Why does Mark Gorkin, in "Stress Doc" define conflict the way that he does?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Mark Gorkin's article in Stressdoc.com titled "Creative Conflict: working to Find the Pass in The Impasse", describes conflict as

the friction that builds when two or more people clash over facts, short-term goals, enduring values and the status of their relationship(s).

This means that conflict is not necessarily a sign of overall negativity, but merely the realistic dynamics that take place everyday in normal life, where two individuals see things from different points of view, according to the way in which they have interacted with their immediate environments. The result is what is called the "impasse", or the blockage where nobody wants to cede reason to the opposite viewpoint.

Gorking further defines conflict as

...the struggle over resources and methods for defining and achieving these contested facts, goals, values and status positions.

Within the business framework this is very much the truth: in a field where all the resources are available, the business world can actually pick and choose tools, resources, alternatives, and items to work with. The availability of resources (and when business is not good, the need to find productivity within a budget) is essential to the accomplishment to the goal of the organization. Moreover, choosing the right tools, the right approaches, and the right strategies is what will ultimately redefine the value of the organization.

The important thing is to keep in mind that when there is conflict the organization is the reason for that conflict and, therefore, the organization maintains the central focus of attention of the people within it. Power struggles result from the want of applying new strategies and methods while maintaining control. Ultimately, the want for transformation and change are the ultimate goals of conflict; a good leader will know how to divert negative attention and transform it into something constructive and positive. Also, a good leader will know how to understand the positive things that can come out of conflict so that the energy can be directed toward the accomplishment of the vision and the mission of the group.

Basically Gorkin insists that something that most people like to avoid which is conflict and confrontation can actually bring out lots of information from the workplace:

  • the inner traits of co-workers and employees
  • the actual atmosphere of the workplace
  • the tone of the group
  • real versus unrealistic concerns
  • the possibility of factions
  • whether the overall group is united
  • who is who in the workplace "foodchain"
  • what are your limits as far as conflict comes.

So in all, conflict can certainly be used for something productive and positive.

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