A conflict is a disagreement between two or more parties due to an existence of opposing needs, wants or interests by the parties involved. By definition, conflict is part of the human existence because there are always bound to be conflicting needs if two or more people spend a lot of time together. The phrase “work place conflict” refers to the disagreement of two or more persons at the place of work. This may be as a result of professional disagreement or in some cases personal disagreements between individuals that may occur at the place of work. The work place conflict may also be in the form of management-employee conflict, which forms the basis for this paper.
The conflicts occurring at the work place can broadly be classified into three categories;
1.Organized conflict. This kind of conflicts manifest themselves in the form of strike action or action short of strike, wildcat strikes, and occupations etc
2.Overt individual conflict which include the likes of formal grievances that may be raised over such issues as the working conditions; and
3.Latent conflict. In this case, the signs of discontent, unrest and disengagement are manifested through such actions as unnecessary absence from the place of work, and higher turnover, there could also be a decline in an employee’s output, the interpersonal relationships between the people the place of work could also sow a declining trend, especially between the managers and the managed populations. This could result in instances of bullying, harassment (Blyton & Turnbull 2004).
According to Boston University FSAO, "the factors that cause workplace conflict can be differences in personality or style and personal problems such as substance and drug abuse, childcare issues during the growing process, and family problems. Internal organizational factors such as styles of leadership, management, organizational budgets, and a lack of consensus about core values in the organization also contribute to the work place conflicts." University of Colorado–Boulder cites the main causes of workplace conflict as poor communication, different values, diverging interests, scarce resources, personality clashes, and low levels of performance (Colling & Terry 2010). The stains or the factors that determine the amount of conflict in an organization include;
- Personality clash
- Passive/aggressive behavior
- Office/work place romance
- Styles of leadership
- The development trends in the workplace
- The economic trends of the county
These are just some of the factors that increase the strain at the places of work if they are not dealt with effectively and before it is too late. In my opinion, when not checked, these are some of the ways in which the above manifest themselves in the places of work and the ways in which they increase the strain in workplace relationships (De Angelis & Paula 2012).
This occurs when people's ideas, decisions or actions relating directly to the job oppose each other, or in other words when two people just don’t get along. There are a lot of different people in the different working environments. Some of them are quite, some loud, others are lazy while there are the hardworking, and there are other categories of people who have to be pushed to get their jobs done. In any environment, there are also categories of people who like to be in total control of everything that is happening around them and those who follow the lead (Daniels, K. 2006).
All this differences in the personalities of people are bound to create some friction in the work place from time to time. The quite person resents the loud person as it lowers their concentration, while the control freak resents the disorderly person who makes their quest for perfection more difficult. With the wrong combination, the work place, where there is a mixture of people from all walks of life, could be a potentially explosive mixture but thankfully research shows that people with different traits are attracted to different careers and even where their paths overlap, their work rate and their individual differences separates them. The hardworking are promoted to higher offices while the career of the lazy remains stagnated. This separations help to avoid a lot unwanted strains in the places of work (Williams, S & Adam-Smith, D. 2010).
The differences in personality may manifest in enmity between colleagues, absence from the work place to avoid each other, especially where there is the incidence of bullying and poor coordination when two conflicting people or parties are required to work together (which happens a lot due to the fact that they work in the same office and are therefore driven by similar goals), which inevitably culminates in a reduction in the productive output. The personality clashes may also result in a lack of cooperation between different conflicting departments in the places of work. The solution for the personality clashes is laying well structured leadership strategies, such that no person is entitled to dictate the other person’s daily activities in the place of work which the affected person may define as bullying. If something goes wrong, the team leader is the one to be consulted. That way, unpleasant personal consultations can be avoided (Turner S. & Weed. F. 2010).
Passive Aggressive Behavior
“Passive–aggressive behavior” is a general phrase that describes certain types of behavior in interactions between two or more parties. It is characterized by a party or individual that stands in the way of the others or a hostile mannerism that indicates aggression. In some cases, the main cause of the passive aggressive behavior is the incidence of personality disorder which leads to the acquisition of passive and vastly negative attitudes by an individual. The individual so affected shows resistance to good interpersonal relationships or occupational situation, in other word they become antisocial and their presence in the places of work is down to the need for survival rather than the want to be part of the organization or to be productive.
