1. What causes conflicts? Based on the materials and discussions what makes some
conflicts more difficult to resolve (protracted) than others?
Conflict is part of the intrinsic human nature and a salient feature of human society. The certainty of competing goals, aims, objectives, needs, and wants of people within a society ignite and fuel conflict between different groups and people. Striking a balance among the competing wants helps to quell conflicts, however, some conflicts become protracted and continue for a long time even with mediation in place. The absence of trust and inability to reach a middle ground between the conflicting parties are among the reasons for protracted conflicts. At the core, however, goal incompatibility, poor communication, and lack of enough resources cause conflicts in even as hard stance and positions and interests make some conflicts more difficult to solve.
The nature of humans is such that each individual, organization, or nation pursues goals, which often are not similar to others’ goals. Goal incompatibility, therefore, is one of the major causes of conflicts. Regardless of the type of conflict or the parties involved within the conflict, the incompatibility of goals/objectives ignites conflict among and between different parties. One of the most widely known conflicts is the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1990 (Tonder et al. 374). The pursuit of different goals between the two superpowers at the time fueled the conflict. Goal incompatibility infers opposition in motives or pursuits between the two opposing parties in the conflict. For the United States and the Soviet Union, each pursued a different goal where the U.S. favored the ideology of capitalist democracies, while the Soviets favored socialism. The result of the divergent goals was an ideological conflict that threatened the outbreak of a third world war. Similarly, within an organization, the pursuit of a better bottom line on the one hand and innovation through research and development may cause conflict due to the divergence in goals. Goal incompatibility traditionally arises from differences in values, interests, perceptions, and worldviews, which define the parties at the opposing ends of the conflict.
Communication is a vital element for human interaction and its absence or lack of clarity can cause conflicts. Within an organization, family, or even in international relations, communication is key as it allows parties within these realms to coexist. However, in the absence of good communication, conflicts arise due to misunderstandings among different parties. Poor communication breeds mistrust between parties even as failure to communicate causes the parties to make different assumptions about one another: such misunderstanding and assumptions then cause conflict (Deep et al. 2). Poor communication within an organization can cause problems and conflicts given a lack of clarity on individual roles, responsibilities, and people to report to. Aside from causing conflicts, poor communication can lead to poor performance, low morale, lack of teamwork, and ultimately harm the overall organizational bottom line. For instance, results from a survey of 400 companies, indicated that poor communication to and between employees was the cause of major conflicts in the organizations aside from causing losses of about $62.4 million annually (Buhler and Worden n. p.). poor communication herein ignites, fuels, and sustains conflicts with potentially detrimental results to the parties involved.
Scarce resources and the scramble for the available resources make conflicts inevitable. Within organizations, in homes, and across the world, the resources available are scarce and cannot satisfy the needs of everyone. Resource scarcity, thus, leads to conflict since each individual that needs the same resource unavoidably curtails the objectives of others (Omisore and Abiodun 126). The conflict in South Sudan, for instance, is about oil—one of the leading sources of revenue for the young nation. The need to control the resource and the revenues collected from the sale of oil has been a major source of conflict in not only South Sudan but also in countries such as Russia, Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria.
While some conflicts may be especially easy to solve, others become protracted and take years to solve due to several reasons. One of the factors for protracted conflicts is the hard stance taken by parties involved in the conflict. A hard stance, in this case, means that the parties involved may not be willing to cede ground or compromise and give conditionalities that require satisfaction before reaching any resolution (Deep et al. 9). When parties involved in a conflict stand their ground, such conflicts become protracted with little to no progress made towards resolving the conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance, stands as one of the world’s most intractable and longest conflicts well into its 53rd year (Falk 8). Disagreements arise over the establishment of two states (Israel and Palestine), Israeli settlement, and control of Jerusalem, with each of the two parties hoping for a resounding win against the other (Falk 8). Taking hard stances deter open and collaborative communication that traditionally has the potential of resolving the issues at hand.
