Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of any large group endeavour: as such, conflict within organizations is something which needs to be understood and managed effectively. Whether or not conflict should be considered a negative phenomenon or not, however, depends on how effectively it is managed and controlled. It is clear that conflict can stem from a number of different sources within an organization; “Differences in power, status, rewards, and resources … or the simple need to compete with others” (Rainey, 2014, p. 396) can all contribute to conflict between the individuals of an organization. Where this conflict interferes with the productivity and community feeling within an organization, conflict is a negative phenomenon. However, managed correctly, conflict within an organization can promote productive competition, reveal alternative perspectives on a situation, and identify problems and challenges for resolution. For Rainey, “well-managed conflict often improves decision making in organizations” (Rainey, 2014, p. 395); when managed effectively, conflict becomes one in an arsenal of organizational tools for promoting honest communication and active improvement of organizational processes, policies, and goals. There are a number of ways of effectively managing conflict to promote these positive outcomes. Rainey identifies five key strategies: encouraging “competitive debate”, using language that is neutral and non-combative, fostering civil and respectful behaviour, “identifying mutual problems”, and “avoiding enmity” (Rainey, 2014, p. 397). Taken together, these strategies suggest that effective communication is also the key to effective conflict management: these strategies all aimed to produce a culture in which disagreement occurs in an open and welcoming atmosphere without provoking aggression or destructive attitudes. Management styles that utilise these five strategies are likely to create an organizational culture in which conflict occurs in a positive manner, resulting in better relationships between the individual members of the organizational community and greater success for the organization as a whole.
Rainey, H. G. (2014). “Conflict in Organizations.” In: Rainey, H. G. (ed.), Understanding and Managing Public Organizations (pp. 394-397). San Francisco, CA: Wiley.