Thursday, December 13, 2012

Conflict Resolution - A Redefinition

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Loomis and Loomis state that Conflict is an ever present process in human relations. Conflict may define, maintain and strengthen group boundaries,contributing to the group's distinctiveness and increasing group solidarity and cohesion.

Earlier theories and discussions regarding conflicts were only done with regards to organisations and to a limited extent to the environment of organisations and even these were confined to efficiency and productivity of enterprises. But now, policies are not made in isolation, as globalisation has made it a universal and worldwide process involving all types of stakeholders which are not limited to groups or nations but triggered by ethnic,religious,racial and economic differences as well, therefore conflict resolution has now been redefined or updated to help resolve these issues of international conflicts/disagreements between stakeholders.

1) Potential Conflict Phase : At this stage conflict is present at very low level of intensity. Structural factors and underlying causes create division among groups along socio economic, cultural and political lines. Mobilisation of collective discontentment begins but not organised, thus, preventive action at this point is not risky and has high potential payoff.

2) Gestation Phase: Consolidation of mobilisation is the characteristic of this phase as inter-group relations are politicised and popular mobilisation puts pressure on decision makers to address the issues. Polarisation between groups increase but one must take note that issues are still negotiable though preventive actions may cost initially but the potential payoffs are still much positive.

3) Triggering and Escalation Phase : There is a real and visible change in the group's economic,social or political conditions can trigger the escalation of conflict. Inter elite ties break down and social interactions focus on organised reaction as political exchanges fade and conflicting parties lose confidence in each other and feel they cannot compromise. Intervention at this phase becomes risky as well as costly.

4) Post - Conflict Phase : In this phase preventive interventions aim at reestablishing communication channels between the conflicting groups,in order to avoid a new round of conflict.

These need not occur in the manner laid out and often the lack of information or incentives to act fast are barriers to resolving conflicts.

1) Intra Organisational Level - These are conflicts occurring within organisations.

A) Task conflict - Disagreement about the Communication or directions from superiors among subordinates as some of the orders may lie outside their " Zone of Acceptance". The leadership should make sure that they substantiate their communications among the subordinates to resolve this and the ways to do this are suggested by Mary Parker Follett:
i) Domination to resolve a conflict- Here only one party wins which is the stronger one. The weaker party remains disgruntled and this will lead to very ugly consequences later. therefore this should be avoided.
ii) Compromise - Where no party benefits but settle mutually for the time being. But this sort of resolution is only a short term one and the conflicts keep building up internally and become more dangerous when it shows its face again and then it might become out of hand to even try to settle it. This method also she did not suggest much.
iii) Integration to resolve a conflict - Follett considers this technique to be the best. As under this method there is a feeling of win-win equation & both conflicting groups see their issues addressed. And this is long term solution.

This process unfolds in three steps:
a) Surfacing of conflict or identification of existing issue.
b) Analysis of the conflict and development of a solution - A solution should be such that it no way leaves any room for the conflict resurfacing or a new conflict arising and it should benefit all and a circular response should be evoked where every member gets to vent out his feelings so that he feels heard.
c) Anticipation of results.

a) It requires high degree of knowledge and analysis.
b) It requires high order of creativity and innovation
c) It may require more resources.
d) Superiors may have the tendency to continue domination.
e) True integration may not be achieved as groups may not agree to substitution.
f) Rushing to the application of scheme may create problems as its proper comprehension may require time.
g) Groups may feel inadequately represented but may not show at that particular time when integration is seemed to be achieved.

B) Inter Group Conflict: It deals with relationships among people/teams in an organisation more than a task and it is inevitable, so to manage it for optimal group maintenance, a six step process has been described:
a) Recognition and acknowledgement that conflict exists
b) Analysis of the existing situation
c) Facilitation of communication
d) Negotiation
e) Provision for necessary adjustments,reinforcements,confirmations
f) Realisation of living with conflicts as all conflicts cannot be resolved

C) Procedural Conflict : It occurs when group members disagree about the procedure to be followed in accomplishing the group goal. Solutions are-
a) New procedures may be formulated and a new agenda suggested.
b) Group goal may be modified
 This along with Task Conflict is of productive nature and brings in many reforms in the way of doing things more efficiently in the eyes of the higher management/decision makers.

That was about Intra - Organisational conflicts or within an organisation conflicts. Now we move on to discussing Intra Organisation Conflicts or conflicts occurring amongst two or more organisations.

It has two aspects.
A) Environment of the particular organisation-: Two organisations may be in the same environment but clashing goals. For example - Scheduled Tribes ( Recognition of forest rights) Act 2005, while Ministry of Environment and forests may be concerned about the depleting forest cover by allowing more and more rural people into them for livelihood, on the other hand the Ministry of Tribal Affairs may be tackling the livelihood issues of the tribals. Thus such incompatible goals create conflicts that may lead to jurisdictional conflicts as well as the issue would be the control over areas given to tribals.

B) Institutional Pluralism -: In an effort for efficient governance and government services sometimes many service delivery agencies operate in the same domain, both in the private and public sphere and compete with each other. Conflict and competition may not be confused here as though they both have a common root cause of individuals striving towards incompatible goals, yet the major difference is that interference that hinders attainment of the goal, if done by established rules and regulations is termed as competition but when no rules are followed then it turns into a conflict.

i) Policy making as Conflict Resolution,here all interest groups, protest groups and civil society as well as all stakeholders of a policy initiative should democratically contemplate and arrive at policies suitable to all so that conflicts do not arise as far as possible.
ii) Proactive Conflict Resolution. Catch the conflict when it is young instead of letting it escalate.
iii) Integrated Conflict management systems.
iv) Strengthening all government and non government institutions to tackle conflicts.
v) A central coordinating point for all conflict resolution efforts. A very good example of which is the prime minister's office in India where it intervenes between conflicts of ministries.
vi) Strong system evaluation and monitoring mechanisms.
vii) Capacity Building of individuals and institutions.
viii) People's participation as much as possible
ix) Civil society organisations
x) International Organisations of Conflict Resolution ( UNO,ICJ,etc) who work by international treaties and  charters,mandates while negotiating and arbitrating international disputes brought before them

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1 comment:

  1. Nice article very interesting. Its very effective and useful information for me. Excellent post. Keep sharing more blog posts. 
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