Conflict occurs between people in all kinds of human relationships and in all social settings. Because of the wide range of potential differences among people, the absence of conflict usually signals the absence of meaningful interaction. Conflict by itself is neither good nor bad. However, the manner in which conflict is handled determines whether it is constructive or destructive (Deutsch & Coleman, 2000). Conflict is defined as an incompatibility of goals or values between two or more parties in a relationship, combined with attempts to control each other and antagonistic feelings toward each other (Fisher, 1990). The incompatibility or difference may exist in reality or ...view middle of the document...
Even more common, perhaps, is the overt and often hostile dysfunctional competition that erupts between work centers, peers,or social groups vying for scarce resources or attention.
In our discovery of conflict, it is possible to become obsessed and preoccupied with its prevalence in society. This concern may veil the much more important acts of cooperation andharmony that characterize normal organizational and society life; like that which we expect and usually find, for example, between maintenance and operations in an Air Force wing. However, as a basis for our discussion, we must agree that conflict is a major organizational reality. As managers it is essential that we become capable of managing conflict in an environment of individual and group differences.
So, what do we mean by "conflict"? The term is widely used to describe important differences between individual humans or groups of humans. In its major sense it applies to warfare between nations. If existing differences are not somehow adequately handled, the involved individuals or groups are unable to come together in understanding and cooperation. However, not all conflict is bad. Differences which result in initiative and creativity are stimulating for those involved, and such conflict is essential for progress.
Sources of Conflict:
Early reviews in the field of conflict resolution identified a large number of schemes for describing sources or types of conflict (Fink, 1968; Mack & Snyder, 1958). One of the early theorists on conflict, Daniel Katz (1965), created a typology that distinguishes three main sources of conflict: economic, value, and power.
1. Economic conflict involves competing motives to attain scarce resources. Each party wants to get the most that it can, and the behavior and emotions of each party are directed toward maximizing its gain. Union and management conflict often has as one of its sources the incompatible goals of how to slice up the “economic pie”.
2. Value conflict involves incompatibility in ways of life, ideologies – the preferences, principles and practices that people believe in. International conflict (e.g., the Cold War) often has a strong value component, wherein each side asserts the rightness and superiority of its way of life and its political-economic system.
3. Power conflict occurs when each party wishes to maintain or maximize the amount of influence that it exerts in the relationship and the social setting. It is impossible for one party to be stronger without the other being weaker, at least in terms of direct influence over each other. Thus, a power struggle ensues which usually ends in a victory and defeat, or in a “stand-off” with a continuing state of tension. Power conflicts can occur between individuals, between groups or between nations, whenever one or both parties choose to take a power approach to the relationship. Power also enters into all conflict since the parties are attempting to control each...