NCM/U1 Topic 3 Levels of Conflict
Individual Level Conflict
Management should keep in mind that all individuals have conflict within themselves. Conflict arises within an individual whenever his drives and motives are blocked or he is confronted with competing roles and goals and he is unable to take decisions.
Factors of Conflict in Individuals:
(a) Unacceptability: Every individual has a known acceptable alternative in terms of his own goals and perceptions. Since the alternative preferred by the organization is not satisfactory to him, he is unable to accept it. Unacceptability is subjective because the alternative unacceptable to one may be acceptable to another individual. When the alternative is unacceptable to an individual, he will search for new alternatives. His search for acceptable alternative continues. But sometimes, repeated failure to discover acceptable alternatives leads to a redefinition of acceptable.
(b) Incomparability: The individual knows the probability distribution of the alternatives but he is not able to take decision because the outcomes are incomparable. When the results are not comparable, no decision could be taken. Similarly, an individual is also unable to make proper comparison of alternatives. Comparison requires clarity, technique of comparison including assigning weights to different components, rationality in attitude and behaviour and the competence to perform the task.
The procedure of comparison depends also on the clarity and decisiveness of the individual regarding the minimum standard of achievement. If the individual does not have much clarity as to the expectancy, he will not be able to make comparison. The state of incomparability causes lot of tension and conflict to the individual.
(c) Uncertainty: Individuals are uncertain about the environments within and outside the organizations. If the environment could be properly depicted, the behaviour of the people regarding acceptability of the alternative and efficacy of the alternative could be ascertained with certainty. In a state of uncertainty, the individual feels frustrated which is ultimately reflected in conflict. Within an individual there are usually a number of competing goals and roles.
Interpersonal conflict involves conflict between two or more individuals I and is probably the most common and most recognized conflict. All conflicts are basically interpersonal conflicts because most of the conflicts involve conflict between a person in one organization or a group and another person in other organization or a group.
Every individual has a separate acceptable alternative course of action and different individuals prefer different alternatives. The organization itself creates situations in which two individuals are placed in conflict situations. This may involve conflict, for example, between two managers who are competing for limited capital and manpower resources.
Another type of interpersonal conflict can relate to disagreement over goals and objectives of the organization. These conflicts are highlighted when they are based upon opinions rather than facts. Opinions are highly personal and subjective and may lead to criticism and disagreements. These conflicts are often the result of personality clashes.
According to Whetten and Cameron there are four sources of interpersonal conflict:-
(a) Personal Differences: Personal differences can be a major source of conflict between individuals. Individual differ because of one’s upbringing, cultural and family traditions, family background, education experience and values.
(b) Information Deficiency: Lack of information can be another source of interpersonal conflict. This type of conflict often results from communication breakdown in the organization.
(c) Role Incompatibility: Another source of interpersonal conflict can be role in compatibility. In today’s inter functional organizations, many managers have functions and tasks that are interdependent and the individual roles of these managers may be incompatible.
(d) Environment Stress: The interpersonal conflict can also be due to environmental stress. Stress from environment arises because of scarce or shrinking resources, downsizing, competitive pressures and high degree of uncertainty. Interpersonal conflicts have a tendency to resolve themselves because the conflicting parties are not in a position to remain tense for a very long time. Time is the healing factor for these conflicts. In case the inter-personal conflicts are of persisting nature it can be resolved through counselling, effective communication, win negotiation and transactional analysis. Management must analyze the reasons for conflict and resolve to create an atmosphere of openness and mutual trust in the organization.
Group Level Conflict
A group consists of two or more persons who are in interaction with each other, have a well-defined structure of role and status relations and have a system values and norms of behaviour for the smooth working of the group. Groups not only affect the behaviour of their members, rather they have impact on other groups and the organisation as a whole. In this process of interaction, two types of conflict arises (a) Intra group and (b) Inter group.
(a) Intra Group Conflict: Intra group conflict arises when differences crop up between the members of the group. The individual may want to remain in the group for social needs but may disagree with the group methods. Intra-group conflict may arise in three ways.
- When the group faces a new problem.
- When new values are imported from the social environment into the group and
- When a person’s extra group role comes into conflict with his intra group role.
Intra group conflict is like the interpersonal conflict with the difference that the persons involved in the conflict episode belong to a common group. The causes are similar to those of interpersonal conflicts.
(b) Inter Group Conflict: Conflicts between different groups in the organization are known as intergroup conflicts. Inter-group conflict may also be stated in terms of organizational conflict.
Causes of intergroup conflict may be summarized under four heads:
- Absence of joint decision making
- Difference in goals
- Difference in perception and
- Difference in goals as well as perception.
Organizational Level Conflict
All the conflicts discussed in the preceding discussion relate to conflicts within the organizational settings. Inter organizational level conflict occur between organizations which are in some way or the other dependent upon each other. Conflicts at individual level, group level or inter group level are all inherent in the organization level conflict. The organization level conflict can be between the buyer and seller organization, between union and organizations employing the members, between government agencies that regulate certain organizations and the organizations that are affected by them.
Managers must try to live with this type of conflict. If the conflict is properly handled it can be constructive in achieving the results. It can act as a stimulus it may be a challenge and motivational force to keep the organization moving.