Organizational Leadership in Conflict Situations

Conflict situations among people are said to be inevitable in all settings of normal life. Among other types of conflicts that are witnessed in our day to day lives, organisational conflict has become a major issue of concern in the contemporary world. Indifferences or conflicts within organisations can occur between managers and subordinates, between workmates, and between workers and their clients or customers. Some of the common reasons as to why conflicts do occur would include aspects such as position, resources and freedom, all of which are common in all sectors of organisational units (Hord & Hall, 2005). For instance, those people who tend to value independence are obviously expected to resist conformity in a group setting, simply because it would be hard for them to accept interdependence. In just another perspective, people who are guided by the desire for power and authority are likely to raise struggles against their colleagues within their groups as they fight for status or positions. In terms of resources, people are likely to compete with each other as they struggle for rewards and recognition from their superiors. Conflict within organisations, however, is not limited to the above scenarios, but there are other countless forms of clashes that are characterised by jealousies and rivalries, among other conflicting aspects. As educators, it is always important to have a clear comprehension of human behaviour in a wide range of conflict scenarios. This puts us in a better position to be able to deal with all types of conflict whenever they present in our varied organisations. This paper applies an example of a conflict observed within the workplace to give a further insight in the understanding of organisational leadership in conflict situations.

Conflict and tension will always be realized in our lives, no matter the precautions we take to avoid them (Bucher & Bucher, 2004). In that case, we should always try to utilise the most appropriate concepts of negotiation as leaders in our own capacities, to ensure that we settle differences arising in our workplaces before they get to escalating levels. Even though conflicts can sometimes be fruitful to an organisation, simply because important aspects are likely to be realised on the way, the best approach to go about them is to avoid them in all aspects. This is important, considering the possible impacts that conflicts tend to have on an organisational performance, before the benefits associated with them can be realised. Uncontrolled conflicts within the place of work can lead to various emotional feelings that could badly affect one’s physical or emotional feelings. These can to a further extent, lead to undesirable habits such as lack of morale in work, dissolution of personal relationships, aggression, and emotional or physical withdrawal, thus leading to resignation or even suspension from one’s duties. It should be understood that organisational conflict comes with its own pack of repercussions to both the participants and the organisations. Some of the common effects of conflicts within organisational units include, but are not limited to, delayed decision-making, provocation of personal abuse, destruction of sensitivity, and resignation of active committee members. All these effects will tend to have a negative impact on the productivity ability of any organisation. In this regard, we should be fast in settling situations of conflict whenever they arise in the workplace using appropriate strategies or approaches.

Nature of the conflict

There are several theories on organisational conflict or indifferences. According to Rahim and Afzalur, there is a strong proneness to the thought that the development of our personalities is aimed toward self actualisation. This explains the reason why people would be in search for broader spaces upon which they can develop their individual potential in the workplace. However, this process comes to a standstill when the environment under which we are placed fails to nurture our desires in a positive manner. These situations can trigger serious conflicts between those who consider themselves to be victims of such unfair treatments and those who are thought to be behind the manipulation of the whole issue. Manipulators here can be managers or supervisors, who are known to play a crucial role in helping their subordinates realise their full potential abilities in their professions. Even though there may be several causes behind the conflict scenario discussed in this essay, the maturity-immaturity theory highlighted above forms the largest part of the indifference.

This specific conflict is between a junior staff member and his immediate manager in the organisation. The staff member, who had just joined the organisation, had suddenly become aggressive to his supervisors. This misguided reaction was believed to have ensued from personal claims that his high academic qualifications were intentionally not recognized by his superiors in the organisation. The other possible cause for this conflict was that new rules within the employee standards demanded every staff member to seek an appointment before walking into the director’s office. This was a reality the gentleman would hardly come into terms with, especially when it was apparent to everyone that the director was a very close friend to his father. To be able to effectively manage this conflict, there would be a need to observe a number of aspects surrounding it such as the cause, the conflict styles involved, and the stage or phase of the conflict, as it was determined by the participants at the time of intervention.