Passive aggressive behavior in the work place can manifest itself as, poor prioritizing(the affected person engages in entertainment at the cost of more productive tasks due to a psychological element of avoidance), learned helplessness(a psychological condition that leads those suffering from it to have a very low opinion of themselves and fail to take the chance to better themselves that may come their way), interpreting jokes as offensive comments made against them (which may lead to violent responses), stubbornness and the tendency to refuse to listen to others, resentment for everything that is around them such as their work colleagues and the working environment, sullenness with no apparent provocation, or deliberate and repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which the person is responsible (Holman, D. 2003).
Passive aggressive behavior is particularly disruptive to team unity and productivity. When it is present in workers, it leads to sabotage of projects and the creation of a hostile environment. When the situation affects the management, it kills of the creativity of the team. However, research suggests that individuals with the passive aggressive behavior do not make it to management. According to de Angelis, the promotion to the managerial positions is based on personal traits such as being agreeable, diplomatic and supportive, a trait which by definition disqualifies the individuals with this trait (IRS Review 2009).
Office or Work Place Romance
Work place romance occurs when two people working in the same office or company to develop a mutual liking for one another. This is a very common occurrence in the present day because those working together may spend a lot of time together and it is only second to nature that when two intellectually similar people are closeted together, then romance is bound to blossom between them (Salamon, M. 2000).
Most of the organizations try to discourage the incidence of office romance. According to one human resource manager, when two people in their organization develop a romantic fondness for each other, they usually ask them to choose one person to transfer away from the organization. Such policies discourage the incidences of the office romance. However, if the relationship proceeds well, it can have several advantages in the work place, such as motivating the partners to work harder as failure may be attributed to the office romance. It also softens the workplace relations as the people in a relationship are more willing to avoid confrontations. Work place romance also improves the quality and levels of communications in the work place (Turner S. & Weed. F. 2010).
In the beginning and the middle stage, the relationship is actually beneficiary to the organization. However, Break-ups can have disastrous outcomes. The spouse will tend to extend their personal differences to the workplace, which is a distraction to them and to the people around them, and therefore reduce the active productivity of the organization.
There is also the issue of the perception of the coworkers who might perceive the recent promotion, for example, as a result of the relationship between the person who was promoted and the boss. The relationships might also provoke territorialism by the spouses, they may feel insecure when their spouse is working with a person who they deem to be attractive, which cannot come to any good as it may lead to outward hostility between the two persons. The results of the work place romance manifest in different ways. They may be positive or negative, mainly depending on the stage of the relationship and the state of affairs between the lovers. It is however not acceptable that the office outcomes be dependent on whether or not a relationship is working out. In my opinion, the relationships, regardless of their benefits complicate matters at the places of work and should be discouraged which is not to say that, as some systems feel, violators of the professional code of ethics should lose their jobs (Noon, M. & Blyton, P. 2010).
Styles of Leadership
The style of leadership in any organization plays a very important role in the motivation and discipline of the workers in that particular organization. Democratic leadership may promote high morale among the workers as they feel they era held in high esteem. However, others might take this as a sign of weakness and exploit it at the cost of the organization (Noon, M. & Blyton, P. 2010).
Some of the positive factors that characterize this form of leadership may include the high motivation of the employees, a more relaxed working environment, good interpersonal relationships, fostering of creativity among the workers as they are driven by the need to self actualize as opposed to fear and high morale. The negative characteristics may include the increase in the rate of absenteeism with no reason, slow implementation of policies and a lack of the element of formality, which may result in defiance when the boss feels the need to give direct instructions
Another style of leadership in the work place is the beaurocratic style that was proposed by the great German sociologist, Marx Weber. In this style, there is top-down authority and the top gives out the orders which are to be carried out without questioning. The advantages of this system are that it is highly efficient as there is specialization. The issue of unnecessary absence is also eliminated and in its place the workers are forever at their stations. The shortcomings are that simply because a person reports to work does not mean that they are working. The element of the top-down authority also stifles human creativity, which in turn implies that the human resources are under utilized as generally, the only brains at work are those at the management. There is also the issue of defiance and outward rebellion. Humans are generally resistant to imposition; they therefore tend to resist any system that they feel is autocratic (Blyton & Turnbull 2004).
