Conflict and Change CHAPTER OVERVIEW • In any organization, conflicts and changes are bound to occur. – Whether these are constructive or destructive forces depends significantly on the supervisor’s skills in managing conflict and change. • Conflict is a positive force when it leads to necessary changes by signaling that a problem exists. • When conflict involves anger at management or the organization, it may lead to destructive behavior. • Conflict puts some people under stress that may affect their productivity. – The conflict may be within a person, or a person may have to make choices that cause internal conflict. – Conflict may also arise between people, or interpersonal conflict. – There may also be structural conflict, resulting from the way the organization is structured. • Several strategies are described for managing conflict. – – – – Compromise, ignoring, forcing solutions, and confronting and solving the problem. • Only confronting and solving the problem, or conflict resolution, tries to solve the underlying causes of problems. • The other methods attempt to avoid the consequences of conflict. • The supervisor can – be involved in conflict resolution, – respond to a conflict, and – mediate conflict resolution. • He or she can initiate conflict resolution by interpreting the conflict in terms of the action causing the problem and the effects of that action. • When parties to the conflict are communicating in these terms, they can find a solution and agree on what each person will do. – This is also the method used to respond to a conflict. • To mediate, the supervisor begins by establishing a constructive environment, and then asks each person to explain what the problem is and what he or she wants. – – – – The supervisor then restates the problem, asks for solutions, and encourages the parties to select a mutually beneficial solution. • Supervisors have – legitimate power, • which comes from their position in the organization; – referent power, • which comes from the emotions they inspire in others: – expert power, • which comes from their knowledge or skills; – coercive power, • which comes from fear related to their use of force; – reward power, • which comes from giving people something they want; – connection power, • which comes from their relationships to people in power; and – information power, • which comes from the possession of valuable information.. • Supervisors can use their power to gain a competitive edge in the organization. • Some tactics for establishing a competitive edge are – doing an exceptional job, – spreading rumors and lies about peers, and – taking credit for the work of others. • The last two approaches can backfire. – When caught, the person who uses them can lose the trust of others. • Socializing has political implications. – When socializing with others in the organization, the supervisor should use common sense, avoiding risky behavior such as getting drunk or dating a subordinate. – In general, the supervisor should use common sense and act naturally. Conflict: • The struggle that results from – – – – incompatible or opposing needs, feelings, thoughts, demands • within a person or • between two or more people. • Conflict is a range of behaviors and feelings or emotional responses to behavior. – Conflict can be a minor difference of opinion with a feeling of mild annoyance. – At the other end of the range is war with feelings of hatred. • The feelings may remain long after the conflict has been resolved. • Although we are most likely to think of conflict as negative, conflict can also result in positive outcomes. • Conflict can bring about necessary changes. • When conflict serves as a signal that a problem exists, it can stimulate creative response. • Supervisors need to understand the nature of conflict before they can respond effectively to it. – Conflict can arise within an individual or between individuals or groups. • Conflict within an individual is called intrapersonal. • The basic types of conflict involving more than one person are called – interpersonal, – structural, and – strategic. Intrapersonal • An intrapersonal conflict arises when a person has trouble selecting from among goals. – Choosing one of two possible goals is easy if one is good and the other is bad. – Most choices fall into three categories: (1) A choice between two good possibilities (2) A choice between mixed possibilities (3) A choice between two bad possibilities • In many cases, a supervisor lacks the expertise to resolve an intrapersonal conflict. – If a supervisor notices an employee who is struggling with an intrapersonal conflict, he or she should consider referring that employee to a professional with skills to handle intrapersonal conflicts. Interpersonal • Conflict between individuals is called interpersonal conflict. – Supervisors may at be involved in conflict with • • • • their boss, an employee, a peer, or even a customer. • There may the also be conflict to manage between two or more of their employees. – This type of conflict may arise from differing opinions, • from misunderstandings about a situation, or • from differences in values or beliefs. • Conflict between employees may be an indicator that their supervisor is not exercising enough leadership. – Supervisors should establish and communicate guidelines for acceptable behavior. Structural • Conflict that results from the way the organization is structured is called structural conflict. – This may arise • between line and staff personnel, or • between departments such as production and marketing. – Because supervisors do not decide on the organization’s structure, they are rarely able to reduce the amount of structural conflict. – However, awareness of this type of conflict will help