Process of Conflict - Organizational Behavior

1)     Latent conflict (stage 1): when two or more parties need each other to achieve desired objectives, there is potential for conflict. Other antecedents of conflict are interdependence, different goals, and ambiguity of responsibility. They do not automatically create conflict, when they exist- they make it possible. Latent conflict often arises when a change in organizational direction, a change in personal goals or the assignment of a new project to an already overloaded team.

2)     Perceived conflict (stage 2): this is the stage at which members become aware of a problem. Incompatibility of needs is perceived and tension begins as the parties  begin to worry about what will happen. But no party feels that it is being overtly threatened.

3)     Felt conflict (stage 3): at this stage parties become emotionally involved and begin to focus on differences of opinion and opposing interests - sharpening perceived conflict. Internal tensions and frustrations begin to crystallize around specific, defined issues, and people begin to build an emotional commitment to their position.

4)     Manifest conflict (stage 4): at this stage parties engage in actions that help achieve own objectives and thwart those of others. Conflict behaviors vary from the subtle, indirect and highly controlled forms of interference to direct, aggressive, violent and uncontrolled struggle. At the organizational level, strikes or lock-outs are the result.

5)     Conflict outcome (stage 5): the conflict finally results in an outcome which may be functional or dysfunctional. If handled well, the result is functional conflict. If mishandled, the consequences are dysfunctional conflict. As conflict proceeds through the stages, resolution becomes more  difficult. The parties become more locked into their positions and more convinced that the conflict is winning-lose situation. It is usually easier to achieve win-win outcomes when the conflict is recognized early before frustration and negative feelings set in.

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