Conflict Stages

The intrapersonal conflict had emerged within just three months after the young man had joined the organisation. This gentleman had just graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from a recognised institution in the United States, and had landed a job in the organisation as a marketing representative. Even though this was a high-ranking position in the company’s structure, the young man would frequently raise claims that the rank did not befit his status as a highly qualified person, especially when some of his superiors in the organisation were first-degree holders, unlike him. With time, the young man started disrespecting his immediate boss openly. At first, the supervisor would presume that this was a sudden change of behaviour that would soon vanish and nothing which could have serious effects to the organisational productivity. Things, however, would become apparent to everyone at the escalation, when the two parties started responding aggressively towards each other. At this level, the differences between the conflicting parties were well defined, and the two would often meet each other’s needs in a dispute. Some of the common conflict styles observed from this conflict include avoidance, exercise of coercive power, and aggressive communication style, among other traits. The two parties continued to view each other as real adversaries at work, and none of them could heed advice from fellow employees that they should try to resolve their conflict before it got to a level of crisis. Even though this conflict had appeared to be constructive as the two parties tried to outperform each other in their responsibilities due to high levels of competence, it was also very destructive to the organization, since it portrayed a bad picture of the two at the sight of the other staff members.

Conflict Styles of the Participants

The two participants in this conflict portrayed similar and contrasting conflict styles. For instance, the two would frequently be observed to be in competition against each other in every aspect of performance and accountability. However, unlike the learned young man who was no doubt the starter of the conflict, the supervisor’s role in this conflict was characterised by a number of conflict styles. First of all, the supervisor had initially tried to avoid the situation, hoping it won’t get any further. Being more understandable in his position, the supervisor was very accommodating with the situation. As a matter of fact, preserving his relationship with the young man and maintaining him for the job seemed to be what mattered most to him, as far as this conflict was concerned.

Plan to Manage the Conflict

Apart from the aspects discussed above, the form or nature of the conflict is another significant approach that can be used in reaching a permanent resolution for this scenario. In this case, the source of the conflict between the junior staff and his supervisor is the structure of the organisation, whose fundamentals and elements may not be clear to the young man who is new to the organization. In other words, the young man needs to be informed about all the channels that are usually followed in the organisation in giving one a new position in their job apart from only having to consider their academic qualifications. Obviously, people’s bahaviour and relationship towards each other would tend to be negatively affected when they are uncomfortable with their positions at the work place. In this regard, the young man’s behaviour toward his immediate boss is quite normal, and only a wise approach was needed to make him understand how he is supposed to relate with his superiors and coworkers in the work place.

A number of strategies and tactics would be necessary for a productive outcome, as far as this conflict is concerned. The first step would be a plan on when to confront the conflict and how to carry out the confrontation. A number of considerations such as the relationship of the persons involved, their capacities, the amount of time that would be needed for negotiation, the severity and nature of the issues, and the personal safety of the conflict participants would be necessary here. The second step would be to establish a goal towards a possible negotiation situation using key conflict management aspects such as strategy, planning, and knowledge. This would be necessary in ensuring that a win/win approach is eventually achieved out of this conflict situation through compromise, confrontation, and smoothing techniques, among other conflict management strategies that could be appropriate. The third step is to analyse the negotiation situation based on important aspects such as the cause of the conflict, the observed conflict styles, and the phase of the conflict. This will provide a useful guideline on the perspective that should be taken in approach the whole issue and dealing with it successfully. Getting to the root of the cause of the conflict and dealing with it accordingly is important in that, it guarantees a lasting solution to the problem, thus creating a meaningful change. It should be understood that both parties in the conflict should join together for successful achievement of this outcome. Lastly, there would be a plan on how to implement the negotiation process consisting of four main parts which include rehearsal, opening or introduction session, bargaining, and resolution marking the end of the intervention.