Positions and interests protract from conflicts since they impede any process undertaken towards conflict resolution. Positions refer to the perceptions taken by parties involved in a conflict viewed as possible solutions that will meet the parties’ needs. On the other hand, interests are the underlying concerns that each party in a conflict has. Positions and interests, therefore, impede conflict resolution whereby most parties focus on their positions rather than the interests. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both Israel and Palestine insist on their possession of Jerusalem. However, the underlying issues of independence as nations, water resources, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, while part of the causes of the conflict also continue to fuel the strife between the two. Resolving the conflict, thus, requires an in-depth and exhaustive resolution of both, which the two parties have not managed to do, protracting the conflict.
Conflicts are an integral part of human society. The interaction of humans with one another makes conflict inevitable. Among the causes of conflict include goal incompatibility, poor communication, the struggle for scarce resources. Hard stance and positions and interests are among the factors that protract conflicts. Quick resolution of conflicts, thus requires taking all these into consideration and reaching a middle-ground that satisfies all parties involved in the conflict.
4. What accounts for the increase in family level and/ or workplace conflicts? In your
opinion what are some of the best practices for curtailing and managing conflicts at
these levels of human interaction?
The workplace today has transformed and greatly contrasts its nature decades ago. With globalization, diversity, push towards work-life balance, and integration of technology into the workplace it is never the same. These changes, however, have meant an uptick in the number and levels of conflicts within the organization. Curtailing and managing the conflicts require purposeful and commitment to conflict resolution ideologies, given the intricate nature of the conflicts. Increased diversity and differences in values and beliefs account for increases in workplace conflict calling for diversity training and organizational reorientation to curtail and manage the conflicts.
Workplaces today have a diverse workforce, which has fueled conflicts in the workplace. A growing body of evidence shows that the workplace is not only diverse but also that diversity brings advantages to the workplace (O’Brien et al. 2). Diversity today includes differences in age, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation among others. While a diverse workforce leads to better profits, creativity, and innovation within the workplace, it also increases the levels of misunderstanding and conflict (Woods 1). Diversity in the workplace increases the occurrence of conflict, since some actions, even without the intention of malice can carry different connotations when understood through diverse experiences. The ignorance of different cultures, religious practices, and age-related trends, therefore, set the stage for misunderstanding, tension, and conflict. Some of the actions by individuals within the workplace may have the best of intentions, however, due to the diverse sensibilities of the different individuals, such actions may be the genesis of the conflict. Unknowingly, the actions may even exacerbate the already present tensions and conflicts.
Even in homogeneous workplaces, conflicts still occur triggered by differences in values and beliefs. Individual backgrounds and upbringing, education, and life experiences change the belief and value systems held by an individual (Mitchell n.p.). Conflicts related to values and beliefs can arise from pivotal differences in identities and values, that can encompass political, religious, ethical, and norm differences in addition to other deeply held beliefs. While political and religious discourses are often discouraged in the workplace, conflicts based on values can arise concerning workplace decisions and policies, including whether to execute an affirmative action program or work with a customer with known or rumored relations with a corrupt government or individual. Conflicts that involve values and beliefs tend to increase defensiveness, distrust, and alienation (Mitchell n.p.). Sometimes, individuals may hold so strongly to their values and beliefs rejecting organizational policies, alienating themselves and others, to the extent that it impedes their individual and organizational performance sometimes even to their detriment.
Given that diversity is one of the causes of the increase in organizational conflict, diversity training ranks high in organizational attempts to curtail and manage conflicts within the workplace. The effectiveness of the training requires that both managers and employees undergo diversity training. Cole and Salimath argue that ongoing training on diversity requires the organization to orientates new employees on diversity in addition to providing in-service training for old employees (p. 153). Moreover, the organization should put in place policies that disseminate diversity and inclusion within the organization. Through these, the organization builds an identity of diversity, which becomes part of its culture and image to the world. Establishing such a culture is especially important for new employees, who then fall in line knowing diversity is the hallmark of the organization and that respect for the diverse backgrounds within the organization is an imperative supported by both the management and other employees.
