BU288 Lecture 14 Ch. 13. Conflict & Stress. Thursday. Nov. 1. 2012.
CONFLICT & ITS CAUSES
Interpersonal conflict: organization subunit (person/group) frustrates goal attainment of another
Often involves antagonistic attitudes and behaviours may develop negative stereotypes
Conflict process can be managed collaboratively, keeping antagonism to a minimum. Conflict can
also be hidden/suppressed and not so obvious.
Group Identification and Intergroup Bias
Identification with a particular group/class of people can set stage for organizational conflict
Even without interaction or cohesion, people grouped by trivial characteristics (i.e. eye colour)
develop a more positive view of their own group intergroup bias
Self-esteem is a critical factor/cause for intergroup bias. Identifying with successes of own group and
not with out-group failures boosts our self-esteem and social solidarity.
Groups can be based on personal characteristics, job function, job level, etc. Differences between
groups may be accentuated by differences in power, opportunity, clients serviced, etc.
Nowadays, firms try to get workers to identify strongly with their teams. Intergroup bias suggests
that organizations should pay attention to managing relationships between teams.
When people mutually depend on each other to achieve their own goals= potential for conflict
Interdependence sets stage for conflict for 2 reasons
1) It necessitates interaction between the parties so that they can coordinate their interests
conflict doesn’t develop if the parties can do it alone
2) Interdependence implies that each party has power over the other may abuse antagonism
Differences in Power, Status, and Culture affects how interdependence causes conflict
Power: if dependence is not mutual, potential for conflict rises. B has power over A, but A has
nothing to bargain with. Thus, A may be hostile towards B symptom of conflict
Status: status differences provide little impetus for conflict when people of lower status depend on
those of higher status. But sometimes, lower status workers may find themselves ordering high
status people (ex: restaurant waiters to chefs). The high status people may resent this.
Culture: when 2 or more different cultures develop in an organization, the clash in beliefs & values
can lead to conflict. Some have developed strong cultures in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, while
others develop strong cultures in customer care at any cost.
Ambiguous goals, jurisdictions, or performance criteria can lead to conflict
Under ambiguity, formal and informal rules governing interactions break down
Difficult to praise/blame people for good/bad outcomes when it’s hard to see who was responsible
Ambiguous performance and open-ended assignments are susceptible to a variety of interpretations
Differences in power are magnified when resources become scarce always occurs with a battle,
and conflict often surfaces in the process of power jockeying
Limited budget money, secretarial support, or lab space can contribute to conflict
Scaricy has a way of turning latent or disguised conflict into overt conflict two scientists who
don’t get along very well may be able to put up a peaceful front until there’s a reduction in lab space
1 BU288 Lecture 14 Ch. 13. Conflict & Stress. Thursday. Nov. 1. 2012.
TYPES OF CONFLICT
Relationship conflict: interpersonal tensions among individuals that involve their relationship , and
not the task at hand “personality clashes”
Task conflict: disagreements about the nature of the work to be done differences in goals
Process conflict: disagreements about how work should be organized and accomplished about
responsibility, authority, resource allocation, and who should do what
All 3 types mentioned above tend to be detrimental to member satisfaction & team performance
prevents cohesiveness;; BUT NOT all conflict IS detrimental
Some task conflict may benefit team performance, when the task is non-routine and requires many
perspectives to be considered, and when it does not degenerate into a relationship conflict
Many events occur when one or more of the causes of conflict take effect
Winning the conflict becomes more important than developing a good solution to the problem
Parties begin to conceal info from each other or to pass on distorted info
Each side becomes more cohesive; deviants who speak of conciliation are punished due to
expectations of strict conformity
Contact with opposite party is discouraged except under formalized, restricted conditions
While opposite party is negatively stereotyped, image of one’s own position is boosted
On each side, more aggressive people who are skilled at engaging in conflict may emerge as leaders
Trend: what begins as a problem of identity, interdependence, ambiguity, or scarcity escalates;
conflict itself becomes a problem against peaceful solution as conflict cycles on its own steam
MODES OF MANAGING CONFLICT
Approaches to managing conflict are a function of how assertive you are in trying to satisfy your
group’s concerns and how cooperative you are in trying to satisfy those of the other party or group
None of the 5 styles by Kenneth Thomas are superior; depends on type of conflict & situation
Avoiding: a conflict management style characterized by low assertiveness of one’s own interests
and low cooperation with the other party provide short term stress reduction
o Does not change the situation effectiveness is limited, but avoiding is appropriate if issue is
trivial, information is lacking, people need to cool down, or opponent is too powerful
Accommodating: one cooperates with the other party while not asserting one’s own interests
o when you are wrong, the issue’s not as important to you, or you want to build good will
Competing: conflict management style that maximizes assertiveness and minimizes cooperation
o When you have a lot of power, or you are sure of your facts, the situation is win-lose, or you’ll
never have to interact with the other party in the future
Compromise: conflict management style that combines intermediate levels of assertiveness &
cooperation it is itself a compromise between pure competition and pure accommodation
o Satisficing vs. maximizing your outcomes, and hope the same occurs for the other party
o Not so useful for resolving conflicts that stem from power asymmetry, because the weaker party
may have little to offer the stronger party
o Sensible reaction to conflict stemming for scarce resources, or if other strategies fail
Collaborating: conflict management style that maximizes both assertiveness & cooperation
o Emphasis on win-win resolution, in which there’s no assumption that someone must lose
something. It’s assumed that the solution leaves both parties in a better condition.
