Transitions in Conflict thought: Traditional, Human Relations, Interactionist15th March 2021
The traditional view of conflicts has been around since late nineteenth century. According to this view, the conflicts are always bad for an organization. It always leads to failure and always has a negative impact on the performance of an organization. According to this view, a conflict is synonymous to violence, destruction and irrationality.
It was first developed in the late 1930s and early 1940s, with the most linear and simple approach towards conflict. According to the traditional view, any conflict in an organization is Outright bad, negative and harmful.
According to the traditional view, a conflict must always be avoided at all costs. The manager should try to reduce, suppress or eliminate it. The manager is allowed to take authoritative approach to rid the organization of conflicts. The problem with this view is that the root cause of the conflict is left undetermined.
Moreover, the traditional view on organizational conflict identifies poor communication, disagreement, lack of openness and trust among individuals and the failure of managers to be responsive to their employees’ needs as the main causes and reasons of organizational conflict
The traditional view is the early approach to conflict which assumed that all conflict was bad and to be avoided. The conflict was treated negatively and discussed with such terms as violence, destruction, and irrationality to reinforce its negative implication.
The conflict was a dysfunctional outcome; resulting from poor communication, lack of transparency and trust between people, and the failure of managers to be responsive to the necessities and aspirations of their employees.
The view that all conflict is negative certainly offers a simple approach to looking at the behavior of people who create conflict.
We simply need to direct our attention to the causes of conflict, analyzing them and take measures to correct those malfunctions for the benefit of the group and organizational performance.
Conflict was seen as a dysfunctional outcome resulting from poor communication, a lack of openness and trust between people and the failures of the managers to be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the employee. Conflict could cause losses in productivity because groups would not cooperate in getting jobs finished and would not share important information. Too much conflict could also distract managers from their work and reduce their concentration on the job.
Thus, traditional writers had a very conservative view about conflict as they considered it totally bad and advocated that conflicts must be avoided, with the result that sometimes; there is a tendency to suppress conflict and push it under the rug. By ignoring the presence of conflict, we somehow try to wish it away.
Both the scientific management approach and the administrative school of management relied heavily on developing such organisational structures that would specify task, rules, regulations procedures and authority relationships so that if a conflict develops, then these inbuilt rules will identify and correct problems of such conflict. Thus, through proper management techniques and attention to the causes of conflict, it could be eliminated and organisational performance improved.
Human Relations View
The human relations view dominated the conflict theory from the late 1940s through the mid 1970s. The human relations view argued that conflict was a natural occurrence in all groups and organisations. Since conflict was inevitable, management should accept the conflict. This theory says that conflict is avoidable by creating an environment of goodwill and trust.
Human Relations view is also referred to as managed view. While the traditional view relates the conflicts with destruction and a negative impact and tries to ensure the removal of conflict, the human relations view acknowledges the existence of conflict in an organization. According to this view, in an organization, conflict is inevitable and natural. A conflict has the potential to have a positive impact on the performance of an organization. A conflict cannot be totally eradicated and there are times when this conflict may even benefit an organization.
The managers should accept the conflict and should try to manage it effectively instead of suppressing or totally eliminating it. They should not allow the conflict to increase more than a certain level and they should also not leave the conflict unresolved. This may lead toward the decrease in performance.
But still conflicts are bound to happen due to differences in opinions, faulty policies and procedures, lack of cooperation, allocation of resources which will lead to distortion and blockage in communication. Accordingly, management should always be concerned with avoiding conflict if possible and resolving it soon if possible, in the interests of the organisation and the individuals.
The third view which is also the latest view on conflict is called the interactionist view. According to this view, a conflict is mandatory for an organization’s better performance. A conflict helps an organization to cope with changes in a better way. This view encourages the conflicts based on the rationale that if there is no conflict in an organization, it may become stagnant, lethargic and non-responsive to needs for change and improvement.
Modern View Point, while the human relations view accepted conflict, the inter-actionist approach encourages conflict. This view is based on the belief that conflict is not only a positive force in a group but is also necessary for a group to perform effectively. This approach encourages conflict. According to it if the group is harmonious, peaceful and cooperative, it is prone to become static and non-responsive to the needs for change and innovation. Therefore, the group leader must allow some conflicts to happen in the group, so that the group may remain viable, self-critical and creative.
However, conflicts must be kept under control to avoid their dysfunctional consequences. The major contribution of the inter-actionist approach is encouraging group leaders to maintain an ongoing minimum level of conflict, enough to keep the group viable, self-critical and creative.
Thus, it becomes evident that to say conflict is all good or bad is in appropriate and naive. Whether a conflict is good or bad depends on the type of conflict. Specifically, it is necessary to differentiate between functional and dysfunctional aspects of conflict.
The interactionist view indicates that conflict is not only an encouraging force in a group but also an absolute necessity for a group to perform effectively.
While the human relations view accepted conflict, the interactionist view encourages conflicts because a harmonious, peaceful, tranquil, and cooperative group is prone to becoming static apathetic and non-responsive to needs for change in innovation.
So the major contribution of the interactionist view is encouraging group leaders to sustain an ongoing minimum level of conflict enough to keep the group viable, self-critical and inspired.