The style of leadership is deterministic to the amount of strain that the workers in the workplace are in. a democratic leadership with a flexible human relations makes the workers feel more appreciated as the can raise their issues and be heard, which lowers the stress levels significantly. An autocratic leadership on the other hand provokes open rebellion and is likely to be a victim of worker strikes and boycotts among other forms of mass action. The best style of leadership is a hybrid of the two, like the one that was proposed by the Australian activist Mary Parker Follet, called the human relations theory. When the two are merged, the resulting style is friendlier to the workers while maintaining the position of the leaders (Legge, K. (1995).
The Development Trends in the Workplace
Workers need to feel that the management is progressive and that their out put is continuously contributing to the growth of the organization. Where they feel that the organizations development has stalled, they may openly question the style o the management, which leads to the employee- management conflict. This kind of conflict is only found in the public sector where the employees feel that they are the stake holders and in companies where there are highly motivated and driven workers. In the private sector, most of the workers do not care whether there is development or no as long as the pay check remains the same. They however take pride when their organization is doing well and attracts some kind of recognition.
This factor manifests in the relationships between the management and the work. Where the situation gets out of hand, the employees may lose respect for their superiors as they may feel they are letting them down, , the workers also feel that their future income is no longer secure and may start looking at other possibilities, there may also be the issue of the more ambitious workers finding jobs in more progressive organizations. All in all, the issue of the development trend mostly affects the level of motivation of the workers and is not healthy for any work place, be it in the private or the public sector.
The Development and the Political Trends in the Country
The trends in the development of a country have a significant effect on the strain in the work place. For example a country that is experiencing a recession. The average worker in all the sectors of the economy in that particular country has a lot of financial difficulties, from thing such as the accumulating credit card dept or the skyrocketing mortgages for their homes. Such stress lowers their concentration and consequently their production. The fact that they may also be looking for other sources of income is also not good for the work place as it may result in absence from work and misuse of work place resources, which increases the likelihood of a conflict with the management. The organization may also fell the need to retrench workers, maybe due to declining sales in the recession, the criteria used for the retrenchment is subject to intense debating and may lead to a lot of strain in the organization, culminating in conflicts, both between the workers and the management and among the workers. The effects of the economic trends in a country manifest in the form of increased conflicts with the management as a result of the resultant factor. The workers may also be more aggressive in demanding for pay rises, which results in mass actions. The workers are also more unreasonable than they would normally be, the close their eye to the fact that being in the same economy, their workplace is also subject to recession (Legge, K. (1995).
In any healthy work place, there are bound to be promotions and demotions, both as a means for motivating the employees and rewarding them. The criteria for the promotion have long been a contested issue, especially if there is a controversial issue such as a sexual relationship. Promotions increase the strains in a work place, both positively and negatively. It increases the level of motivation, but it may also lead to unhealthy competition, which results in a lot of tension between the prospective promotes and accusations of foul play. Conflicts have always been there between the employers and the employees. All that can be done is to reduce the severity of the outcome of these conflicts; otherwise it is not possible to completely eliminate the incidence of occurrence of the conflicts (Hollinshead, G. & Tailby, S., 2003).
The employees in any given organization feel that they are worth more than what they are paid, this is in the human nature as they fee that if this were not the case, then they would not have the job in the first place, in their opinion the employers keeps them because he /she is exploiting their services. Thought history, this has been the case; the employers have used the workers to create wealth for themselves. In the historical times, sometimes the workers worked and their pay was food and a place to live, to all intent and purpose, this remains to be true, the only thing that has changed is that you choose what you eat and where you sleep, but the vast majority of workers (about 80% of the American population) work for the minimum wage required to survive (food and shelter) (Rollinson, D & Dundon, 2011).
The employers on the other hand feel that the employees are in their employ because they are either too lazy to work for themselves or they have a limited mental capacity for innovation. They therefore only pay as little as they can, which also serves to give them a competitive edge in their business dealing, as market forces balance out the demand and the supply. They therefore only add to the pay and to the treatment of their workers when they are forced by policies or when they have to attract workers from a better paying competitor. I know that my view focuses a lot of negativity on the employers and the management but is it not the fundamental base of the capitalist economy (which is fondly referred to as the free world) that individuals must minimize the operations cost and maximize the returns? And what is the difference between the human labor and the machine labor? They are both a means of production and together with the efficiency, the operating cost is the deterministic of which kind of labor to employ, not empathy for the jobless, you are hired because you are the cheapest choice there is. But that is just my view and it is of course subject to debating (Rose, E. 2004).
In conclusion, for as long as the employers and the employees are on these opposing sides, then each will have negativity for the other and the incidence of conflict will always exist.