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Organization conflict is a popular subject of management and organizational behavior. Given the
changes in the definition and perception towards conflict, from being defined as a detrimental to
inevitable to an existence of difference in an organization, conflict is still seen as something
which disturbs the harmony in the organization. Many scholars have studied, forms, causes and
sources of conflicts and resolving conflicts to managing conflicts, yet few if any, have researched
on approaches that can transform conflict in to organisational learning or growth. Although there
is a logical link between conflict and new ideas, there were few studies done on the subject;
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This paper is aimed to review and re-interpret the studies and literatures written on outcome of
conflict, as well as various approaches of conflict management and in relation to its effectiveness
for a functional outcome. Given the short time frame, the researched is limited to reviewing of 16
literatures that were written on the subject.

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Scholars on organizational conflict agree that conflict is multi-dimensional and inevitable part of
organization (Salipnate and Bouwen 1990, p. 17; Salipnate and Bouwen 1990, p. 17; Van de
Vliert,E and De Dreu 1994, p. 211; Jones et al. 1998, p. 504; Rahim 2002, p. 207; Poitras and
Tareauc 2008, p. 74). Large part of literatures and studies has similar conclusions on causes of
conflicts. Salipnate and Bowen (1990, p. 17) claim that conflicts can be due to environmental
factors, social-substantive and social relational factors. Rahim (2002, p. 207) list causes of
conflicts are fairly similar to Salipnate and Bowen but includes few social-substantive factors.
The sources as stated by Rahim (2002, p. 207) includes, self-interest and task incongruence;
behavioural preference collisions and fulfilling ones preference collides with the behavioural
preference of the other party; competition for scarce resource, differing attitudes, values, goals
and skills; differing behavioural preference over the joint actions and because of activities that

 
    
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require interdependent performance. Walton and Dutton (1969) have somewhat similar
explanations but identified additional reasons than Rahim (2002) which includes not only,Ê
³incompatible goals and time horizons and task interdependencies, but also ³overlapping
authority, incompatible evaluation rearward systems, scarce resources, and status
inconsistencies´ (cited in Jones et al. 1998, p. 504). Perhaps Walton and Dutton argument is a
more of a broader perspective, yet both are consistent as such they discuss on incompatible
goals, preferences, and activities. Ê

Some of the contemporary studies have taken a different approach which has ill taken by many
researchers. These contemporary studies argue that emotion is involved in conflicts, and to be in
conflict, one has to be ³emotionally charged´ (Jones 2000). Bodtker and Jameson (2001, p. 267-
8) analyse emotions elements in 2 different cases based on Galtungs Triadic Theory of conflict
transformation. This theory has three elements; attitude, behavior and contradictions. The
findings verified that the emotional elements in (³beahavioural/communicational, physiological
and cognitive´) and also confirmed the claim of Jones (2000) that one has to ³emotionally
charged´. A more recent study on self-reporting conflict experience by using critical incident
survey technique by Bell and Song (2005, p. 34-35) also confirm the role of emotion in
triggering conflict. This is consistent with Rahim (2002, p. 207) claim that conflict occur only if
the differences reach up to a certain ³threshold level´, i.e. emotionally disturbed. Similarly,
Barons findings also verified and confirmed that, conflicts exist even without recognizing of
interests by the parties involved in that situation (1990 cited in Rahim 2002, p. 207). Ê

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Much of the earlier researchers and literatures were focused on determining whether conflict is
beneficial thing or detrimental to organisation. Many scholars assert conflict is functional for
organizational performance (Jones et al. 1998, p. 504; Rahim 2000, p. 5). Van de Vliert and De
Deru (1994, p. 211) asserts that interpersonal conflict or intergroup conflicts ³may´ improve
individual achievement, constructive group decision making and overall organizational
performance. An interview on CEOs also confirmed the importance of conflict for organization
creativity (Badaracco and Ellsworth 1991, p. 51). Similarly the same was confirmed from a

 
    
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research on employees (Adomi and Anie 2006, p. 524) while other scholars such as Jones et al
(1998, p. 502) claim that conflict is functional if it is at moderate level. Those who argue conflict
is beneficial, asserts so based on the premise that differing viewpoint is constructive for
organization as it challenges the status quo. Although some of these claims were based on
previous empirical research, other is based on logical link and the fact is that managers are
reluctant to stimulate conflicts in organization or tend to hide or avoid conflict in the
organization (Badaracco and Ellsworth, 1995, p. 51; Bodtker and Jameson 2001, p.Ê260)ÊÊAs a
result,Ê not surprisingly, large part of the literatures such as Wall and Callister (1995 cited in
Rahim 2000, p. 5; Rahim 2002, p. 208) and Poitras and Tareau (2007, p. 74) discussed on
resolving (eliminating or reducing) conflict or mixed approach rather than managing conflict,
while others try to resolve surface conflicts as quickly as possible or make unilateral decisions
(Bodtker and Jameson 2001, p.Ê260). It is of a no surprise that, no scholars that have reviewed or
have researched any organization that have long-term or conflicts stimulation program. Ê