prevent supervisors from taking the issues personally. – Structural conflict costs may be minimized if supervisors proceed cautiously and diplomatically in conflict areas. Strategic • Sometimes management or an individual will intentionally bring about a conflict in order to achieve an objective. – For example, a contest may cause conflicts between • employees, • departments, or • divisions of an organization. • Most people have experienced all of the types of conflict listed above. – They may have strategies for managing conflict. – However, supervisors may have to learn new strategies to ensure they are able to achieve the organizational and department goals, and to maintain good morale in the department. • The text includes several strategies for conflict management. – Compromise – Avoidance and smoothing – Forcing a solution Compromise. • This means that the parties to the conflict settle on a solution that gives each of them part of what he or she wanted. – No one gets exactly what he or she wanted, but no one loses entirely either. • Compromise does not really solve the underlying problem. • Therefore, it is most useful for relatively minor problems and when time is limited. Avoidance and smoothing. • Conflict is managed by avoiding it or pretending that no conflict exists. – Avoiding conflicts does not make them go away, and it does not make opposing points of view any less valid or significant. – These strategies are most useful for conflicts that are not serious and for which a solution would be more difficult than the problem. – Conflict Management: Responding to problems stemming from conflict.See the conflict resolution strategy below. – Compromise: Settling on a solution that gives each person part of what he or she wanted; no one gets everything, and no one completely loses. – Smoothing: Managing a conflict by pretending it doesn’t exist • However, ongoing conflict has negative consequences. – It can lead to increased stress and lost productivity. Depending on the source of the conflict, the people involved may be angry at management or the organization and may vent their anger in ways that are destructive to the organization. • A cultural-related issue is that people in many non-Western cultures believe it is best to avoid conflicts. – In these cultures, people place higher value on harmony than on confronting and solving problems. Forcing a Solution. • The supervisor may want to try a direct approach to ending a conflict. – A forced solution means that a person with power single-handedly decides on what the outcome will be. • Forcing a solution is a relatively fast way to manage a conflict, and it can therefore be the best approach in an emergency. – However, it can leave bad feelings, which may lead to future conflict. Confrontation or Problem Solving. • The most direct, and sometimes difficult, way to manage conflict is to confront the problem and solve it. – This is also called conflict resolution. • It requires listening to both sides and attempting to understand, rather than to place blame. – Parties in the conflict need to identify the areas in which they agree and the ways they can both benefit from possible solutions. • Both parties should examine their own feelings and take their time at reaching a solution. – This creative approach can leave both sides feeling like winners. • There are three different supervisor-conflict relationships. – The first is when the supervisor has a conflict with another person. – The second type is when another person has a conflict with the supervisor. – The third situation is when the supervisor is asked to mediate, or help others resolve a conflict that does not directly involve the supervisor. • In each case the supervisor starts with understanding the problem. Initiating Conflict Resolution. • The first step is to understand the conflict. – Focus on behavior. • State politely to the other person what action is causing the problem and how that action affects you and others. • Then listen to how the other person responds. • If the other person doesn’t acknowledge that there is a problem, restate your concern until the other person understands or until it is clear that you can’t make any progress on your own. • Often a conflict exists simply because the other person hasn’t realized your point of view or your situation. – When you can communicate about the problem, you can work together on a solution. – Restate the solution to be sure you are both in agreement. Responding to a Conflict. • Sometimes the supervisor is a party to a conflict that is bothering someone else. – Again understand the problem. – Listen to the other person and try to understand what the problem is really about. – If the other person is emotional, let him or her vent his or her feelings, then get down to discussing the problem. – Avoid statements of blame, and find out what specific actions the other person is referring to. • Understanding the problem can be complicated if one of the people involved has a “hidden agenda.” – A hidden agenda is a central concern that is left unstated. – Usually this means that the anger is about something else, but those feelings are directed at some other issue. – If the other person’s feelings seem to be out of proportion to the problem he or she is describing, it is probably worthwhile to look for a hidden agenda. • Finding one can save you from trying to resolve the wrong conflict. • When you understand the problem, build an environment for working together on a solution. Mediating Conflict Resolution. • Sometimes the supervisor is not personally involved in a conflict, but the parties ask the supervisor for help in resolving their conflict. – If the parties to the conflict are peers of the supervisor, getting involved