Chapter 13 – Conflict and Stress
What is Conflict?
• Interpersonal conflict – the process that occurs when one person, group, or organizational
subunit frustrates the goal attainment of another
Causes of Organizational Conflict
Group Identification and Intergroup Bias
• Identification with a particular group or class of people can set the stage for organizational
• Identifying with the successes of one’s own group and disassociating oneself from out-group
failures boosts self-esteem and provides comforting feelings of social solidarity.
• When individuals or subunits are mutually dependent on each other to accomplish their own
goals, the potential for conflict exists.
Differences in Power, Status, and Culture
• Power – if the dependence is not mutual but one-way, the potential for conflict increases
• Status – status differences provide little impetus for conflict when people of lower status are
dependent on those of higher status
• Culture – when two or more different cultures develop in an organization, the clash in beliefs
and values can result in overt conflict.
• Ambiguous goals, jurisdictions, or performance criteria can lead to conflict
• Limited budget money, secretarial support, or lab space can contribute to conflict
Types of Conflict
It is useful to distinguish among relationship, task and process conflict
Relationship conflict – interpersonal tensions among individuals that have to do with their
relationship per se, not the task at hand
Task conflict – disagreements about the nature of the work to be done
Process conflict - disagreements about how work should be organized and accomplished
When conflict begins, we often see the following events transpire:
“Winning” the conflict becomes more important than developing a good solution to the problem at
The parties begin to conceal information from each other or to pass on distorted information
Each side becomes more cohesive. Deviants who speak of conciliation are punished, and strict
conformity is expected.
Contact with the opposite part is discouraged expect under formalized, restricted conditions
While the opposite party is negatively stereotyped, the image of one’s own position is boosted
On each side, more aggressive people who are skilled at engaging in conflict may emerge as
Modes of Managing Conflict
Avoiding – a conflict management style characterized by low assertiveness of one’s own interests
and low cooperation with the other party Accommodating – an conflict management style in which one cooperates with the other party
while not asserting one’s own interests
Competing – a conflict management style that maximizes assertiveness and minimizes
Compromise – a conflict management style that combines intermediate levels of assertiveness
Collaborating – a conflict management style that maximizes both assertiveness and cooperation
Managing Conflict with Negotiation
• Negotiation – a decision-making process among interdependent parties who do not share
• Distributive negotiation – win-lose negotiation in which a fixed amount of assets is divided
• Integrative negotiation – win-win negotiation that assumes that mutual problem solving can
enlarge the assets to be divided between parties
Distributive Negotiation Tactics
• Threats and promises
• Firmness versus concessions
Integrative Negotiation Tactics
• Copious information exchange
• Framing differences as opportunities
• Cutting costs
• Increasing superordinate goals – attractive outcomes that can be achieved only by
Third Party Involvement
Is All Conflict Bad?
• There is a growing awareness of some potential benefits or organizational conflict
• Conflict Change Adaptation Survival
• Conflict stimulation – a strategy of increasing conflict to motivate change
A Model of Stress in Organizations
• Environmental events or conditions that have the potential to induce stress, these include
such things as extreme heat, extreme heat, extreme cold, isolation, or hostile people.
• A psychological reaction to the demands inherent in a stressor that has the potential to make
a person feel tense or anxious. Stress is not intrinsically bad. All people require a certain level
of stimulation from their environment, and moderate levels of stress and serve this function.
• The behavioural, psychological, and physiological consequences of stress. Some of these reactions are essentially passive responses over which the individual has little direct control,
such as elevated blood pressure or reduce immune function. Other reactions are active
attempts to cope with previous aspect of the stress episode.
Personality and Stress
• Personality can have an important influ