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Workplace conflicts are inevitable in organizational environment, and nature of such conflicts has evolved over the years to encompass increased complexities. Organizations today operate in a global environment that presents various management challenges in the forms of a diverse workforce, growing competition, evolving employee demands and pressurized market conditions (Guttman, 2009). Workplace conflicts today are more characterized by growing diversity at the workplace, global teams collaborating on single projects, managerial accountability, stressful work condition, and communication complexities that create misunderstandings among employees. The impact of such conflicts is felt on organizational productivity and individual performance levels.
Business enterprises are continually revising their human resource strategy to adapt to changing labor market conditions. Global influences and transition in work processes, increasing automation, and Internet culture are some of the primary factors that have resulted in deep rooted changes in the labor markets across the globe. The article on workplace conflicts by Howard M. Guttman (2009) highlights some of the key aspects that lead to conflicts among teams, individuals, and managers. Conflicts within an organization are apparent at various levels and can assume critical proportions depending on the extent to which they impact productivity and performance. Individual conflicts are evident when personal goals and career ambitions clash with others in the team. Such conflicts often result in low productivity in some cases, while in others they may lead to increased efforts from employees to prove their worthiness (Weijun, 2006). It must be noted that this kind of conflict produces a competitive work environment and often motivates the employees to adopt a proactive approach to work.
Workplace diversity forms a vital source of conflict, where the organization experiences a clash of interests, perception and ideas between employees from different cultural or regional background. Since the globalized work environment is marked by increased workforce mobility, differences in socio-cultural backgrounds and varying management cultures create the platform for new types of conflicts between employees. Employee interaction and collaboration are vital aspects defining the productivity levels of the organization and the extent to which it is able to meet the market requirements (Binder, 2007). Hence, conflicts of this kind can result in strained employee relations.
The rapidly changing business environment and market demands are leading new companies to increase focus on human resource strategies and people centered policies owing to the high dependence of work processes on skilled professionals and the ability of the workforce to adapt to changing work conditions. All these result in stressful work conditions that lead to conflicts. Guttman (2009) also highlights that conflicts also occur when the organization fails to clarify individual roles and lines of accountability that mark the relations between the team leader and the operational manager. Ineffective communication can result in misinterpretation and misunderstandings between employees. It is thus essential for the team manager to convey his message in a clear cut and precise terms for effective results. Thus, according to the article, the primary sources of conflicts are individual aspirations, diverse cultural background, ineffective communication and strained relations with managers.
Conflicts resolution and management approach require a deeper understanding of the sources of conflict. It is important that all managers, and not just human resource managers, understand the significance of conflict management for effective outcomes. Thus, conflict management is not just within the jurisdiction of HR managers, since conflicts can arise at any level within the organization. A number of studies on conflict management have concluded that conflicts can have positive impacts in terms of productivity and performance. Conflicts often lead to brainstorming sessions that culminate in effective decision making and finding creative solutions to existing loopholes or weaknesses in the organization. Thus, it helps in gaining a deeper insight into specific situations and enables the management to rethink the procedures from a new perspective (Smith, 2008).
A conflict of interest, opinion or view often result in the formation of employee unions that strive to fight a common cause for the improvement of existing policies or work environment within the organization. Conflicts are effective in bringing together people, sharing similar vision, ideas, and opinions. Moreover, this is effective in controlling the decision making process in favor of both the employees and the employers. The conflicts of interests act as a foundation on which the employees voice their opinion and views more openly to enable the management view things from different perspectives. Effective conflict management strategies can help the organization improve employee productivity and performance, but this requires able guidance and management of the prevailing situation.
Conflicts are realistic and natural ways of expressing individual views and opinions on any policy, decision or statement. The management should accept that conflicts are bound to arise and that they are realistic. Managers should expect conflicts within team members or departments and frame appropriate strategies to resolve conflicts amicably for mutual benefit of employees and organization.