can be risky. – If the parties are the supervisor’s employees, then mediating the conflict is part of the supervisor’s job and an important way to keep the department functioning as it should. – Steps for mediating a conflict include: • (1) Establish a constructive environment. – Focus on the issue. – Avoid name calling. • (2) Ask each person to explain what the problem is. – Get each to be specific and respond to the other person’s charges. • (3) When everyone seems to understand what the problem is, have each employee state what he or she wants to accomplish or what will satisfy him or her. • (4) Restate in your own words what each person’s position have is. • (5) Have all participants suggest as many solutions as they can. – Begin to focus on the future. • (6) Encourage the employees to select a solution that benefits all of them. – Combine or modify suggestions as necessary. • (7) Summarize what has been discussed and agreed on. – Make sure all participants know what they are supposed to do, and ask for their cooperation. • Change in society and in organizations is occurring at an ever-increasing rate. • Changes in your organization may include a – – – – newly organized work force, world competition, fewer resources, and increasing and decreasing demands on production. – New employees, new management, new technology, and downsizing are just a few of the potential changes you may experience. • The work force is changing to become increasingly older, and includes more racial and ethnic diversity and more women. • Many of the changes have happened in the past as well as the present. – It is the rate of change that is different today. • When change is slow and less complex, it is easier to absorb and adjust to. • Changes are not isolated incidents. – Changes in financial resources affect who and how many employees are hired and trained. – Changes in regulation or laws, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act, can lead to changes in the facilities as well as changes in employee characteristics. • Any kind of change is uncomfortable to some degree. – Uncertainty about your role or even the security of your job are not the only concerns. • Both operative employees and supervisors may have misgivings about some of the changes introduced. • Fears about change are sometimes well founded. • People resist change most when they aren’t sure what to expect or why the change is necessary. – Also, when people don’t understand the reasons for change, the effort to change doesn’t seem worthwhile. Overcoming Resistance and Implementing Change • The organization can overcome resistance to change by addressing the employees’ concerns. – Because supervisors are closest to the operative employees, the organization relies heavily on the supervisor to do this. • The key to overcoming resistance is good communications. – The supervisor should tell employees about a change as soon as he or she learns about it – Explain what the change is, making sure they understand it • Then explain how the change is likely to affect them. – Be positive about the change and cite benefits to the employees. – Also indicate how the organization is going to help employees cope with the change, such as what training is going to be provided. • Do not hide bad news such as layoffs. – Give the employees the truth, acknowledging their fears and possibilities. • People need emotional support during these times. – The supervisor should give the employees plenty of opportunity to express their concerns and to ask questions. • It is better to hear concerns and questions than for these thoughts to circulate in the rumor mill. • Answer questions as soon as possible. • Some employees will think of questions only after some time has passed, so the supervisor should provide opportunities for employees to ask questions on an ongoing basis, not just at the time of the announcement. • Implementing change will be part of the supervisor’s job. – The key is to build on successes. • The supervisor should determine what aspects of the change he or she has control over, then seek to carry out those aspects of the change successfully. • Use the planning skills learned. • A key to implementing change is to build on successes. • The supervisor might have control over which people are directly involved in the change and the order in which people will get involved. – Start with individuals who are already enthusiastic about the changes will help other employees in the department. • When a group of employees work together well and enjoys each other’s company, it makes sense to try to keep these employees together. – When a change involves bringing together two groups of employees from different organizations, locations, or shifts, the supervisor might try teaming up employees from each group in order to build cooperation. • People form habits and beliefs that support their behaviors and attitudes. – When procedures or job requirements change, it means that individuals must break old habits and learn new habits. • Employees and supervisors are likely to slip back into old ways of doing a task. • Follow up is necessary to keep people on track. • The supervisor should remind employees about what they have achieved so far and what is expected of them in the future. • Organization politics involves activities by which people seek to improve their position within the organization. – Improving one’s position is not in itself good or bad, and organization politics also is not necessarily good or bad. – Political skills are important. • They help the supervisor obtain the cooperation and support of others in the organization. • The usual way that people use politics is to improve their position by gaining power. – Power is the ability to influence