Effect of Conflict Management Style on Outcome in a Competitive Workplace

Respond to Annalise
The general premise of the article “An Exploratory Study Into the Causes of Conflict and
the Effect of Conflict Management Style on Outcome in a Competitive Workplace” is that
conflict should not always be considered to be negative. If the right conflict management
style or combination of styles is used to resolve or address a conflict then the outcome can
potentially result in very positive long run effects on an organization (Zia & Syed, 2013).
The authors set out to examine various causes of conflict, measures taken and responses
exhibited by those that the conflict affects, structural approaches used to manage the
conflict, and the outcomes of the style of management applied to resolve the conflict (Zia &
Syed, 2013). The subjects of the study were employed by an international private secondary
school with four major campuses divided into 10 distinct branches. The organization had a
complex chain of command and a multilevel hierarchy including administrators, school
heads, deputy heads, headmaster/mistresses, and teaching staff. Data was collected through
first hand observation of employee interactions in staff rooms, resource rooms,
laboratories, classrooms and corridors. Interviews were also conducted with staff and open
ended questions were used frequently to prompt the sharing of thoughts and feelings about
the effects of the conflict (Zia & Syed, 2013).
Five major conflicts were identified within the organization, each of them prompting the
adoption of a different style of conflict management and approach to resolving the conflict;
outcomes varied. Two of the conflicts, duties and workload allocations and salary increase
attached to performance appraisal, resulted when employees did not feel a high level of
distributive or procedural justice (Zia & Syed, 2013). When additions were made to some
employee task sets and not others, those taking on more work felt the distribution of work
was unfair. When various degrees of pay raises were achieved based on annual
performance appraisals workers receiving lower raises disagreed with the rules and felt the
procedures used to determine raises were unjust (McShane & Von Glinow, 2013). In both
types of conflict the organization used an avoidance style of management and approached
the conflict by trying to divert employees focus to setting new goals and directing their
attention to projects needing immediate consideration (Zia & Syed, 2013). Additional
distractions were created by planning group activities both at work and away from work in
an attempt to improve team camaraderie. Unfortunately the conflict related to
performance appraisal will likely occur over and over as performance reviews are
completed annually and will likely spark repeated employee upset. This might be
considered a cyclical conflict.
A third cause of conflict resulted from a difference in values. Following public praise of an
employee by a Head at a staff meeting, employees become the victims of ridicule by
coworkers. Like the first two conflicts discussed, this type of conflict also solicited an
avoidance style of management however the approach to conflict resolution was to reduce
differentiation between employees (Zia & Syed, 2013). Conflict was dissolved by again
turning the focus on other more important tasks while some level of acceptance was
adopted by those initiating the ridicule.
The fourth chronic cause of conflict within the organization was that of miscommunication
as gossip and misinformation were flowing freely due to the competitive nature of the

employees. Management approached this conflict with additional work on team building to
improve effective communication and reduce differentiation (Zia & Syed, 2013). Some of
these conflicts were quickly resolved while others resulted in more serious grievances that
had negative long term impact on employee relationships and team success.
Competition for scarce resources was the fifth major conflict identified by the authors. This
particular conflict seemed to be best managed by this organization compared to the other
four. Employees were accommodating to one another and chose to share limited resources
for the common good. They yielded to the needs of others and were able to compromise
(McShane & Von Glinow, 2013). Management quickly recognized the need to react and
increased resources to better support their staff. This cooperative and collaborative effort
prevented wasting time in conflict and created stronger interpersonal relationships within
the organization (Zia & Syed, 2013). By adopting a problem solving and compromising
style to handle this conflict, the organization created a positive outcome for all involved
(McShane & Von Glinow, 2013).
Overall it seems that the avoidance style of conflict management is counterproductive.
Although the conflict is reduced or appears to be eliminated temporarily, these outcomes
are short lived and the conflict will likely resurface over time. The examples of conflict
related to employee appraisals and employee ridicule produce a cyclical conflict.
Occurrences will happen time and time again if there are not fundamental changes to the
route cause of the conflict. Alternate styles of problem solving, yielding and compromising
are more prone to creating high levels of employee engagement and longer term solutions
that are productive and beneficial to the organization.
McShane, S.L. & Von Glinow, M.A. (2013) Organizational behavior: emerging knowledge.
global reality. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill.
Zia, Y., & Syed, P. (2013). An exploratory study into the causes of conflict and the effect of
conflict management style on outcome in a competitive workplace. Journal of Managerial
Sciences, 7(2), 299-315.

Respond to Analysis

Conflict can be said to be disagreement between people or organizations that bring about
disharmony among them. Due to different personality types of people found in organizations,
cases of conflict are likely to occur now and then in the workplace. There are varieties of factors
that bring about conflicts such as conflict on resources, on goals, on perceptions, on values or on
roles (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn, 2003). They occur because one party feels violated by

another. They issue we should put to mind is not who is to blame for the conflict but rather what
is the cause of the conflict and what is the best possible way to resolve it.
The conflicts found in the private school study, represent the common conflicts that are to
be found in most workplaces. The school study revealed five areas of conflict for instance
workload conflict, salary increment policy, differing values, miscommunication and competition
for scarce resources. Most of the conflicts were ignored by management but the one on scarce
resources was resolved by allowing the employees to solve it in the way they saw best.
There are many techniques used in conflict resolution. Some common ones include the
collaboration technique where a win-win approach is used. The goal is to provide the best
solution for both parties. Another technique is the compromise technique where the goal is to
ensure that conflicting parties win in some objectives but also lose out on others. There is the
accommodating technique where one party chooses to lose in favour of the other. The avoidance
technique consists of no approach being taken and the conflict is just ignored and wished away.
The avoidance technique is used when management does not seem to see substantial
reasons of why the conflict exists in the first place or they see that it is beyond their capacity to
manage. They thus resolve to remain neutral and not get involved. In this case, management in
the workload, salary increments, and differing values used this technique. Management here took
the right approach, as employees will always complain about salary increments and workload.
As long as the firm has a policy on these issues i.e. job descriptions and salary increments, there
is not much that can be done about it as the employee signed to adhere to these rules when he
took up the job. The conflict on differing values was a one-off issue and the best approach was to
ignore it.

The conflict on scarce resources is solved by the accommodation technique where the
employees decided to share what was available as most likely it did not affect or compromise
their output or productivity in a big way – the opportunity cost was minimal. The collaboration
approach taken by management of increasing resources available to employees was a good
approach as employees felt their concerns are taken into account. This created a win-win
approach where the employees felt satisfied and the employer felt it was taking care of its
Lastly, there was the miscommunication conflict and this was solved by using the
compromise technique. Grapevine in the workplace is always present and cannot be eliminated
entirely. This was the best approach in this case as it solved the key communication problems of
the organization i.e. team building, improved effective communication and reduction in
differentiation (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn, 2003). This technique manages to have a give
and take effect so there were both gains and losses for both parties.
Conflict resolution is a sensitive process and time-bound as what may seem right then
will seem wrong tomorrow. All in all conflicts are not bad things but merely situations that
reveal to organizations, areas or practices that may need to be changed, improved or done away



Schermerhorn, J., Hunt, J., & Osborn, J. (2003).Organizational Behavior, 8 th Edition. John Wiley
& Sons, New York

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