Conflict Management in Human Resources Management

The study of conflicts dates back to the 1920s with the development of psychoanalysis, according to which the basis of conflicts in the individual is the contradiction between sexuality and sexual norms (in society).

Later, issues related to the conflict between the activity and the environment are included. Eg Levin analyzes the conflict of everyday life in children’s lives. According to him, a conflict situation is one in which forces with the opposite direction and approximately equal force act on the individual. Reference: “Human resource management (HRM) as a theory“,

On this basis, Levin distinguishes 4 types of conflict situations:

1) When two forces with a positive charge act in opposite directions (there is a conflict between the two motives – which of the two equally desirable things to choose);

2) Forces with an equal negative charge;

3) Forces with opposite charges act, but the conditions require that the negative force be preferred (eg between “fear” and “desire” we usually succumb to fear);

4) Double attractive forces act simultaneously with a positive and negative charge (eg “prestige” and “fear”).

With the development of social psychology, it is noticed that conflicts are a widespread phenomenon with specific features, which in most cases negatively affect behavior. However, with the appropriate intervention, the excessive energy consumption in the conflict can be directed in a more useful direction. Reference: “Implementation of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,

Research on the causes of conflicts in organizations

Research into the causes of conflict is increasing and there is talk of a special scientific discipline – “conflict studies”, which analyzes various aspects of social contradictions.

The development of research on conflicts begins with the so-called. internal (personal) conflicts (eg between motives) and later the emphasis is on external conflicts (interpersonal and intergroup). At the heart of this type of conflict are the contradictions between the goals, interests, and motives of individuals or groups. Reference: “Evolution of the concept of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,

As a result of the conflict situation, a struggle ensues in which one person or group “wins”. External conflict arises, for example, when there is a conflict between the requirements of the environment and the capabilities of the individual. In work, there may be a contradiction between the requirements of the work task (or social role) and the capabilities of the Self. Fisher e.g. considers conflicts between the performance of two tasks or two roles.

The conflict has a hidden inner side, but in an appropriate situation, the existing internal contradiction becomes apparent. Reference: “Development of the Human Resources Management (HRM) concept“,

The causes of the conflict

The reasons for the conflict can be:
– in the situation itself;
– in the person himself.

There are 5 approaches to conflict research:

1. Formalized interpretations of the characteristics of interpersonal conflict within a particular theory (most often – decision theory or game theory).

2. Functional approach – the emphasis is placed on the functions of the conflict, and the constructive and destructive functions of the conflict are analyzed.

3. The so-called social approach – focuses on the social aspects of the situation in which the conflict takes place. Reference: “Objectives of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,

4. Psychological approach (personal, biological) – focuses on the human personality, even on some biological factors as causes of conflict, which characterize the course and resolution of the conflict. However, the social aspect is often overlooked.

5. The so-called interactive approach – takes into account the two main moments in the conflict: a) the presence of a conflict situation; b) the peculiarities of the personality. He considers them in close interaction. This approach finds the widest practical application in conflict analysis.

Conflict theories

An example of the first approach is Kenneth Balding’s The Abstract Model. He attempts to statically and dynamically model conflict and through mathematical tools (borrowed from game theory) offers the study of personal and interpersonal conflicts.

Uses concepts from behaviorism – basic are e.g. “behavioral unit” (a whole that can have different states and at the same time – common identity and boundaries) and “behavioral space” (the state of the “behavioral unit” for a certain period).

Balding presents the conflict process in a specific context as a fixation on a specific state of the real observable components that make it up. According to him, in the interaction between two or more behavioral units (both individuals and groups), which have their own behavioral space, at some point, there is tension and movement in the common field between the two spaces.

This movement leads to the improvement of the positions of one of the parties in the interaction at the expense of the other. Conflict arises, but its directions can be two: 1) conflict direction; 2) direction of cooperation.

Rapoport’s theory is similar. He distinguishes several types of conflicts: 1) type of “battle”; 2) type of “game”; 3) type of “debate”. Analyzes the behavior in them and seek to create a quantitative expression of the usefulness of all possible outcomes. Distinguishes conflict from the competition, which is a logarithmic conflict (with rules). He later created rules for resolving conflicts.

According to Touzard, the conflict cannot be described in psychological terms alone. There is not always hostility and aggression in the conflict. And it is not always characteristic only of impulsive and aggressive personalities.

Deutsch has the “trust-suspicion” theory. It is useful for conflict management. The various causes and factors for conflicts are analyzed, as well as ways to overcome them. This theory is useful mainly in systematizing the conditions for avoiding conflict. Eg The main hypothesis is that the individual’s belief in the goodwill of the partner increases according to several factors: a) the benefit received from the partner; (b) the frequency of previous attempts at benefit; c) the confidence in the ease of action of others; d) the belief in the favorable outcome of communication.

Recently, there has been a growing interest in specific manifestations of interpersonal contradictions in work: interpersonal incompatibility and resistance to the introduction of new technologies.

Kenneth Kielen analyzes the issue of economic personal and social contradictions in the process of innovation. Such solutions to the conflict are proposed in which both sides win.

Peters and Waterman e.g. recommend intensive communication to overcome difficulties and contradictions in organizations.


External causes of conflicts in organizations

The following are external causes of conflicts in organizations:

1. Working conditions.
2. The organization of work.
3. Payment.
4. The distribution of tasks.
5. Attestation and evaluation.
6. The distribution of equipment.
7. The choice of workplace.

In most cases, the reasons are objectively existing and are a real precondition for contradictions. Often, however, the reasons are inadequate leadership style or personal parameters (such as inadequate perception of the situation, unrealistic assessment, contradiction in the goals of the individual and the organization, etc.).

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