Functional | Dysfunctional - Conflict- Organization Behavior

The interactions view does not propose that all conflicts are good some conflicts support the goals of the group and improve its performance; these are functional, constructive forms of conflict. Additionally, there are conflicts that hinder group performance; these are dysfunctional or destructive forms of conflict.

What differentiates functional from dysfunctional conflict? The evidence indicates that you need to look at the type of conflict. Specifically, there are three types: task, relationship, and process.

i.            Task conflict: related to the content and goals of the work.

ii.            Relationship conflict: focuses on interpersonal relationships.

iii.            Process conflict: process conflict relates to how the work gets done.

Functional aspect of conflict

Most experts today view conflict as a potentially useful aspect of organization. It is claimed that an organization void of constructive conflict is an organization void of excitement, diversity, and viability. Conflict prevents stagnation; stimulates interest and curiosity. Thus a minimum level of conflict is necessary because it helps organization in the following ways:

i.            Stimulant for change: conflict provides stimulus for change in the systems, which are not conducive to the organization. The existence of conflict means that there is something wrong with the systems of working. Thus it spotlights problems that demand attention, forces clarification of their nature and sources, and channels organizational efforts towards finding better solution of the problems. This way, conflict can focus the areas where changes should be brought.

ii.            Creativity and innovation: normally a conflict of certain arouses creativity and innovation. In an atmosphere of open confrontation, people tend to put forward more imaginative solutions to problems. A climate of challenge compels people to think through their own ideas before airing them out. Thus a conflict can help people to test their capacities to learn and develop.

iii.            Group cohesion: generally, a group shows more cohesion when it faces threat from external sources in the form of inter-group conflict. Group cohesiveness is a situation in which all members of the group work together for a common goal, or where every one is ready to take responsibility for group cause. If group cohesion is high, interaction among members is high and the amount of agreement in group opinion is high. Thus members can derive more satisfaction from group activities.

iv.            Avoidance of tension: conflict can be used as source of avoiding tension and frustration. People can express their tension and frustration by means of conflict. This helps in releasing tension and brings people back to normal situation.

v.            Identification of weaknesses: when a conflict arises, it may help identify the weaknesses in the system. The management can take steps to remove the weaknesses.

vi.            Challenge: conflict tests the abilities and capacities of individuals and groups. it creates challenges for them for which they have to be dynamic and creative. If they are able to overcome the challenge, they feel satisfied and their zeal to work harder is increased.

Dysfunctional aspect of Conflict

While the positive aspects of conflict are few and limited, negative aspects are many and serious. Conflict to the extent of healthy competition may produce better results but beyond that it may be destructive. For example, conflict between management and worker has led the closure of many organizations or has turned them loss-making units. Similarly conflict between line and staff or interdepartmental conflict creates lot of problems in the organization. In general conflict may create following problems:

I.            Resignation of personnel: in case of intra-individual and inter-individual conflict particularly, some dynamic personnel may leave the organization of they fail in the resolution of conflicts in their favor. The organization will be sufferer in the long-run by the loss of key personnel.

II.            Tensions: conflict may create high tension among the individuals and groups and a stage may come where it is very difficult for the management to resolve the conflict. Excessive conflict generates feeling of anxiety, uncertainty, frustration and hostility among the members.

III.            Discontentment: conflict is likely to be a source of dissatisfaction to the losing party, which will wait for an opportunity to settle the score with the winning party. As a result, their productivity will suffer.

IV.            Creation of distrust: conflict is likely to be a source of suspicion and distrust among the people in the organization. It may create discord in place of cooperation. The concerned people may develop negative feelings about one another and try to avoid interaction with each other.

V.            Goal displacement: conflict may distract the attention of the organizational members from the organizational goals. They may wastes their time and energy in finding tactics to come out as winners in the conflict. Personal victor becomes more important for them than the organizational goals.

VI.            Weakening of organization: conflicts may weaken the organization as a whole of the management is not able to handle them properly. If the management tries to suppress conflicts, they may acquire gigantic proportions in the later stages. And if the management does not interfere in the earlier stages, unnecessary troubles might be invited at the later stages. Frequent conflicts may create tensions among the members and an atmosphere of distrust in the organization. Further, resignation of important personnel due to conflicts will also weaken the organization.

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