Conflict at work is quickly classified as a "darkside" construct that has primarily negative, destructive, and aversive consequences
to individual employees’ well-being and task performance, to citizenship behavior and performance in work teams, and to organizational
fitness and survival chances. In this chapter, I review these and related research findings and examine under what conditions,
and why, conflict tends to be primarily negative and destructive or, alternatively, positive and constructive. Questions that
are asked and answered include "does it matter what the conflict is about?" and "to what extent does the way people manage
their conflicts bring out positive and/or negative consequences?" and "what can be done, in terms of systems design, or training
and development, to benefit from conflict at work and to put it to good use?" In addition to a closer examination of the possible
functions of conflict at work, this chapter devotes a large section to conflict management. This chapter starts with a brief
but necessary treatment of some definitional aspects, to set the stage and to clarify some issues left unclear in past work
on organizational conflict. From this it follows, among other things, that this chapter is not about intrapersonal conflicts,
in which an individual needs to decide between two equal positives or negatives—as in so-called decisional conflicts, role
conflicts, or work-family conflicts. Also, it clarifies that social conflict needs to be distinguished from other "dark-side"
constructs that plague organizations, including aggression, incivility, and deviance. Although these constructs are touched
on, it is important to reemphasize that conflict need not involve intent to harm another party and need not cause negative
outcomes . The second major section of this chapter is about conflict-management tendencies and practices, relating research
to core theories of strategic choice such as Deutsch’s (1973) theory of cooperation and competition and Pruitt and Rubin’s
(1986) dual concern theory. The section ends with a relatively brief treatment of Organizational Dispute Resolution (ODR)
systems and more informal dispute resolution strategies applied by managers and organizational leaders. The third section
explores the various functions, both positive and negative, of conflict at work. The fourth and final section concludes the
chapter with some core conclusions, with a specific eye toward applied issues and possible advice to practitioners faced with
conflicts in their workplace.
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