job of the CEO of a company is to show leadership not just when everything is going smoothly but when there is conflict, when there is uncertainty, and when the organizational situation enters into a situation with complexities that are new and unsettling. This paper references the existing scholarly literature in terms of providing ideas, strategies -- to be used as organizational tools -- that are available to the alert, competent CEO.
"Organizations are increasingly subject to conflicting demands imposed by their institutional environments. This makes compliance impossible to achieve, because satisfying some demands requires defying others… [what is needed is a] more precise model of organizational response that takes into account intraorganizational political processes…"
(Pache Essec, et al., 2010, p. 455).
Conflict Resolution Strategies and Organizational Citizenship Behavior
Samuel O. Salami (University of Ibadan, Nigeria) explains that in order to resolve conflicts, some organizations need counseling by organizational psychologists in order that the proper role of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has a presence. The story that Salami tells is that due to the restructuring and reorganization of public projects in Nigeria -- and the organizational changes that resulted from those projects -- a "retrenchment" of "many workers" took place (Salami, 76). The retrenchment had what Salami calls "…grave psychological consequences" for the workers that were laid off and those who survived the "restructuring" (think downsizing).
The author provides five potential strategies for resolving this conflict: confronting or collaborating; withdrawing/avoiding; forcing/competing; smoothing; and compromising (77). The two strategies that offer the most hope for a positive outcome are confronting/collaborating and compromising, Salami reports, but what must not be left behind is the concept of emotional intelligence. Trait EI, as a tool for a CEO, is: a) the "ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion"; b) the ability to "access and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought"; c) the ability to "understand emotion and emotional knowledge"; and the ability to "regulate emotions" in order to promote intellectual and emotional growth (Salami, 78). Hence, if the CEO is property trained (along with qualified managers) in EI tools, he or she can certainly help individuals adjust to the conflicts resulting from the disruption and negative emotions from downsizing (whether it be in Nigeria or Norfolk, Virginia.
The Influence of Relational Maintenance Strategies Among Coworkers
This study references the phrase "relational maintenance behaviors," which refers not just to the behaviors between coworkers but to the maintenance of positive dynamics therein (Madlock, et al., 2012, p. 22). One of the salient points here is that workers "interpersonal needs" can be provided simply through good communication at work. In fact there are some scholars who believe relational maintenance "messages" are exchanged by some workers in order to "fulfill interpersonal needs" (Madlock, 22).
Given the right tools to understand and encourage positive relational maintenance behaviors among his or her employees, a CEO will have a leg up on a better work culture. Madlock asserts that the relational maintenance in the workplace "…needs to be expanded beyond the supervisor-subordinate" to include all workers. All this is based on the "theory of interpersonal needs (Shutz, 1958, 1966), which posits that: a) workers need to include others in activities, and to be included themselves; b) workers have the need to "control others and be controlled"; and c) workers need to give affection to others, and in return they expect and need to get affection from others (Madlock, 24-25). Managers who understand those dynamics are likely to be more helpful in fostering those rational maintenance strategies for the health of the company.
Organized Justice and Perceptions of Conflict Management
In the journal Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, researcher Habib Ozgan discusses a study using 212 teachers from 46 high schools in Gaziantep, Turkey; the purpose of the study was to determine the organizational confidence that the teachers had for their managers. A key element in the results of the survey involved whether a sense of "organizational justice" was present in the schools. The succinct results of this survey are as follows: a) the organizational commitment of the teachers relates directly to the strategies teachers see used in "…conflict management, organizational justice, organizational confidence," and the positive or negative evaluation of the manager in charge; and b) the organizational confidence of the teachers depended upon the evaluation of the manager and the manager's strategies of conflict management, organizational justice, organizational commitment and organizational confidence (Ozgan, 2011, p. 243).
The bottom line in terms of tools that need to be available for a supervisor: when the rules are applied fairly, and when trust is established (through organizational commitment to honesty and openness), a positive relationship exists between teachers and their supervisors.
Repairing Relationships Within and Between Organizations
The repair of work relationships is the focus of a peer-reviewed article in the Academy of Management Review (Dirks, et al., 2008). As background to this study on repairing relationships, the authors point to the fact that "…over half of employees do not trust the leaders of their organizations" and that "…worldwide trust in companies and governments is near a low point" (Dirks, 68). The authors suggest that there have been numerous research projects zeroing in on the problem of conflict in relationships, but not as much study has gone into how to repair those relationships.
It is no secret that trust is violated when there is a "transgression" on the part of one individual within an organization's dynamics; in fact when the transgression occurs, the individual that was offended or hurt in some way "…forms inferences about the future behavior of the party" and "positive expectations disappear" only to be replace by negative expectations (Dirks, 70). Moreover, negative emotions result from the transgression (frustration, outrage and anger), and retribution (revenge) is always a possibility for the individual that has been offended or hurt in some way. How does that harmed relationship become healthy again? How is the trust rebuilt?
Dirks asserts that it is important to reestablish the workplace "equilibrium" between the two by somehow restoring the "relative standing of the parties" (to a point they were before); the "norms" that are the governing ethics (the expected behaviors) for all employees (through "various rituals") must be restored as well as they possibly can (72). This means that some "straightforward exchanges" between the two conflicting parties must be arranged (and even supervised), Dirks continues (72). Trust repair involves more than just forgiveness for the act that caused the schism, Dirks explains; if the transgression was related to competence, it is easier to mend the relationship, but it the transgression involved integrity, structures must be put in place to "prevent negative behaviors" in the future.
These structures can only be put in place (through leadership) by first learning which structures are needed in which situations in the workplace. It's not a cut and dried issue, and it means the CEO should be adopting tools that recognize which of the transgressions are due to a lack of integrity and which are due to a lack of competence. Because, as noted, transgressions due to integrity issues may well spill over into other aspects of the relationship, and may indeed spill over into others in the workplace (Dirks, 75).
Challenging the Norm of Self-Interest
Adam M. Grant and Shefali V. Patil -- professors at the University of Pennsylvania -- present a scholarly article related to the tendency of some work units to develop "…norms of self-interest" that can inhibit cooperation (Grant, et al., 2012, p. 547). These norms of self-interest may come about because "task interdependence is low," which is to say there is an absence of "helping behaviors" between employees (Grant, 547). Helping in the workplace after all is a way in which many positive things take place: "interpersonal harmony"; the building and maintaining of positive relationships; cooperative efforts that lead to task completion (Grant, 547). And the helping behaviors include: "offering care and support to coworkers with personal problems"; "performing favors"; "expressing compassion in response to pain and suffering"; and simply "cooperating with peers" (Grant, 547). But, when these helping behaviors decline or are gone for any reason, the norm of self-interest creeps in, according to Grant.
It is difficult to break down the self-interest norm when it takes hold, Grant continues on page 548. It becomes a matter of "I'm looking out for me," rather than the altruism that had existed before. How does a work group break out of the self-interest mode? Grant asserts that the best possible outcome is for group members to handle the repair themselves. After all, uncertainty leads bright group members to "search for explanations, make attributions, and resolve doubt" (Grant, 550). This in turn leads to challenging other group members to "develop a new logic of appropriateness," Grant continues.
People in groups feel guilty vicariously due to the actions of others in their group; and when members do feel guilty they are very likely to "avoid future feelings of guilt by increasing their levels of helping" (Grant, 552). Hence,…