Role Conflict Theory

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Role Conflict Theory


The complexity perspective of intraorganizational conflict maintains that interpersonal relationships are more complex than hitherto thought, and that the unfolding conflict is influenced by a wide variety of conditions. Moreover the complexity perspective encourages the consideration of simultaneous complexity (more than one event occurring simultaneously) and of how the mode of conflict management affects the outcomes. This fresh perspective has enabled researchers to examine the point at which behavioral style is changed and the effect on the conflict episode and to look at how different behaviors are combined.

Organizational Conflict

Traditionally conflict has been regarded as abhorrent in organizations. When seen as behaviour intended to obstruct the achievement of another person's goals, it is easy to understand the belief that a healthy organizational climate should reflect complete harmony . This traditional view of conflict as having a negative impact encouraged a management perspective that conflict should be avoided at all costs and ultimately should be managed by the resolution of any conflict .

However, most management theorists have come to accept that conflict in organizations is inevitable because conflict is often inherent in an organization's structure and through the competition by members for scarce resources. The management perspective for an alternative view is similarly traditional; that is, to resolve any excessive conflict while advocating acceptance of desired levels of conflict. Given that many conflicts in organizations become institutionalized through common attitudes, values and rituals, conflict can become part of the culture of an organization without members being aware of its presence. Morgan suggests that conflict ingrained within the culture of an organization can be extremely hard to identify and thus to break down.

The traditional view of conflict as having a negative impact that requires resolution has been refuted by some organizational theorists, who argue for the positive consequences of some aspects of conflict . Mullins acknowledges there are times when conflict can be a positive force that stimulates interest and creativity, identifies and assists in resolving problems and promotes group cohesion. This view of conflict, termed “interactionist” by Robbins , acknowledges conflict as inevitable and indeed encourages conflict situations to avoid static, apathetic and nonresponsive behaviour in organizations. The management perspective for this view of conflict is to do nothing about desired levels of conflict, to resolve excessive conflict and to stimulate conflict in static situations. Proponents of this view argue that conflict resolution is not always appropriate.

The management of conflict has now become a complex issue. Where resolution simply implies reduction and elimination, management involves the recognition, interpretation, encouragement and/or discouragement of conflict in order to effect appropriate outcomes. However, with outcomes that potentially include enhanced individual, group and organizational effectiveness, conflict management becomes difficult to ignore.

Consequences of conflict: functional or dysfunctional?

Some researchers exploring attitudes towards conflict have considered the consequences of conflict for individual and team performance and have found that interpersonal conflict can have either functional (positive) or dysfunctional (negative) outcomes for team and individual performance . Moreover, the consequences of conflict can be perceived and felt in ...
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