Conflict and Change

Conflict and Change
• 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
• 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.
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
• 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.
• The struggle that results from
incompatible or opposing needs,
• 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
• 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
• The basic types of conflict involving more
than one person are called
– interpersonal,
– structural, and
– strategic.
• An intrapersonal conflict arises when a
person has trouble selecting from among
– 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
– 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
• 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
• 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.
• Conflict that results from the way the
organization is structured is called structural
– This may arise
• between line and staff personnel, or
• between departments such as production and
– 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
– Structural conflict costs may be minimized if
supervisors proceed cautiously and
diplomatically in conflict areas.
• Sometimes management or an individual
will intentionally bring about a conflict in
order to achieve an objective.
– For example, a contest may cause conflicts
• 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
– 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
• 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
• 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
– Smoothing: Managing a conflict by
pretending it doesn’t exist
• However, ongoing conflict has negative
– 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
• 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
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
• 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
• There are three different supervisor-conflict
– 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
• 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
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
– 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
– 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
– 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
• (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
– 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
– 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
• Fears about change are sometimes well founded.
• People resist change most when they aren’t
sure what to expect or why the change is
– Also, when people don’t understand the reasons
for change, the effort to change doesn’t seem
Overcoming Resistance and
Implementing Change
• The organization can overcome resistance
to change by addressing the employees’
– 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
– 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
– 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
• 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
– 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
– For example, supervisors can seek ways to get
the informal leaders on their side.
• Supervisors can have a variety of types of
– 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
• 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
– 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
– Help the boss look good.
Avoid Negativism
• People have more respect for those who
propose solutions than for those who merely
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
– 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
– 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.