people to behave in a certain way. • Position power is power that comes from one’s formal role in an organization. • Personal power is power that arises from one’s personal characteristics. – Power can come from both the position of a person in the organization and from personal characteristics. • Every supervisor has some position power with regard to the employees he or she supervises. • Higher-level managers have a greater degree of position power than supervisors. • Because a person does not need to be a manager in an organization to have personal power, the supervisor may find that employees view one of their co-workers as having more power than the supervisor. – For example, if a change is to be made in the organization, an employee may successfully urge everyone to rally around the new plan, or may undermine morale by making fun of the change. • Supervisors cannot eliminate personal power in subordinates, but they should be aware of it in order to use it to their advantage. – For example, supervisors can seek ways to get the informal leaders on their side. • Supervisors can have a variety of types of power. – If supervisors have less position power than they would like, they might consider the following types of power to see whether there are some they can develop. Sources of Power – – – – – – – Legitimate Power Charismatic Power Expert Power Coercive Power Reward Power Connection Power Information Power • Legitimate power comes from the position a person holds. – To exercise legitimate power effectively, the supervisor needs to be sure employees understand what they are directed to do and are able to do it. • Charismatic power comes from the emotions a person inspires. – People like working for supervisors who have a winning personality that includes enthusiasm, energy, and genuine enjoyment of the job. • Employees will perform beyond the call of because they want the supervisor to like them. Expert Power • Expert Power comes from a person’s knowledge or skills. – Employees respect supervisors who know their job better than they do and will follow supervisor’s instructions. • Coercive power arises from fear related to the use of force. – This type of power tends to get results in the short run, but in the long run employees come to resent the supervisor and may try to get around him or her. • Reward power arises from giving people something they want. – A supervisor who plans to rely on reward power to lead employees had better be sure that he or she is able to give out rewards consistently. • Connection power stems from a person’s relationship to someone powerful. – Connection power can be a problem for the organization and its managers when people who have it place the interests of their relationship ahead of the interests of the organization. • Information power comes from possessing valuable information. – For example, secretaries of top managers have information power as well as connection power. Common Strategies for Organization Politics • A person’s political strategies are the methods used to acquire and keep power within the organization. – The following strategies are commonly used: • • • • • • Do favors Making good impressions Cultivating the grapevine Supporting the boss Avoid negativism Giving praise Do Favors • People remember favors and are generally willing to help out or say a good word in return. – However, doing favors solely to create an obligation is unethical. Making Good Impressions • Those who are skilled at organization politics know that it is important to create a positive image of themselves. Cultivating the Grapevine • Knowledge is power Supporting the Boss • The supervisor’s boss can be a powerful ally. – Help the boss look good. Avoid Negativism • People have more respect for those who propose solutions than for those who merely criticize Giving Praise • People like to be praised, and written compliments are especially valuable • At the heart of organization politics is building a base of power. – An important way in which supervisors can build their power base is to please their boss. • Peers and subordinates who recognize that a supervisor has a close relationship with his or her boss tend to treat the supervisor carefully to avoid antagonizing the boss. • Another approach is to do favors so that others will be in his or her debt. – Doing favors can help the supervisor with one of the other techniques for building a power base, developing alliances with others in the organization. – The supervisor who has many people on his or her side is able to get more done and to build a good reputation. • Organization members seek to gain a competitive edge, so that when raises, promotions, and choice assignments are handed out they will be the recipients. – Ethical efforts to establish a competitive edge are generally based on trying to do an exceptional job. – Some unethical approaches include spreading lies and rumors about peers and taking credit for the ideas and work of one’s subordinates. • Trying to look good at the expense of someone else may be effective at first, but in the long run the user of this tactic winds up the biggest loser. • In the long run, the most successful way to look exceptional is to produce exceptional results. • At many organizations, part of the game of getting ahead includes socializing with co-workers. – Depending on the supervisor’s behavior, socializing can be helpful or can put an end to his or her career growth. • Getting roaring drunk at a party is likely to lead the supervisor to behave foolishly and say things he or she will regret later. • Likewise, dating a subordinate is an invitation to problems. in general, the wisest course is to be sensible but natural.
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