Managing Conflict Within Organizations through Negotiations Research Paper Starter

Managing Conflict Within Organizations through Negotiations

(Research Starters)

This article will focus on negotiation. Negotiation, as a tool of conflict management and conflict resolution in modern business organizations, will be described and analyzed in the following sections. The article will provide an overview of organizational conflict and conflict management. The role of conflict manager will be described. The article will include discussion and analysis of the main models, tactics, and strategies for negotiation. Integrative and distributive approaches to negotiation will be addressed.

Keywords Conflict Management; Conflict Resolution; Distributive; Integrative; Negotiation; Organizational Conflict

Management: Managing Conflict within Organizations through Negotiations


Negotiation, which refers to the process of bargaining preceding an agreement, is part of a larger process of managing conflict within organizations. While this article focuses on business negotiations, negotiation should be understood as a central and fundamental conflict resolution and management tool used by individuals, governments, and businesses alike. Negotiation skills, used to manage interpersonal, inter-group, inter-organizational, and international conflict, are crucial for participation in the modern business world. Organizational conflict and organizational change, and related negotiation mechanisms and tools for managing these processes, are characteristic of current business practices across businesses and industries.

Changes in contemporary business practices are causing the role of negotiation in business to evolve from conflict resolution to conflict management. In the twenty-first century, private sector organizations are increasingly moving from traditional authoritative, hierarchical structures to cooperative, team-based structures. The new team-based model of organizations, dependent upon cooperation and functioning work relationships, requires high-level knowledge of negotiation skills, conflict management skills, and mediation tactics. This structural change is occurring in large part as a result of globalization and its related processes as well as the Internet and related technologies. Businesses and industries are increasingly transnational, decentralized operations. Goods and services may be produced in one region and sold in another. Telecommuting is a common work choice made in businesses with virtual rather than brick and mortar headquarters and stores. The increased pace of technological development and innovation requires businesses to become learning organizations to remain competitive in the marketplace. Cooperative management and participatory problem solving, both requiring negotiation skills, are common in team-based, decentralized business organizations. Furthermore, a culture that includes conflict as creative tension but not as a destructive force is an element of successful team-based organizations (Boni & Weingart, 2012).

Negotiation, as a tool of conflict management in modern business organizations, will be described and analyzed in this article. The following sections provide an overview of organizational conflict and conflict management. These sections will serve as the foundation for a discussion and analysis of negotiation, mediation, and the relationship between negotiation and conflict management.

Organizational Conflict

Organizational conflict, which refers to an interactive process manifested in incompatibility, disagreement, or dissonance within or between social entities, creates organizational change. Types of conflict include interpersonal, inter-group, inter-organizational, and international conflict. Conflict is a social process. Contextual antecedents, such as individual, team, project, and organizational characteristics, influence and may exacerbate conflict (Barki & Hartwick, 2001). The conflict process can be positive or negative. Functional conflict creates positive change within the organization. Dysfunctional conflict creates negative change within the organization. Organizational conflict can arise from problems within work activities as well as incompatible preferences and goals.

Singleton, Toombs, Taneja, Larkin, and Pryor (2011) suggest that definitions of conflict will differ depending on the level of volatility, or perceived volatility, in the conflict. In the least volatile realm, the word conflict implies dissention, disagreement, opposition, and lack of consensus among two or more people. In the most volatile realm, the implication is associated animosity, anger, antagonistic words and/or behavior, and increasing levels of frustration. In either case, those involved in the conflict should understand the difference between functional and dysfunctional conflict and whether, and the extent to which, conflict management and conflict resolution theories and tools are needed.

Occurrence of Organization Conflict

Organizational conflict often occurs in the following situations and scenarios (Rahim, 2002):

  • Parties are required to engage in an activity that is incongruent with their needs or interests.
  • Parties hold behavioral preferences that are incompatible with another person's implementation of his or her preferences.
  • Parties want some mutually desirable resource that is in short supply.
  • Parties possess attitudes, values, skills, and goals that are appropriate for directing their behavior but contradict the attitudes, values, skills, and goals held by others within an organization.
  • Two parties have contradictory preferences regarding their joint actions.

Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict refers to a phenomenon that occurs between interdependent parties as they experience negative emotional reactions to perceived disagreements and interference with the attainment of their goals. Interpersonal conflict within organizations often occurs on project teams involving multiple parties with potentially conflicting agendas, goals, styles, personalities, and objectives. Symptoms of interpersonal conflict include hostility, jealousy, steam rolling, poor communication, political maneuvering, a proliferation of technical rules, norms, and regulations, frustration, and low morale. Interpersonal conflict is characterized by interdependence, disagreement, interference, and negative emotion. Interpersonal conflict within organizations can produce positive or negative results or change. Examples of negative outcomes from interpersonal conflict include distrust of others, hostility, decreased group coordination and cohesiveness, reduced job satisfaction and motivation, higher absenteeism and turnover, grievances, and lower performance and productivity. Examples of positive outcomes from interpersonal conflict include greater self-awareness, creativity, adaptation, and learning (Barki & Hartwick, 2001).

Diagnosis of Organizational Conflict

Most people, groups, and organizations have conflict thresholds that must be exceeded for conflict to occur. Managers are generally responsible for the diagnosis of organizational conflict. The diagnosis of organizational conflict generally specifies the type of conflict, parties involved, and level and type of intervention needed. A diagnosis should indicate whether there is need for an intervention and the type of intervention needed.


Interventions in situations of organizational crisis are designed to accomplish the following goals and objectives (Rahim, 2002):

  • Interventions in situations of organizational crisis are designed to attain and maintain a moderate amount of substantive conflict in non-routine tasks at various levels.
  • Interventions in situations of organizational crisis are designed to reduce affective conflict at all levels.
  • Interventions in situations of organizational crisis are designed to enable the organizational members to select and use the appropriate styles of handling conflict so that various situations can be effectively dealt with.
  • Despite the fact that conflict often serves a function within organizations, conflict management most often attempts to reduce, resolve, and minimize conflict (Rahim, 2002).

Conflict Management

Managers, across a wide range of businesses and industries, oversee organizational conflict to ensure successful resolution. Conflict is managed by organizational leaders often referred to as conflict managers. Conflict management, which refers to designing effective macro-level strategies to minimize the dysfunctions of conflict and enhance the constructive functions of conflict in order to enhance learning and effectiveness in an organization, is recognized as its own field (Rahim, 2002). Examples of conflict management include negotiation, bargaining, mediation, and arbitration. There are two main categories of conflict management techniques including conflict stimulation and conflict resolution. Conflict stimulation refers to the creation of conflict within organizations to promote change. Conflict resolution includes techniques (such as problem solving, expansion of resources, avoidance, compromise, authoritative command, altering human variables, and altering structural variables) to reduce conflict within the organization.

Conflict Management Styles

Different conflict...

(The entire section is 4145 words.)