Values and beliefs define humans and are the mainstays of individual value systems, curtailing, and managing conflicts based on value systems thus require promoting respect and dialogue as part of organizational reorientation. The aim, in this case, is to come to a cognitive understanding where workers and the organization establish an accurate conceptualization of one another’s point of view. Reaching such levels of comprehension require the establishment of a value-neutral ability to process each worker’s beliefs and values. The approach, in this case, moves away from attempts to sympathize or establish emotional connections, but rather continues on a path of establishing dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding of the different values and beliefs held by each individual based on their background.
Changing organizational culture is another form of organizational reorientation focused on minimizing conflicts. The institutional theory provides a framework for reorienting an organization. According to the theory, changing organization culture denotes altering the perception of workers about an issue, and doing the same to any recruits. Cole and Salimath posit that institutional theory scrutinizes the establishment of structures within the society and how these structures are entrenched. According to the two, the structures include perceptions, norms, and rules vital in the establishment of social behavior (Cole and Salimath 153). Organizations can thus change their culture and its orientation towards conflict management and resolution. Establishing rules, procedures, and systems for resolving conflict go a long way in reorienting the organization towards better organizational conflict resolution.
Globalization continues to change the workplace. These changes come with several issues including an uptick in conflicts. Diversity and differences in values and beliefs are among the causes of increased conflicts in the workplace today. Diversity training and organizational reorientation are among the best practices for curtailing and managing conflicts in the current organizational setups.
Buhler, Patricia, M. and Worden, Joel, D. Up, Down, and Sideways: High-Impact Verbal Communication for HR Professionals. The Society for Human Resource Management, 2013.
Cole, Brooklyn, & Salimath, Manjula (2013). “Diversity Identity Management: An Organizational Perspective.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 116, no. 1, 2013, pp. 151-161. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-012-1466-4.
Deep, Sadia, Mohd, Berhannudin and Hussain, Othman. “Potential Causes and Outcomes of Communication Conflicts at the Workplace-A Qualitative Study in Pakistan.” Journal of Management Info., vol. 11, no. 1, 2016, pp.1-15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317639465_Potential_Causes_and_Outcomes_of_Communication_Conflicts_at_the_Workplace-A_Qualitative_Study_in_Pakistan/link/594543af0f7e9b6910f3b85a/download.
Falk, Avner. Fratricide in the Holy Land: A Psychoanalytic View of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=4CNVmZIen3AC&pg=PA8&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Isa, Ahmed, A. “Conflict in Organizations: Causes and Consequences.” Journal of Education Policy and Entrepreneurial Research, vol. 2, no.11, 2015, pp. 54-59. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ahmed_Adamu_Isa/publication/311558401_Conflicts_in_Organizations_Causes_and_Consequences/links/584c551b08ae4bc8992c3f12/Conflicts-in-Organizations-Causes-and-Consequences.pdf?origin=publication_detail.
Mitchell Duane, E. “Causes of Organizational Conflict.” In: Farazmand A. (eds) Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance. Springer, 2016. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-31816-5_3077-1#howtocite
O’Brien, Katherine, R. et al. “How to Break the Cycle of Low Workforce Diversity: A Model for Change.” Plos ONE, vol. 10, no. 7, 2015, pp. 1-15. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0133208
Omisore, Bernard, O. and Abiodun, Ashimi, R. “Organizational Conflicts: Causes, Effects and Remedies.” International Journal of Academic Research in Economics and Management Sciences, vol. 3, no. 6, 2014, pp. 118-137. https://hrmars.com/hrmars_papers/Organizational_Conflicts_Causes,_Effects_and_Remedies.pdf.
Tonder, Chris. “The Causes of Conflict in Public and Private Sector Organizations in South Africa.” Managing Global Transitions, vol. 6, no. 4, 2018, pp. 373-401. http://www.fm-kp.si/zalozba/ISSN/1581-6311/6_373-401.pdf.
Woods, Susan. Thinking about Diversity-Related Conflict: Respect, Recognition and Learning. Henderson Woods, 2010. https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1107&context=workingpapers