Meaning of Conflict

Conflict has been defined from several stand points in literature. In one approach, it has been related with tension and defined as expression of hostility, negative attitude, antagonism, misunderstanding, aggression, rivalry, stereotypes, etc. In political science and economics, it has been associated with situations, bodying contradictory or irreconcilable interest between two opposing groups. Conflict is also considered a special kind of competition and as a break down, delay and difficulty in the decision making process. In general, conflict has been defined as a process in which an individual purposefully makes a concerted effort to offset the efforts of another individual by some form of blockage that causes frustration to the better in accomplishing his goals or furtherance of his interests. 

Positive Outcomes of Conflict 
More often conflict leads to certain positive outcomes. A few of them are: 
  • It provides an individual a chance to think again, undertake self introspection and have a second look at the existing things, be they procedures, policies, equipment, behaviors etc. 
  • It leads to innovation and at times, to new direction. It is therefore, even necessary for organization survival and growth. 
  • It helps to seek classification and generate search behavior. 
  • At times, it is also used as a means to certain ends and to create confusion or set subordinates against each other in order to maintain the interested party's own position. It may not be a positive outcome in the strict sense of the term from the organizational point of view, but it is certainly a management strategy toward off problems temporarily. It may be viewed as an unavoidable cost of the pursuit of one's aspirations. 
  • When conflict is developed, attention is immediately drawn to the malfunctioning parts of a system. It is an indication that the situation calls for improvement. Conflict is, therefore, an essential portion of a cyber-native system. 
  • Long standing problems which continue to agitate people's minds surface. They are able to release their tensions and unburden themselves. They display creativity in identifying solutions and problems are dealt with. 
  • It energies people, leads to mild stimulation and one is at one's best in times of crisis. It helps them test their capacities. 
  • It serves as a cementing force in a group and incredible unity is witnessed even in a heterogeneous group in times of tension. 
  • For some, it is exhilarating, provides endless challenge and meaning to their lines. 
Negative Side of Conflict 
Many times conflicts may be detrimental and disasters. A few of such circumstances in which it can be termed as harmful and undesirable as discussed below: 
  • When conflict does not lead to solution of a problem, it is unproductive and investment of time and effort goes waste. 
  • It is undesirable if it creates a climate of distrust and suspicion among people, if some people feel defeated and if it develops antagonism instead of a spirit of cooperation. 
  • It is seriously harmful if it detracts attention from basic organizational objectives and makes people make work for their defeat. 
  • As a consequence of conflict, there may be flight of personnel from the organization. 
  • When management loses objectivity and treats disagreement as equivalent to disloyalty and rebellion, an opportunity for creativity should be deemed to have been lost. It may even pour oil over troubled waters, exploit difference to strengthen itself and weaken other, and accept resolutions capable of different interpretations. 
  • In an attempt to find a solution, management may gloss over serious difference and suppress certain feelings which may except at inappropriate moments and hit safe targets. 
  • In the event of a conflict, there may be intensification of internalization of sub unit goals which may result in the neglects of overall organizational goals.

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