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Among other influences, a specific set of factors, which are related to the belligerents, any third parties that intervene, or both of them, determine whether a conflict is likely to see mediation efforts in the first place and ultimately the prospects for successful mediation outcomes. However, although there is an extensive body of literature, previous research has rarely addressed the interaction between these actors in conflict and mediation attempts, i. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of political science and international relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution as well as for practitioners of third-party conflict resolution methods.
An effective organization brings differences together to make the combined contribution of all employees greater than the sum of their individual contributions. For organizational excellence, management must deal effectively with the entire range of behavior. Individuals may be peers, with similar organizational status, resources, and power base. Conflict may also exist between an individual supervisor and a nonsupervisory employee, or between individuals at different organizational levels when one employee is perceived to have more resources and power than the other.
While such conflict may appear to be a subordinate-supervisor conflict, the supervisor is in reality an agent of management in the aggregate, responsible for its policies and interests. Similarly situated individuals, who do not represent management, may engage in conflict with other such groups with incompatible interests. Groups who are not a part of management are in conflict with the management of the organization. Management becomes a party at risk in a dispute in which employees or groups of employees are the primary disputants.
The essential point is that before management can understand the cause of conflict and possibilities for resolving it, it must be clear about who the parties are and what their relationships are to each other. This information forms the starting point for a more complete understanding of any conflict situation.
In addressing this challenge, management must recognize that a conflict situation may be composed of different types of conflict and may exist at various levels of severity. The confluence of type and severity describes situations in terms that can help in thinking about causes and options for dealing with conflict. It typically concerns issues such as viewpoints, strategy interpretations, resources, and policies—the question of what was or is to be done.
This conflict over process pertains to the power to determine how and when actions or changes are accomplished. It includes timing or the power to convene, displace, or reframe. An employee is laid off. He actually wanted to leave with the severance bonus that was offered but was offended and caused a conflict because he first learned of his layoff through the office grapevine rather than directly from his supervisor. It may involve social issues, emotion, personal concerns, norms, or values that cause issues between employees or organizations.
Severity Regardless of whether a conflict is substantive or personal, the real significance to the organization is often determined by the symptoms and consequences of that conflict as reflected in the behavior of the parties involved. From that perspective, the terms disagreement and dispute define a severity range of possible behavior. It may be tangible and obvious but often is ongoing, amorphous, and intangible.
Disagreement can exist among parties who are friendly and have common objectives but simply have different perspectives. It usually is tangible and concrete, with arguments, quarrels, and fights over issues, opposing positions, and expectations for relief. Friendships are usually suspended during disputes, and the parties strive for different objectives.
Conflict Situations The confluence of type and severity describes the basic conflict situations that confront management: those situations that must be understood, discussed, and meaningfully dealt with on a daily basis. Figure 1 shows various conflict types and severities as creating four dissimilar situations, each of which generally calls for different management responses. The four situations are described in the paragraphs that follow.
Productive Synergy When parties to a relationship have differing views disagreement about substantive issues, the stage is set for productive synergy. Productive synergy can exist in a diverse workforce and in cross-functional teams, employee networks, peer relationships, supervisor-employee relationships, and other forums for dialogue and challenge.
It requires individuals to share their differences and learn from them. Management should provide an environment and incentives that foster such sharing and learning, which creates more productive synergy. Functional Strife Unresolved substantive disagreement often escalates in severity and becomes a substantive dispute, or functional strife. They engage in heated arguments and fight over the issues. Productive synergy is now functional strife: a quarrel or struggle related to work activities in which personalities or direct personal disagreements are not a significant factor. Differing views and disagreements harden into intractable positions, and heated arguments develop between the individuals or functions that hold the conflicting positions.
A win-lose atmosphere follows, in which the interests of the individuals or functions win out over broader organizational interests. This negative situation can persist for years if corrective action is not taken. Such responses may or may not address the real issues underlying functional strife.
Personal Discord A low-level disagreement over personal issues causes personal discord, which generally has negative organizational consequences because it is a conflict of people rather than ideas. Personal discord can have two sources. It can arise when functional strife is not appropriately resolved.
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Continuing discussions about a difficult issue over a long period of time can degenerate into personal disputes or become fueled by personal agendas. Resolving such issues through unfair or power-based methods can cause those involved to harbor personal resentment. Personal discord can also arise from the personalities of the people in the organization. People are not the same, and their personal differences can cause conflict.
Sad to say, even today race, gender, religious, ethnic, and other personal differences can be the source of personal discord, as can bad personalities, stress, genuine misunderstandings, and myriad other factors that affect relationships among people. Whatever the cause, when personal discord exists people do not get along and usually are unwilling or unable to work well together. Personal Warfare When personal discord escalates in intensity, the result is personal warfare.
It exists when individuals engage in behavior such as continuous quarrels, the silent treatment, retaliation, official complaints, or physical violence. Poor morale, continuous complaints, sabotage, or legal action are the likely consequences. The impact is similar but exacerbated when individuals join together as interest groups in a dispute with the company and resort to collective action. Personal warfare is difficult, if not impossible, to ignore but is commonly addressed by attempts to just settle or dispose of the dispute rather than resolve the underlying causes.
The point at which a disagreement becomes a dispute may be in the eyes of the beholder. Many conflicts have both substantive and personal dimensions or move back and forth between those aspects as they evolve. Functional strife and personal warfare may exist simultaneously. Further, the occurrence of the various situations is not linear, as personal or substantive disagreements may move from collegial to warlike in one step. Finally, conflict is dynamic. Any situation may fluctuate between positive and negative stages.
It is fair to say, however, that productive synergy is nearly always positive, while the other situations are nearly always counterproductive. Thus, while perhaps an oversimplification of complex issues, this model suggests that to reduce the impact of counterproductive conflict, management must concentrate on understanding and implementing practices to minimize functional strife, personal discord, and personal warfare and deal effectively with that conflict that does occur.
There is no magic bullet. Trying to prevent one problem often causes another. Trying to resolve a problem can escalate it instead.
Events - Mediators Beyond Borders International
Disputing parties may make peace today but be at war with each other tomorrow. Management changes a policy to help employees and is rewarded with disputes over the details of implementation. Under these circumstances, one can begin to understand what to do about conflict only by looking at its causes, which are not always clear-cut.
Organizations are systems made up of highly interdependent parts and patterns of interaction, each of which affects and is affected by other parts or patterns, and each of which can be the genesis of conflict. Using this systemic framework as a foundation, one must then consider various reasons people respond to systems and other people as they do. Our bodies are an excellent example.
They are made up of many different parts. Each part has its separate purpose, yet they all work together and affect and are affected by other parts. All the parts must interrelate harmoniously for a healthy, functional body. Similarly, an organization is a complex whole comprising many parts and relationships among the parts.