Change and conflict are some of the manager's current challenges. This thesis tries to inquire into the change processes and managers response to conflicts that arise as a result of change resistance. The manifestation of conflict and the impact of conflict are also discussed. The thesis also looks into the different theories formulated to explain change process and their relationship to conflict management. Also covered is the way decision makers can mitigate conflict and bring sanity in their organizations.
Today's managers are faced with the trade off between change and conflict. Change has become an irresistible part of organization and managers must therefore come up withy strategies and policies of managing change in an order to reduce conflict that may hinder the performance and also to reduce performance gap.
Conflict is bound to occur when different individuals have different perception, opinion, ideas and thought. Change and conflicts are two things that unfold at the same time. Change is indispensable in any organization that aspires to attain its objectives and the management must strive to ensure that change is realized in a manner that leads the organization to success (Paton, Paton, & McCalman, 2008). Various names have been given to the term like reengineering, transformation, restructuring and right sizing but what remains is that all of them represents change. Change can be defined as the alteration of the status quo. Others may define change as the creation of new structures and processes with the intention of achieving better results (Paton, Paton, & McCalman, 2008). The driving force for change is the realization of performance gap i.e. When an organization realizes that it can achieve higher results, it restructures in order to maximize its turnover.
On the other hand conflict can be defined as the clashing of opinions and the incompatibility of the wishes and needs of individuals to frustrate him/her (Vliert & Kabanoff, 1990). It may also be defined as disagreement opposing behavior or antagonisms between people. Conflict begins when one party begins to feel that the other is frustrating or about Conflict must be experienced in all organization as participants have diverse and conflicting opinions in similar matter. What is of importance is how a manager deals with the conflict in order to avoid it becoming personal and hindering the organizational performance. Conflict creates tension and causes suspicion that may lead to the disintegration of an organization and can adversely result in underproduction (Humphreys, 2005). In as much as can be viewed negatively, there is no time in which no element of conflict can be absent in an organization.
There are various levels of conflict. The first is the intra-individual conflict that occurs when there is opposing sub-system within a person. It may be caused by stress that arises from response to the environment. The next level of conflict is the interpersonal conflict that arises when there are differences between individuals as a result of different opinions or thoughts. The last level of conflict is the inter-group conflict. This level is characterized by differences between groups of people who collectively interact with one another. The three levels of conflict remains the challenge that management must overcome for organizational objective to be accomplished (Kotter, 1995). The positive part of conflict is that it enables an organization to come up with new ideas thus making it a source of creativity. Managers and administrators therefore stand a test of making a tradeoff between change and conflict (Paton, Paton, & McCalman, 2008). The performance of the organization is therefore pegged on how well the trade off is realized.
No organization can exist without changing their processes, structures, management and products in order to suit the market demand (Humphreys, 2005). Managers realize that change is needed when they see an opportunity of increasing their results. Organization change is either planned or unplanned. Planned change is aimed at increasing the efficiency and effective of the organization whereas unplanned change is caused by the ever changing and unpredictable external environment. Planned change is can also be described as pro-active change and forced change can be called the reactive change as the organization reacts to the changing circumstances.
There are two sources of organization change: internal factors/endogenous factors and external/exogenous factors. Internal factors are those that are within the organization power to influence i.e. increasing the number of employees, expanding operations or even increasing the numbers of suppliers and products (Kindler, 2005). Internal factors for change leads to planned change and managers are always capable of controlling or limiting the conflicts that arise from these factors to avoid the trouble of decreasing the returns of an organization.
The external factors on the contrary are as a result of the unpredictable, turbulent and uncontrollable external environment. External environment consist of the factors like competition, legislation changes, government, technology and changes in the societal needs. These factors cause the greatest problem to managers and are always resisted given that their timing and impacts may not be conceptualized by the management (Vliert & Kabanoff, 1990). External factors are responsible for the collapse of many organizations. Employees are bound to resist most of the decisions that arise as a result of the external factors and may try to sabotage the managers' decisions.
Irrespective of the source of change, organizations must come up with strategies that are aimed at ensuring their continued existence and penetration in the market. Conceptual skills rather than technical knowledge must thus be applied when coming up with the decisions. Most of these change decisions are intended to ensure that organizations adapt and survive (Knudsen, 2003). In a bid to minimize the conflicts that arise from the change process, various theories have been formulated to explain the change process.
The first theory by Kurt Lewis describes the three phases of change management. The first phase is the stage of unfreezing the unrequited behavior. At this stage the managers' interest is discouraging the current behavior by attempting to explain to the employees the consequences of such action (Kotter, 1995). Second phase is the changing stage where the organization introduces the new expectation and explains the requirements for change process to be further achieved. It is also at this stage that the organization continues to discourage the company's norms and unnecessary trends. Last is the refreezing stage. At this stage the concern is to ensure the employees adapt and continue to abide by the new and required norms and standards. In the process new culture and practices is instilled in the organization. When change is introduced in this manner, the organization is able to minimize the resistance that is likely to arise in the work place and avoid hindering the performance (Kindler, 2005).
The other theory of change process is the Mintberg four phase model. In this model the first phase entails the identification of the need for change followed by the identification of the alternatives. The third stage is the evaluation of the alternative with an objective of choosing the best course of action. The final phase is the implementation stage where the alternative picked is put into action. There is also the Greiners six phase model. The model commences with pressure on the management. Due to this an outsider will intervene to bring at one point the diverse opinions. The next stage in this model is the fact finding exercise where all stakeholders are involved with an intention of finding the real problem. After the fact finding exercise is the innovation and commitment phase where the outsider together with the relevant parties comes up with the problem solving strategy which is then experimented. At the experimental stage, the resolution is implemented in small scale before the final implementation in the whole organization. All this change processes move from these stages in order to create awareness and implement the change process in a gradual manner to reduce organizational conflict.
There are three ways of change management; authoritative, consultative and participative ways (Knudsen, 2003). The authoritarian way is where the management just comes up with the ideas and reads to the subordinate for them to implement. In the consultative model, the opinion of the subordinate is sought but the final decision rests with the managers. Finally, the participative way is where the subordinates are involved in the change process and take part in the decision making.
The second model of change management by Handy is that change cannot be managed but can be cultivated within the individuals. This model is in tandem with the participative approach of change model where all stakeholders are brought on board. This models argues that when the support staff are involved in the change process they get the feeling that the decision is theirs and are therefore not in a position of criticizing their own decisions hence minimizing conflict. It is majorly used by the participative management style users.
What human beings need to realize is that change is continuous and irresistible when its time has come and that at…