CONFLICT MANAGEMENT FOR EFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE IN AN ORGANIZATION

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CONFLICT MANAGEMENT FOR EFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE IN AN ORGANIZATION

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

Organization is an identifiable social entity whose members pursue multiple goals collectively. The pursuance of these goals is done side by side with their personal goals and aspirations through their coordinated activities and relationships. Hence, organization has people, materials and goals that are achieved through coordination

 

The structurally differentiated character of contemporary work–organizations, whether in the manufacturing or service industry inevitably generates conflicts of interest. These conflicts of interests arise in groups because of the scarcity of freedom, position and resources (Hotepo, Asokere, Abdul-Azeez and Ajemunigbohun, 2010). Workplace conflict is thus endemic despite the best of management practices in organizations and manifests in various forms as an intrinsic and unavoidable feature of employment relationship. It is by nature an ever present process and more likely to occur in hierarchical organizations where people with divergent view, opinion and background interact. However, conflict in work-relations is not an aberration, since it creates or provides an opportunity for correction and reconciliation for the betterment of both the organization and the workers (Osad and Osas, 2013).

 

According to Kazimoto (2013), workplace conflict is described as the presence of discord that occurs when goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and frustrate each others’ attempt to achieve objectives in an organization. It is a communication process and an inevitable consequence of transactional relationship manifesting in disagreement and dissonance with and between individuals and groups in the work-environment. In this context, workplace conflict is a fact of life in any organization as long as people will compete for jobs, power, recognition and security (Adomie and Anie, 2005). Therefore, the task of management is not to suppress or resolve all conflicts, but to manage them in order to enhance and not to detract from organizational performance.

 

Akanji (2005) opined that constructively managed conflict induces a positive performance, while destructively managed conflict heats up the work environment to bring about dislocation and polarization of the entire group with reduction in productivity and job performance. This is suggestive that a well-managed conflict aims at the improvement of organizations for the purpose of stimulating performance in the work-situation. Through good conflict management strategies, weaknesses in the organizational decision-making are exposed which may prompt the establishment to effect changes and search for positive solutions. Hence, management are duty bound to resolve conflict properly for the sake of increasing organizational performance, because the outcome of such action will result in good communication, time management, good cooperation and increase corporate productivity (Obasan, 2011).

 

Conflict cannot be avoided since it is an inevitable aspect of work teams. Conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. Conflict on teams is inevitable; however, the results of conflict are not predetermined. Conflict might escalate and lead to nonproductive results, or conflict can be beneficially resolved and lead to quality final products. Therefore, learning to manage conflict is integral to a high-performance team. Although very few people go looking for conflict, more often than not. Conflict management involves acquiring skills related to conflict resolution, self-awareness about conflict modes, conflict communication skills, and establishing a structure for management of conflict in organizational environment

Contemporary work organizations, whether in the public or private sector of any nation’s economy are predominantly made up of plurality of interest groups with diverse goals and aspirations. These different goals and interests are in perpetual conflict with each other (Ekwoba, Ideh and Ojikutu, 2015). As such, the possibility of elimination of conflict in work – relations seems remote but the spectre can be recognized and managed for the overriding benefits of all stakeholders in organizations. For this reason, collective bargaining has emerged overtime as an accommodative device for regulating and dealing with relational problems between labour and management in the work – situation. The mechanism has served as an effective conflict deterrent, resulting in avoidance of bitter industrial actions and ensuring the promotion of lasting industrial peace and harmony in work-establishments.

 

According to Bendix (2011), collective bargaining is a rational process in which appeals to fact and logic reconcile conflicting interests in the light of common interest of both parties. Within this context, the approach is seen as an essential tool of institutionalizing and containing conflicts in the workplace. In dynamic establishments, where collective bargaining is done effectively and in good faith, the outcome is often an amicable resolution of joint problems resulting into collective agreement by labour and management. This implies that effective collective bargaining establishes the set rules between parties during the life – time of a collective agreement and also gives the method of settling grievances that will occur from to time to time (Appah and Emeh, 2012).

Within the employment relationship, conflict of interest is an inherent element of labour– management relations. From this perspective, Obi (2013) defined workplace conflict as an act of discontentment and contention which either the workers or employers of labour utilizes to put excessive pressure against each other so as to get their demands. This view is consistent with Muhammad (2014) and Kazimoto (2013) description of workplace conflict as existence of clash of interests or objectives in worker – management relations. On this premise, most industrial conflicts have economic and goal incompatibility in the absence of common values in work establishments. However, through the use of the machinery of collective bargaining, it is possible for labour and management with conflicting goals to relate harmoniously, handle their grievances or disputes by working towards consensus and diminishing the odds of non – productive escalation of conflicts. Ironically, despite the acclaimed purpose of collective bargaining as a veritable tool of industrial peace, no day passes in Nigeria, particularly in public sector organizations without any form or threat of industrial actions. Thus, the most frequent problem in Nigeria in recent times is the incessant industrial action (Uma, Obidike, Eboh and Ogbona, (2013) and Okuwa and Campbell, 2011). According to them, if it is not the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), it will be Health workers or other important public sector union. Consequently, the public sector employees’ faith in the use of collective bargaining is fast ebbing away. This is because, the only justification of industrial action in this sector is the dent on the collective bargaining approach.

