.
- Each person selects the data that supports their position and tend to devalue information that
does not support it.
Role Factors: when people believe their roles within an organization are somehow in conflict or that the
‘turf’ associated with their position is being challenged.
- Possibility for conflict exists when incompatible roles are imposed on interpersonal
Environmental Factors: several factors can cause, or at least intensify, conflict situations.
- Scarcity of any kind tend to lower the levels of trust people have in one another, which in turn
increases the potential for conflict.
- When people feel uneasy or uncertain about their status in an organization, they tend to
become anxious and more prone to conflict.
- The degree to which competition is present.
o Mixed motive situation: employees are placed in a position where they are rewarded if
they compete aggressively but told they should work toward the department’s overall
outcome as a whole.
o Zero-sum game: whereby the success of one employee means the failure of another.
Personal Factors: conflicts stemming from incompatible personal values are very difficult to resolve. Can
become highly emotional and take on moral overtones.
Matching Conflict styles with situations:
Competition: being dominant and nonsupportive. Individuals pursue their own concerns relatively
aggressively, often at the expense of other people’s concerns.
- People use whatever power seems appropriate to win their position their organizational
status, their ability to be persuasive, or even threats of punishement for noncompliance.
- It is appropriate to use this method in situations where safety is on the line, when someone
needs to be in charge of a complex system, and when unpopular actions need implementing.
- Be direct: use declarative and precise statements, and keep them simple. Make sure people
know exactly what you want them to do.
- Explain Later: to avoid having to use this technique often, take a minute to explain your
rationale to the other person once the emotions or stress of the conflict situation have
- Use this strategy selectively:
Accommodation: behaving in a supportive, submissive, unassertive and cooperative manner.
- Individuals neglect their own concerns to satisfy the concerns of others.
- Acknowledge the Accommodation: important to let the other person know you are consciously
giving them what they want.
- Have a rationale: having a rationale will help you decide what to do if other people ask for the
same accommodation.
Avoidance: behaving in a submissive, nonsupportive, unassertive, and uncooperative manner.
- May take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better
time, or simple withdrawing from a threatening situation.
- Set time limits: specify when you will get back to a conflict, and then do it. Allowing conflicts to
fester for too long only makes them more difficult to handle in the long run.
- Set goals for the time out period: important that people know what they are supposed to be
working toward while they are avoiding a conflict.
Compromise: the intermediate style. Objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution
that partially satisfies everyone involved.
- May mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground