Monday, 3 May 2010

Conflict in the workplace

The meetings conducted by Dorset Strategic Management Partnership were task-oriented. The various district and borough councils met to agree on a plan for a new performance management system. Emotions and personal needs were not initially part of the negotiation process.

There are two main types of conflict, personal and task conflict:
“Personal conflict is often rooted in anger, personality clashes, ego, and tension. Task conflict, also known as cognitive conflict, is largely depersonalised”
(Thomas, 2005, pg 129).

The negotiations from the case study could be classed as task conflict (assuming that conflict arose) which involves negotiation on tasks independent of the individuals involved. However there is significant and complex history between the councils which would take a lot of further research and interviews to uncover. It is possible that relationship history could have traversed to personal conflict, which is not ideal for reaching the best solutions for the organisation:

“Task conflict is often effective in stimulating the creativity necessary for integrative argument because it forces people to rethink problems and arrive at outcomes that everyone can live with. As a general principle, personal conflict threatens relationships, whereas task conflict enhances relationships”
(Thomas, 2005, pg 129).

In this week’s lecture we studied personal conflict and examined some of the reasons that conflict can arise at work. I was reminded of the definition of conflict mentioned a few weeks earlier, which stated that conflict can only arise when one party PERCEIVES that another party is negatively affecting them. Therefore, emotions and interpersonal relationships can play a large part:

“Not only must a party perceive a conflict, but it must also feel it. That is, it must become emotionally involved in experiencing feelings of anxiety, tenseness, frustration and hostility towards the other party”
(Huczynski and Buchanan, 2007, pg 776)

In the lecture we discussed how to deal with put downs, so as not to become emotionally involved and allow conflict to escalate. For example, if a work colleague says “that’s typical of you” should you confront them, ignore them or question them? An appropriate response might be “in what way?”.

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