Thus, by today’s standard, collective bargaining practice seems to be in a deplorable and piteous situation in the Nigerian public sector establishment. Ibietan (2013) opined that the machinery and process of collective bargaining are not given firm footing particularly in the Nigerian public sector organizations. He added that perfidy or deliberate refusal to honour collective agreements arrived at through the consensual process of collective bargaining are rife among employers or management representatives of some public organizations. Similarly, Fajana and Shadare (2012) asserted that generally, collective bargaining has experienced considerable elevating policy pronouncements, but less in terms of seriousness and effectiveness in various industrial sectors in Nigeria. In contrast however, Ekwuoba, Ideh and Ojikutu (2015), Owoseni (2014) and Bello and Kinge (2014) argued that collective bargaining is a veritable instrument of management of conflict and has played an effective role in conflict resolution in Nigeria public sector organizations. Hence, a wide divergence of opinions exists on the effectiveness of collective bargaining as a tool of conflict management in the public sector organizations in the country.

 

Presently, there appears to be no consensus of opinions on the subject of study and empirical validation on it has been rather scanty. Thus, a gap exists in the research in this area of strategic importance to sustainable industrial harmony and promotion of cordial industrial relations in the public sector organizations in Nigeria. It is against this backdrop that this study tends to review some related literatures on conflict management, collective bargaining and organizational efficiency drawing conclusion and recommendations

1.2  STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEMS

Quite visibly, most organizations have devoted a greater part of economic time and effort to settle conflict related issues. This scenario has continued unabated, hence posing a negative challenge to industrial and economic growth of an organisation. Although, scholars have reasoned that conflict cannot be completely ruled out in any organization (Uchede, Anijaobi & Odigove, 2013) but then, frequent occurrence of organizational conflict could have an adverse effect on the organization in terms of lost of production hour, reduction in profits, unemployment and of course reduction in income level of the organization. Just like many organization  is still confronted with various forms of conflict both interpersonal and conflict task conflicts. Several organizations has also been criticized that they do not live up to expectation of the masses due to their poor productivity. Therefore, it is very important to examine which of the conflict management strategies could endanger increase in employees’ productivity in the workplace given the fact that conflict is inevitable. This is because when conflict is not properly managed, there cannot be an increased productivity

In Nigeria, a number of impediments inhibited the effectiveness of the practice of collective bargaining. As pointed out by Bello and Kinge (2014) one of the major constraints that predisposed this anomalous situation is the government interventionist approach. Such interventionist measures include use of force or threat on workers during collective bargaining session, lack of seriousness to engage in collective bargaining process, proscription of trade union, unilateral action of government and continuous issuance of circular on wages award without consultation with the labour representatives. Instead of allowing collective bargaining to thrive, government still pays lip service to its use by resorting to primacy of wage commission as a means of granting wage award which often has cosmic applicability in the public sector. This use of fiat in Nigeria public service is a mockery to collective bargaining and hence not in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and standards (Ekwoaba, Ideh and Ojikutu, 2015).

Aside the overbearing antics of the government, (both past and present), the enactment of the Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005 has not totally encouraged freedom of association to operate within the orbit of labour legislation in Nigeria. The freedom of association principle is fully guaranteed under the Nigerian constitution but the Act forbids the formation of new industrial union, which is inhibitory of collective bargaining practice and contradictory of the freedom of Association principle as entrenched in the constitution of the country. The Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005 is viewed as unhealthy invention in industrial relations (Ndifon, Nwagbara and Odey, 2008). Also, the ILO monitoring reports have urged the Nigerian government to revisit its policy and to re-amend the Trade Union Act, 2005, with the sole object of democratizing trade union and collective bargaining process (Fajana and Shadare, 2012). Although, under the democratically elected government in the country, some visible gains of democracy have filtered into public sector establishments but not in terms of right to strike and parity of power which are the fulcrums of collective bargaining practice. From the perspective of the trade unions, without the right to strike, collective bargaining would be nothing but collective begging (Weiss, 2005). Disharmonious relations is also most likely to occur when management has a distinct power advantage over the workers’ representatives in bargaining matters as presently being witnessed in Nigerias’ public sector organizations.

The essence of collective bargaining in a developing nation like Nigeria is the containment of industrial conflicts. However, the approach has lost some of its latitudes for manouvres as a result of weak structures in the Nigeria public sector establishments. In the words of Anyim, Elegbede and Gbajumo-Sheriff (2011) the collective bargaining mechanism is defiledly and poorly structured in Nigeria public organizations. As such, the existing bargaining structure arrangement in the public service is seen to be frail. Relatedly, unwillingness to negotiate in good faith and non-observance of the sanctity of collective agreement by management are part of the banes of collective bargaining practice in the public sector organizations of Nigeria. Generally, the effectiveness of collective bargaining often depends largely on how previous agreements were implemented. Akhaukwa, Maru and Byruhanga (2013) argued that collective bargaining process is thus expected to be fair and legal and should take place in an environment of trust for parties to achieve workable relationship. In contrast however, what obtains as reality in public sector organizations in Nigeria is the reverse. The collective bargaining approach is not only widely undiffused but also defective and deceptive. Government as the largest employer of labour has continuously reneged to fully implement the basic outcome of collective bargaining. For instance, Adibe (2009) reported that the federal government neglected, ignored, failed and refused to implement the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement after more than two years of its signing. Thus, the government has abandoned the main tenet of industrial democracy that agreements freely entered into must be honoured Ajayi, 2014). This creeping web of governments’ intrigues has largely undermined collective bargaining practice in public sector organizations in Nigeria.

Thus, the following research questions were asked and this study is expected to provide answers to;

  1. What are the possible causes of conflict in organization?
  2. What are the possible ways of managing conflict in the organization to improve performance?

1.3       Objectives of the Study

Conflict management for effective performance in an organization

Other specific objectives include:

  1. To identify the causes of conflict in organization
  2. To determine ways of managing conflict in the organization to improve performance;

1.4     Statement of Hypothesis  

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