Hidden Conflict in Organizations Uncovering Behind-the-Scenes Disputes

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Conflict is a persistent fact of organizational life. Much of it, however, rarely becomes public and instead is expressed `behind the scenes' in such forms as avoidance, toleration, gossip and vengeance. This book is a collection of essays written by scholars and practitioners in the fields of organizational psychology and conflict management including John Van Mannen, Raymond Friedman, Calvin Morrill, Jean M. Bartunek, Robin Reid, Joanne Martin, Frank Dubinskas, and Roy Lewicki.

The chapters of this book focus on different aspects of conflict in organizations. They view conflict as part of the social fabric of the organizations studied and so investigate its occurrences as part of the routines of work. The authors take examples from a number of organizational settings and make the case that far from being an occasional occurrence, conflict is embedded in their very fabric. The authors go on to illustrate the frequency of conflict, show how conflicts are actually handled and suggest that these conflicts can be better managed for organizational effectiveness. Using field methods and narrative styles that differ significantly from most other studies of conflict in organizations, these chapters describe processes that are more private, informal, and non-rational.

The dialectical approach informs the chapters in this book and provides a basis for comparing and contrasting how disputes occur in various organizations. A dialectical approach is a way of considering the relationship between traditional features of organizational conflict and their opposites. What might appear as a distinct phenomenon can be understood only with reference to its opposite, even when the opposite concept is not visible. As such, it offers an alternative for uncovering the arenas where disputes are handled and suggests concepts that largely have been ignored by traditional scholarship in conflict management.

What emerges from these studies is a picture of how disputes are handled in the context of ongoing operations in organizations. All of the studies attend to the private, informal, and non-rational forms of conflict and the interactions between these and their opposite forms. Different chapters, however, emphasize a particular dimension as a point of departure. Several focus on the private spheres of conflict, while others address the structures of professional organizations, and the dichotomous relationship between formal and informal structures of professional organizations. Issues of gender and mediation, as well as collective bargaining in formal institutions are also discussed.

Hidden Conflict in Organizations Attributes

Author: Deborah M. Kolb and Jean M. Bartunek, editors
Publisher: Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1992