Conflict Management in Organizations

Introduction

The structure of any organization is rather complicated and sometimes it is impossible to fulfill the needs of all the employees. Management of any company is expected to do everything possible to improve the working atmosphere and reduce the amount of stress to which the employees are exposed. In any organization each member of the personnel exhibits individual resistance to change and is subjected to several potential sources of threat; all this has negative consequences for the personnel and overall performance of the organization. Apart from discussing these issues, the paper will present several approaches to introducing changes in an organization and managing stress in it.

Resistance to Change

To begin with, almost each member of an organization tries to resist the changes which take place in it. Most of the recent studies reveal that even when the employees get definite evidence that they need to change, they deny this fact no matter what it costs them. (Robbins & Judge, 2008, p. 622) Such a reaction to changes may be explained by the unwillingness to adapt to the changes for which the employees are never ready.

The sources of difficult behavior during the implementation of changes are numerous and “many [of them] are simply disguised forms of resistance to change.” (Cloke, Goldsmith, & Bennis, 2005, p.231) Individual sources of resistance to change may include habit, security, economic factors, fear of the unknown, selective information processing, and many others. (Robbins & Judge, 2008, p. 623) From these, fear of the unknown is the most widespread source, because the majority of people perceives changes as something dangerous and, therefore, tries to avoid them. (Lombardi, 2003, p.134)

Quite meaningful is the role of habit, because the employees tend to have their own ways of dealing with problems or acting in definite situations; when something is changed in the scheme they have already got used to, they may fail to perform the task which they easily coped with before the changes were introduced. This issue is closely related to the economic factors, because, if the employees are not able to fulfill a task according to new standards, this may affect their performance, productivity, and, correspondingly, salary. Regardless the source, the employees try to resist the changes this is why the main task of the management is to make changes as painless to the personnel as possible.

Sources of Stress

Moreover, all the employees are regularly subjected to the sources of stress, regardless the kind of organization they work for. According to Davis, Eshelman, & McKay (2008), stress may result from any change a person is expected to adapt to, “ranging from the negative extreme of actual physical danger to the exhilaration of … achieving some long-desired progress.” (1) Sometimes, stressors may serve as a motivation (for instance, to escape it, a person may perform his/her task more responsibly), but in most of the cases they hinder the working process and result in low productivity.

Thus, sources of stress within the working environment may involve overloading (when an employee does not have enough time to cope with his/her work) or underloading (when an employee is bored and lacks challenge), role dynamics (there may be role conflicts which evoke uncertainty in employees), interpersonal relations (if they are characterized by uncertainty, they may lead to conflicts increasing stress), and career advancements (when an employee does not get the expected advancement, his/her self-doubt increases and he/she is subjected to stress). (Kroon, 1995, p. 404) The sources of stress are numerous and the person may be subjected to it even outside the working environment. Such an exposure to stress has numerous negative consequences.

Consequences of Stress

Stress has an influence not only on a separate individual, but on his/her family, performance of the organization, and economy as such. Individually, stress results in health problems, and, as a result, in poorer performance, lower productivity, and absenteeism. (Furnham, 2005, p. 372) On a family level, an individual spends less time for family needs, becomes irritable, and experiences financial problems due to his/her lower productivity.

Consequences of stress for an organization are no less severe. Total output decreases because of poor performance of the employees and absenteeism of some of them; moreover, the organization has to pay the employees’ sick-leaves. If the organization’s profits decrease, it starts paying less money to the government through taxes, which directly influences the economy of the country. Therefore, the scale of a simple conflict is much larger than it seems to be on face of it.

Five Steps of Action Research

To escape negative consequences of stress connected with introducing changes into the work of an organization, the management should take into consideration five steps of action research when planning changes in the company. Step 1 is diagnosis; at this stage the management should carefully diagnose the current state of the company and find out which changes it needs. Step 2 is analysis in the course of which benefits and disadvantages of the change are discussed. Step 3 is feedback which involves assessment of how beneficial this change was for other organizations. Step 4 is action; this step includes “determining possible actions that are likely to achieve commonly valued goals.” (Guskey, 1999, p.26) The final step is evaluation during which the action is implemented and the management evaluates the results.

Managing Stress

Managing stress is difficult, though it is not impossible. According to Robbins & Judge (2008), “understanding and utilization of basic time-management principles can help individuals better cope with tensions created by job demands.” (645)

Firstly, every employee should compile the list of activities to fulfill; this will help to define the general loading and rate the strength. Secondly, the employee should set priorities; setting the priorities will point out at major and minor tasks for the current working day. Thirdly, the employee should schedule the day depending on the amount of time the activities demand; at this, the priorities should be taken into account. Finally, the employee should sort the activities according to his/her daily cycle (for instance some people are more productive in the first part of the day, while others work better closer to the evening). These basic steps will help to manage the stress and improve general working atmosphere in any organization.

Conclusion

Thus, any employee always resists the changes initiated by the organization. The most widespread reasons for this are fear of the unknown, unwillingness to change habits, and inability to correspond to the new standards of working. These reasons should be taken into account by the management of the company while introducing changes in the organization. Employees are also exposed to stress which has negative consequences on the organization’s performance. Each of the employees should carefully plan daily activities in order to avoid the stressors.

References

Cloke, K., Goldsmith, J., & Bennis, W.G. (2005). Resolving Conflicts at Work: Eight Strategies for Everyone on the Job. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R., McKay, M. (2008). The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. New York: New Harbinger Publications.

Furnham, A. (2005). The Psychology of Behaviour at Work: The Individual in the Organization. New York: Psychology Press.

Guskey, T.R. (1999). Evaluating Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kroon, J. (1995). General Management. South Africa: Pearson Penguin Books.

Lombardi, V. (2003). What It Takes to Be #1: Vince Lombardi on Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.

Robbins, S.P. & Judge, T. (2008). Organizational Behavior. New York: Prentice Hall.

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