o Works best when conflict is not intense and when each party has info that’s useful to the other
o Particularly important for customer service
2 BU288 Lecture 14 Ch. 13. Conflict & Stress. Thursday. Nov. 1. 2012.
MODEL OF STRESS IN ORGANIZATIONS
Stressors: environmental events or conditions that have the potential to induce stress
Stress: a psychological reaction to the demands inherent in a stressor that has the potential to make
a person feel tense or anxious not intrinsically bad as it can stimulate people
o One would wonder about the perceptual accuracy of a person who never experienced tension
Stress reactions: the behavioural, psychological, and physiological consequences of stress
o Passive reactions are ones we don’t have much direct control over (ex: blood pressure)
o Stress reactions that involve active attempts to cope with stress may be directed toward dealing
directly with the stressor or simply reducing the anxiety generated by stress. former strategy
has more potential for effectiveness because chances of stress episode being terminated rises
The stress model presented generalizes across cultures; similar factors provoke similar reactions
Personality and Stress – 3 key personality traits
Individual personality often determines the extent to which a potential stressor becomes a real
stressor and actually induces stress but some things (ex: heat) stress everyone
Locus of control: a set of beliefs about whether one’s behaviour is controlled mainly by internal or
external forces (own behaviour vs. luck/fate/powerful people)
o Externals are more likely to feel anxious in the face of potential stressors; do not feel that they
are masters of their own fate so they’re prone to simple short-term anxiety-reduction strategies
o Internals are confront stressors directly as they assume this response will make a difference
Type A Behaviour Pattern: a personality pattern that includes aggressiveness, ambitiousness,
competitiveness, hostility, impatience, and a sense of time urgency
o Type A report heavier workloads, longer work hours, and more conflicting work demands than
Type B Type A encounter more stressful situations, OR they perceive themselves as doing so
o So Type A are likely to show adverse physiological reactions in response to stress as they have
strong need to control their work environment
o Research says the major component of Type A behaviour that contributes to adverse
physiological reactions is hostility and repressed anger.
Negative affectivity: propensity to view the world, including oneself & others, in a negative light
o Negative people = more likely to be stressed in response to demands of heavy workload
o Several factors may be responsible for susceptibility to stress of those negative people
1) Predisposition to perceive stressors in the workplace
2) Hypersensitivity to existing stressors
3) A tendency to gravitate toward stressful jobs
4) Tendency to provoke stress through their negativity
5) The use of passive, indirect coping styles that avoid the real sources of stress.
3 BU288 Lecture 14 Ch. 13. Conflict & Stress. Thursday. Nov. 1. 2012.
Stressors in Organizational Life
The most common source of stress is workplace stressors; some affect everyone, other’s don’t
Executive/Managerial Stressors: execs and managers make key decisions and direct others stress
o Role overload: the requirement for too many tasks to be performed in too short a time period.
Provokes stress while preventing the manager from enjoying life to reduce stress Due to
open-ended /ongoing nature of managerial job there are few signals saying they are done
and can rest. In jobs with travel, there can be conflict between role as a worker & a parent.
o Heavy responsibility: workload can have extremely important consequences for the
organization and its members. Also, the personal consequences of a wrong decision can be large
(ex: the exec might be arrested.) Also, execs are responsible for people AND things, and this
influence over others’ future may induce stress. Ex: firing someone may mean guilt/tension
Operative-Level Stressors: operatives are those who occupy non-professional and non-managerial
positions. The occupants of operative positions are sometimes exposed to a special set of stressors.
o Poor physical working conditions: operatives are more likely than managers/professionals to be
exposed to physically unpleasant & dangerous working conditions
o Poor job design: bad job design can provoke stress at any organizational level (ex: exec role
overload) – especially at lower level blue/white collar jobs. Monotony and boredom = stress.
Boundary Role Stressors: Burnout & Emotional Labour
o Boundary roles: positions in which organizational members are required to interact with
members of other organizations or with the public ex: vice president to the public
o boundary between organization & its environment role conflict where one’s role as a worker
may be incompatible with demands by public & other organizations (ex: sales rep)
o Burnout: syndrome of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced self-efficacy occurs even
with non-boundary spanners, but especially with teachers, nurses, social workers, etc.
o Burnout follows a process that begins with emotional exhaustion.
1) Person feels fatigued in morning, drained by the work, and frustrated by day’s events.
2) One way to deal with this is to become cynical and distance from one’s clients (the cause of
fatigue). Depersonalize them, treat them like objects, and lack concern for them.
3) Burned out person develops low self-efficacy and low personal accomplishment;
o Burnout is most common among those entering jobs with high ideals reality shock as people
like the police get depressed dealing with the “losers” of society
o Consequences of burnout:
a) Bravely pursue a new occupation, often feeling guilt about not coping with old job
b) Stay in same occupation but seek new job
c) Stay in the job and become part of the legion of deadwood, collecting paycheques but doing
little to contribute to the mission of the organization ex: good bureaucrats pick this
o Boundary role stress stems from frequent need for emotional labour (controlling emotions)
Job Demands – Resources Model & Work Engagement
Organizations should strive for opposite of burnout extreme engagement + enthusiasm
Work engagement: positive work-related state of mind; characterized by:
1) Vigor: involves high levels of energy and mental resilience at work
2) Dedication: strongly involved in work; experience significance, enthusiasm, and challenge
3) Absorption: being fully concentrated on your work
o the first 2 points are the things that make engagement the opposite of burnout
Job demands-resources model specifies how job demands cause burnout and job resources cause
engagement. determines whether workers tend toward engagement vs. burnout
4 BU288 Lecture 14 Ch. 13. Conflict & Stress. Thursday. Nov. 1. 2012.
o Job resources: features of a job that help achieve work goals, reduce job demands, and
stimulate personal growth/development. Job resources can come from
o Job demands: physical, psychological, social, or organizational features of a job that require