There are other studies that have taken a different approach by researching not to conclude
moderate conflict is good or high level of conflict is bad, rather, what makes a conflict functional
or dysfunctional. In one of such study by Ayoko (2007, p. 108) came up with interesting finding
that conflict ³per se´ and the outcome is mutually exclusive, rather the reaction of conflict by
group members or individual determine the functionality of conflict. In other words the
approaches used by parties in dealing with conflicts determine the functionality of the outcome.
However this research has a limitation that the sample were from the students who do not have
any work experience and further research has to be done from a sample from employees.
Nonetheless, Ayoko¶s findings is evident from a previous study by Rahim, Magner and Shapiro
found that, the perceptions of justice influence the conflict handling style by employees with
their superiors (Rahim 2000, p. 6). In other words organizational justice and conflict
management style has significant relationship.

An empirical study by Tidd and Friedman (2002, p. 238) on US automated company found that
personality traits and personal behavior is another important factor which influence the reaction
of conflict. This was consistent with a finding that empirically confirm the relationship between
individual personality traits and reaction to conflicts (Badaracco and Ellsworth (1991, p. 51-52)

 
    
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and Bloch (1988, p. 11). Tidd and Friedman findings of the importance of personal behaviour is
consistent with the contemporary studies on conflict management such as Bodtker and Jameson
(2001, p. 272) Bell and Song (2005, p. 49) that confirm person emotion role in reacting conflict
and personality and emotion has logical link. There are other scholars such as Rahim (2002, p.
211) and Jones et al. (1998, p. 504) who emphasize the role of training in developing and
shaping behaviors of individual and group which can influence the emotional intelligence and
conflict handling style.

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The literatures on dealing with conflicts have generally 2 groups of scholars. The first group of
scholars discussed and studied on resolving approaches which were similar to dispute resolution
approaches (bargaining, negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration) (Dix and Oxenbridge
2004; Wall and Callister 1995). However these approaches failed to recognize the fact that
conflict has functional or dysfunctional outcome and scholars such as such Rahim (2002, p. 5)
Jones et al (1998, p. 502) also opposed the resolution approach as it stress on eliminating
conflict.

A more recent literature by Poitras, and Tareau, (2007, p. 73) proposed a mixed approach of
dispute resolution and conflict management approaches which is based on power, right and
interest. The author test the approaches on criteria¶s (costs, satisfaction with the outcome, the
effects on the relationship between the parties, and, conflict reoccurrence possibility) and found
that right tops the rank followed by interest and power. However the approaches to achieve these
motives were essentially similar to conflict resolution and management approaches.

In contrast the traditional conflict management strategies such as by Thomas (1976) and Rahim
and Bonoma (1979) are based on dual dimension (satisfying own concern vs satisfying others)
Rahim and Bonoma approaches are dominating, avoiding, obliging, and integrating and Thomas
approaches are avoiding, accommodating, competing, collaborating and compromising (Tidd,
and Friedman 2002, p. 240; Ritov and Drory 1996, p. 139). These two approaches were
confirmed form several empirical tests by researchers in relation to self vs others and integrative

 
    
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vs distributive (Ritov and Drory 1996, p. 139-140). Contrastingly in a study by Ritov and Drory
(1996) found out that dual approaches were not evident, rather a single dimensional (i.e
corporative vs competitive) were evident in their study, which was also consistent with Deutsch
(1973 cited in Ritov and Drory 1996, p. 139). Although Ritov and Drov research was limited as
it was based on a single scenario, Jones et al (1998, p. 506) also supports the single dimension
stressing that conflict can only be functional only if it is settled by compromise or by
collaboration between the parties.

