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QuestionAre conflicts are inevitable and necessary in a business?
AnswerConflict in the context of a business can be defined in different ways, and it can occur for different reasons, in different places, and at different levels of intensity, making it very difficult to support or refute sweeping generalisations. Conflict is traditionally seen as a negative factor that should be avoided because it inhibits good teamwork. It is impossible to eliminate all possible sources of interpersonal, inter-departmental or inter-organisational conflict in a business, however, and so it is true that a certain amount of conflict is inevitable in a business. It has been argued that not all organisations are integrated and harmonious, and that conflict can sometimes be helpful, because it “can be an agent for evolution and internal and external change” (Mullins, p. 85). Individuals within an organisation might see things differently, identify problematic or unfair issues, or disagree about strategy. In such cases, conflict might be an opportunity to make some tacit assumptions more explicit, and review the direction of the business, resulting eventually in positive changes that restore harmony, and improve aspects of the business as well. If managed constructively, then conflict can help a business to avoid the dangers of ‘Groupthink’ and forge innovation (Eisenhardt, Kahwajy and Bourgeois, 1997). Some managers intentionally encourage conflict because they see it necessary for bringing about fast and radical change, even if it means upsetting some people and disrupting parts of the business (Brooks, 2008). If taken too far, or if personal animosity is involved, however, such a strategy can destabilise the business. In summary, then, some conflict is inevitable, and some conflict may even be necessary, but conflict is by no means always a positive feature. Above all, it must be well managed if it is to bring positive rather than negative outcomes to the business concerned.
ReferencesBrooks, I. (2008) Organisational Behaviour: Individuals, Groups and Organisation. Fourth edition. Harlow: Pearson Education. Eisenhardt, K. M., Kahwajy, J. L. and Bourgeois, L. J. (1997) How management teams can have a good fight. Harvard Business Review 75, pp. 77-86. Mullins, L. J. (2016) Management and Organisational Behaviour. Eleventh edition. Harlow: Pearson Education.
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