Lec 14 Conflict and Stress
What is Conflict?
Interpersonal conflict is a process that occurs when one person, group, or organizational subunit
frustrates the goal attainment of another.
Conflict often involves antagonistic attitudes and behaviours.
Causes of Organizational Conflict
A number of factors contribute to organizational conflict:
1. Group identification and intergroup bias
3. Differences in power, status, and culture
5. Scarce resources
Group Identification and Intergroup Bias
The identification with a particular group or class of people.
People develop a more positive view of their own “in-group” and a less positive view of the “out-group.”
Self-esteem is a critical factor.
Attributing positive behaviour to your own group should contribute to your self-esteem.
When individuals or subunits are mutually dependent on each other to accomplish their own goals.
Interdependence necessitates interaction and implies that each party has some power over the other.
Interdependence does not always lead to conflict and it can be a good basis for collaboration through
Differences in Power, Status, and Culture
Power: If dependence is not mutual, but one way, the potential for conflict increases.
Is this counter intuitive?
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 very different cultures develop in an organization, the clash in beliefs and
values can result in overt conflict.
Examples from the cross culture interview?
Ambiguous goals, jurisdictions, or performance criteria can lead to conflict.
The formal and informal rules that govern interaction break down.
Ambiguous performance criteria are a frequent cause of conflict between managers and employees.
Limited budget money, secretarial support, or lab space can contribute to conflict.
Scarcity can turn latent or disguised conflict into overt conflict. Types of Conflict
1. Relationship conflict
2. Task conflict
3. Process conflict
Relationship conflict concerns interpersonal tensions among individuals that have to do with their
relationship per se, not the task at hand.
Personality clashes are examples of relationship conflicts.
Task conflict concerns disagreements about the nature of work to be done.
Differences of opinion about goals or technical matters are examples of task conflict.
Profit = Revenue – Cost
Process conflict involves disagreements about how work should be organized and accomplished.
Disagreements about responsibility, authority, resource allocation, and who does what all constitute
Even if everyone agrees that the firm needs to cut cost, process conflict may still arise.
Types of Conflict
In the context of work groups and teams, relationship and process conflict tend to be detrimental to
member satisfaction and team performance.
Such conflict prevents the development of cohesiveness.
Occasionally, some degree of task conflict might be beneficial for team performance.
Not all conflict is detrimental.
When conflict begins, the following events often transpire:
“Winning” the conflict becomes more important than a good solution.
The parties conceal information from each other or distort it.
Each side becomes more cohesive.
Contact with the opposite party is discouraged.
Conflict Dynamics (continued)
The opposite party is negatively stereotyped, and the image of one’s own position is boosted.
More aggressive people who are skilled at engaging in conflict may emerge as leaders.
The problem can escalate to the point that the conflict process itself becomes an additional problem and
works against the achievement of a peaceful solution.
The conflict continues to cycle “on its own steam.” Modes of Managing Conflict
These approaches to managing conflict are a function of:
How assertive you are in trying to satisfy your own or your group’s concerns.
How cooperative you are in trying to satisfy those of the other party or group.
five styles for dealing with conflict.
None of the five styles is inherently superior.
Each style might have its place given the situation in which the conflict episode occurs.
Approaches to Managing Organizational Conflict
A conflict management style characterized by low assertiveness of one’s own interests and low
cooperation with the other party.
It can provide short-term stress reduction but it does not really change the situation.
Its effectiveness is limited.
It might be a sensible response when the issue is trivial, information is lacking, people need to cool
down, and the opponent is very powerful and hostile.
A conflict management style in which one cooperates with the other party while not asserting one’s own
If it is seen as a sign of weakness, it does not bode well for future interactions.
It can be an effective strategy when you are wrong, the issue is more important to the other party, and
you want to build good will.
A conflict management style that maximizes assertiveness for your own position and minimize
In competing, you tend to frame the conflict in strict win-lose terms.
It can be effective when you have a lot of power, you are sure of your facts, the situation is truly win-
lose, or you will not have to interact with the other party in the future.
A conflict management style that combines intermediate levels of assertiveness and cooperation.
It does not result in the most creative response to conflict.
It is not useful for resolving conflicts that stem from power asymmetry.
It is a sensible reaction to conflict stemming from scarce resources and it is a good fallback position if