Interestingly, more recent researches¶ have found that those classical approaches were too soon
to preclude its effectiveness on dealing with conflicts. Those approaches only touch the surface
and do not deal all the aspects of conflicts (Bodtker and Jameson 2001, p.Ê260). The authors test
conflicts based onÊGaltungs (1996 cited in Bodtker and Jameson 2001, p. 260) theory of conflict
transformation which has 3 elements; i.e attitudes, behavioural and contradictions. The results
confirmed that conflict can occur due to one or more of these elements, but can only be
functionally managed by altering or dealing with all 3 elements, of which the traditional style
address only a single element. This may be due to the difference in interpretation of the
adaptation of the approaches and, the hence focus has now moved from traditional way of
behavioural approaches to a contemporary approaches of ³conflict situation and person-situation
interaction´ (Ritov and Drory 1996, p. 140). As a result, many scholars are researching factors
that influence the behavior during conflict situation, such as Bell and Song (2005, p. 49),
Bodtker and Jameson (2001, p. 272) which confirm the role of emotion as a mediator to manage
and transform conflicts to a functional energy; leadership, organizational ethics by Badaracco
and Ellsworth (1991, p. 46-52) justice by Rahim (2000, p. 6), training, open communication by
Rahim (2002, p. 211) and Jones et al. (1998, p. 504).

However, little researches had been done on specific behaviors that are essential for managing
conflict, particularly at employees¶ levels. However, Perce, Gardner, Dhunham & Cummings,
(1993) behavioural plasticity theory claims that active engagement in one¶s environment is an
essential. This claim was also consistent with earlier studies by Kahn et al. (1964, cited in Tidd
and Friedman 2002, p. 242) and Tidd and Firedman (2002) who founds out that ³extroverts
manage role conflicts better than introverts´.

 
    
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In many contemporary studies, authors are focusing the conflict management strategies away
from approaches which is a set of approaches to something more strategic and complete such as
Tidd and Firedman (2002), Van de Vliert and De Dreu (1994), Bodtker and Jameson (2001), Bell
and Song (2005). These authors have also asserted the importance of stimulating of conflict for
individual growth and organizational development which requires a system that can shape the
behavior of the parties involved in conflict management rather than particular approaches.

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The literature review confirms that most of the scholars and practitioners agree that conflict is
functional for both the individual and organizational enhancement and growth. However, there
are literatures that assert the importance of moderate level of conflict, and contrastingly
elimination or reduction of conflict. Another more contemporary view is that conflict ³per se´ is
not what determines the constructiveness of conflict, rather reaction of conflict or dealing with
conflict. Although this paper has limitations in terms of number of literatures reviewed, it is
found that little research had been done on identifying important factors that can convert
conflicts into a constructive or functional stimulus. However, large part of literature studied on
approach to conflict, such as the classical dual dimensional approach by Rahim and Bonoma
(1979), which has obliging, integrating, and recent verification of single dimension approach;
corporation and competition, by Jones et al (1998, p. 504) and Ritov and Drory (1996).
Nevertheless neither of the approaches has empirically tested on its capability to convert conflict
into a constructive or functional part of organization. Interestingly some of the scholars have
identified important factors such as, ethics and justice, leadership, personality, training,
communication as significant for a functional conflict. Hence there is logical relationship
between organization environment, and individual character and other factors which are
preconditions to convert conflicts into a positive or constructive power. Future researches can
test the said explanation to identify those factors and its relationship with the approaches and its
capability to convert to a functional outcome.

 
    
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Adomi, E.E and Anie, S.O (2006), Conflict management in Nigerian University Libraries,
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Ayoko, O.B (2007), Communication openness, conflict events and reactions to conflict in
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Vol.14 No. 2, pp 105-124

Badaracco Jr, J.L and Ellsworth, R.R (1991), Leadership, Integrity and Conflict,    
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Bell, C and Song, F (2005), Emotions in the conflict process: an application of the cognitive
appraisal model of emotions to conflict management           
 
   2 , Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 30-54

Bloch, B (1988), Conflicts between departments; Managers opinion, , September/October

Bodtker, A.M, and Jameson, J.K (2001),Emotion in conflict formation and its transformation:
application to organizational conflict management,         

   2  Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 259-275
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Dix,G and Oxenbridge,S (2004), Coming to the table with Acas: from conflict to co-operation,
[2   ! "#$%

Jean Poitras and Aure lia Le Tareau (2008), Dispute resolution patterns and organizational
dispute states,        
   2 Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 72-87

Jones,G.R, George,J.M and Hill,C.W.L (1998),  2    2 , International Ed,
McGraw Hill

 
    
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Jones, T. S (2000), Emotional communication in conflict: Essence and impact. In W. Eadie


& P. Nelson (Eds.),      
 
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Oaks, CA: Sage.

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Rahim, M.A (2000), Empirical studies on management conflict,        

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Rahim, M.A (2002), Toward theory of managing organisational conflict,      
  
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Tidd, S.T and Friedman, R.A (2002), Conflict style and coping with role conflict: an extension of
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Van de Vliert,E and De Dreu,C.K.W (1994), Optimizing performance by conflict stimulation,


        
   2 , Vol. 5, No. 3 (July), pp. 211-222

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