Introduction Conflict in the workplace is prevalent in many organizations. The conflict may be between employees or between employees and customers; all the same, it imposes not so desirable impacts on the performance of any organization as well as its public reputation. Dealing with conflict in the workplace, which can be between employees and their bosses, employees and customers, or between co-workers, is not just about dealing with conflict when it arises, but involves learning about how to prevent destructive conflict from happening in the first place (Bacal, 1998, p. 5).
This point may be used to imply that there are benefits of conflict in the workplace, but as it will be discussed in later sections of this paper, the demerits of workplace conflict outweigh the merits. This paper will discuss conflict in the workplace with a view to understand how conflict arises among various individuals, who, ironically may be supposed to be working in concert to attain their organization’s goals. . What is notable is that most instances of conflict are instigated by failure by various parties to communicate effectively.
The discussions will be aimed at creating a better understanding of conflict in the workplace, hence developing ways of dealing with it from literature that exist on the same. In doing so, focus will be on two theories related to conflict management through enhanced communication. The relevance of the two theories will also be discussed in order to show how knowledge of the two concepts can be used to manage conflict in the workplace. The first section discusses an understanding of conflict in the workplace. Understanding conflict in the workplace According to Schieman and Reid (2008), interpersonal conflict in the workplace encompasses perceptions about exposure to various negative forms of interaction that range from slight disagreements to more harsh altercations, including violation of people’s rights and use of insults against others; acuities of injustice, inequity or biasness, objective impediments or obscured aims; incompetence; and being the target of other people’s physical or verbal antagonism as well as aggression (p.
276). Understanding conflict in the workplace is important for many reasons. One is that it is often perceived that the workplace is a source of support and solidarity for any employee (due to interactions with other people) (Aquino, 2000).
The second one is that the many instances of conflict in the workplace such as bullying, resistance, invincibility, and constant need for negotiation make the workplace one of the most interpersonally intriguing environments (Schieman & Reid, 2008, p. 276; Maravelas, 2005). It has been noted by many authors that conflict in the workplace may be of benefit to any given organization. Nevertheless, according to De Dreu (2007), arguments in such a perspective are based on a rather weak foundation.
De Dreu (2007) thus points out that a selective and rather limited review of exiting literature depicts a number of issues regarding conflict. The first one is that the positive attributes of conflict are noticeable only under an exceptionally narrow scope of circumstances. The second one is that the supposition that (various forms of) conflict and conflict management has positive meanings can be disapprove of based on methodological grounds. The third is that even under constructive circumstances, a number of grave negative functions can be noted as well.
The fourth is that negative functions of conflict usually outweigh the positive ones, thus prohibiting the emergence of what can be referred to as “positive work conflict” (in which case it is assumed that conflict has predominantly positive corollaries). The fifth point is that organizations need to have cooperative conflict management strategies not because it brings positive conflict, but rather because it averts a situation whereby workplace conflict hurts too much (De Dreu, 2007, p. 5; Runde & Flanagan, 2007).