The Role of Power and Face Saving

Just like it would be the case with any other conflict, the aspects of power and face saving will have to play a key role in the management of this particular conflict between the marketing representative and his immediate boss. As it would be observed, competitive threats in the course of a conflict would tend to trigger a self-preservation mechanism within humans (La Morte, 1996). However, power and face needs are two elements of conflict that calls for close attention. These elements are believed to relate largely to the feelings and perceptions of the other party in a conflicting situation. Power is a powerful tool within the context of negotiation, since it manipulates the final outcome. In other words, it plays a significant role in helping or hindering a resolution to any conflict. For effective resolution of this conflict, it is always very important to ensure that power between the two parties is well balanced. This is to ensure that the party with higher power, and in this case the supervisor, does not dominate the personal needs of the other party.

According to John, Patten and James (1991), the balance of power between conflicting parties is appropriate in that it plays a significant role in the facilitation of the mediation process. This, however, does not establish institutional equals since the parties in the conflict are bound to assume their usual positions and roles once the consultation process is over. In order to ensure that balance of power is maintained through out the negotiation situation, it would be necessary for the mediator to major on common aspects first, while ensuring that the party who is less powerful has full control of key aspects of negotiation. Face needs, just like power are important in a conflict’s resolution approach. As Ozmon and Craver (1990) observe, face in this context refers to one’s prestige, image or honour. Face saving, therefore, is the act of trying to maintain untainted self image or dignity. It would be important to consider face needs of the conflicting parties in any negotiation situation so as to appear neutral to all the parties involved. In this regard, it would be important to address feelings or thoughts in a manner that is likely to draw the parties involved closer in the negotiation process. Poor management of these elements in the conflict management scenario can lead to a further disagreement between the parties, rather than an attempt to bring them closer to a peaceful resolution.

The Climate

According to Nelson, Palonsky and McCarthy (2000), the nature of the communication climate to be used in a negotiation situation is very important in determining the outcome of the intervention. Successful conflict management is said to be easily achievable in those climates where the expressions of the participants are valued and respected. This scenario, which aims to achieve nothing less of a win/win compromising approach, will apply a supportive climate in ensuring that a productive conflict management is attained. This approach will consist of behaviours that are certain to create trust among the key players. Some of these behaviours include, but are not limited to, focus on the problem, being descriptive, equal, spontaneous, provisional, and emphatic towards the other party. As it would be observed, it is much easier to manage conflict in areas where trust prevails, than in areas were there is lack of trust. In this context, all parties in the conflict will be given equal attention and freedom of voice, regardless of their status in the organisation, among other considerable aspects that may be used to define them. The key objective here would be to help the involved parties to maintain neutrality and objectivity throughout the session. Important ground rules such as focus on creative suggestions and solutions, and focus on the highlighted problem and not the person, will also be applied throughout the session to help in the deliverance of desirable outcomes. Effective conflict management can sometimes be a difficulty ordeal, especially when the participants in the conflict are left to dominate the activity. In this regard, it would be important to come up with strategies that are certain to help the parties admit their roles in the conflict, and how they have ignited the conflict personally. In other words, this would involve bringing the parties together and let them confess willingly and openly about their stand in the conflict. A healing process that would help bring the two parties together in a peaceful resolution will have to follow shortly, after the two parties have confessed their roles in the conflict.

The potential for Third Party Intervention

Third party interventions will play a significant role in helping the parties in the conflict reach a satisfying resolution between themselves (Guthrie & Schuermann, 2010). These third parties can be counselors, consultants, managers or even coworkers who are willing to commit themselves in arranging and guiding productive interactive discussions that are likely to encourage peace and reconciliation between the conflicting parties. Third parties, whether drawn from within or from outside the organisation, are powerful tools of reconciliation when it comes to all levels of organizational conflicts. In such contexts, the necessary counseling is given to the parties in order to help them advance to a problem-solving state of mind that would help them deal effectively with any challenge distracting them from their work. Apart from advising the parties on how to eliminate their differences, these third parties would also help the young man, the one who had started the conflict, come into terms with the reality and try to change his personality and behavior to conform to the organisational requirements. As observed from this report, it would be wise to employ effective conflict management strategies in addressing organisational conflicts before they start having a negative impact on the entire organisation’s performance and productivity.


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