This naturally tends to exacerbate the tension and increase the potential for conflict; as with many competing visions and views there are bound to be differences of opinion and consequently conflict between different individuals." As a result many people in many organizations are forced to invent their own corporate vision. When you have different versions of goals, direction, and values among different individuals and groups, you increase the probability of unproductive conflict. " (Landau, Landau, and Landau 9)
An example given by Landau et al. illustrates this important point. The authors describe a situation where each individual working in a museum visualized the aims and goals of the institution differently.
One visualized the museum as primarily an educational institution, whereas the other saw its primary goal as entertainment. The business of the museum could not be carried out without the collaboration of these two officers, but unfortunately the difference in their views was a barrier to their cooperation. Their relationship quickly deteriorated and spread to members of their respective staffs. Eventually members of the board became concerned and put pressure on the CEO to resolve the conflict.
Landau, Landau, and Landau 10)
Within any organization there are different groups with different responsibilities. This also means that there can be differences and opposition between these various groups.
An example is as follows: "Sales people want to sell as much as they can, and their job is made easier if the product can be customized and the price kept low. Production managers want to keep costs low, and this is best accomplished through long runs of similar items. Finance wants the sales to be profitable, so the price cannot be too low." (Landau, Landau, and Landau 10)
All of these different aspirations and goals can lead to conflict and tension between the various groups
This point is similar in some ways to the problem of unclear vision. In this case management may not make the responsibilities of individuals and groups clear enough. This can subsequently lead to problems of misinterpretation and overlapping areas of responsibility and conflict. Overlapping areas of responsibly are almost inevitable to a certain extent in large organizations. This aspect is therefore an important point to consider when dealing with minimizing conflict and ways of conflict management.
Communication is one of the essential factors in most forms of conflict management.
A breakdown in communication is also one of the central reasons and factors for the development of conflict within the workplace and between individuals. The subject of interpersonal communicators is a field on its own and there are extensive and wide-ranging views on this topic.
It is however a simple fact that people, "...act on the basis of their understanding of the information available to them." (Landau, Landau, and Landau 12) it is also another fact of life that information is not always clearly shared among the working staff in many organizations. This can lead not only to misunderstandings and conflicts but can also be a serious impediment to the positive atmosphere and workflow in an organization. "Conflict arises because people act on information in ways that others do not understand and therefore misinterpret. "(Landau, Landau, and Landau 12)
An issue that is essential for the understanding of dissention and conflict within the working environment where there are a number of people is the existence of power struggles for status or position within the organization. The mediator in conflict management should therefore be aware of the various underlying power struggles which may be the real source of the conflict and may not be openly admitted by members of staff. This aspect refers to what is commonly called "office politics." rather humorous but nevertheless insightful view of office politics can be observed in television programs like the Office, where underlying power struggles and jealousy are shown to be a major part in office conflict.
Organizations are usually hierarchical in structure. Position and status within the hierarchy often determine and are central to the politics and functioning of the organization.
An understanding of this aspect is also essential for effective conflict management.
Position in the hierarchy conveys the power to affect how things get done, so people with agendas and ambition covet key positions. These people quite naturally view their colleagues as potential roadblocks to their careers. Thus people behave competitively when they should be cooperating in the corporate interest. Management often encourages such competitive tendencies out of a belief in natural selection.
Landau, Landau, and Landau 16
Organization Structure and Procedures
The organization structure itself can cause conflict. Structure refers to the fact that relationships between people are often formalized and people with different views and opinions may be 'thrown together' and expected to work in close proximity. In other words, people with opposing or ambiguous responsibilities may have to "rub points... that cause raw wounds." (Landau, Landau, and Landau 17) Therefore, in determining ways of reducing or minimizing conflict in an organization, the aspect to structure and the way that relationships are formalized by this structure is an essential point that needs to be taken into account. As Landau et al. suggest:
Perhaps a structure was designed to take advantage of the strengths of a particular individual, or to compensate for someone's weaknesses, or to keep two incompatible people apart. Those people may no longer even be in the organization. Whatever the reasons, there is a saying: "If you put good people in a bad organization structure, the bad structure will win."
Landau, Landau, and Landau 17)
Perception vs. reality
Another basic but crucial aspect that has been shown to create and engender conflict and misunderstanding in organizations is the difference in the way that the reality of a certain situation perceived. This applies equally to interpersonal relationships and to personal conflict. "Sometimes our perceptions are accurate, and sometimes they are not. When it comes to conflict, reality is not nearly as important as perception." (Landau, Landau, and Landau 17) This is an extremely important aspect that mediators and those involved in conflict management should be aware of in the effort to reduce and minimize conflict.
Different forms of workforce diversity
Research has shown that workforce is becoming more diverse. (Landau, Landau, and Landau 22) This can be seen in the increasing number of women in the workforce in the last few decades. " Women now make up about 40% of the North American workforce, with increasing representation in management and other nontraditional roles." (Landau, Landau, and Landau 22)
Gender differences and variations in perception between men and women are often a cause of misunderstanding leading to conflict. Furthermore most societies place different social expectations on men and women, which is another issuer that has to be taken into account when developing conflict management strategies.
There are also other forms of diversity in the workplace which can be the catalyst for differing opinions and potential conflict. One of these is age diversity. It is a well- known fact that people are today working longer and even past their retirement dates. Older people may have different views and opinions, which may conflict with those in younger age groups. "Corporate loyalty, long-term employment, job security, and pension benefits are likely more important to older workers than to the generations that follow. However, many younger people seem to want less structure and more informal dress; many prefer to work from home." (Landau, Landau, and Landau 22)
Another aspect that has come to the fore in recent years is difference in ethnicity and cultural background in the workplace. This can present a problem for conflict management as different nationalities and ethnic groups may have divergent views and perceptions and this tends to complicate the issue of minimizing conflict. The situation has also been exacerbated by the increase of the immigrant population in the country since the end of the last century.
Figure 1. Numbers of Unauthorized Foreign-Born in the United States, 1980-2005
Another factor to consider is that globalization has also increased the national and cultural diversity in the workplace. (Landau, Landau, and Landau 22) "People of different cultures, genders, ages, and professions may have different attitudes toward work and family, equality