1.1 Background to the study
Conflict in an organization is a state
of discord by the actual and opposing power which arise from the pursuit
of divergent interests, goals and aspirations by individuals and groups
in the organization or social environment. This is so because changes
in the social environment, such as different ideologies, beliefs,
principles and social status which develop a sense of tussle and
disagreement with each other and when this happens, the productivity of
such organization is undermined Owoseni (2012). The researcher is
looking at the effective conflict management strategies that can be
adopted in the tertiary institutions to manage conflict situations
without rendering the organization porous for incessant conflicts. Otite
and Albert (1999) submitted that the most quoted traditional
definitions regarding conflict as a struggle over values and claims to
scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents
are neutralized, injured or eliminated by their rivals. In this sense,
conflict may be seen as a way of settling problem originating from the
opposing interest and also attributable to an enduring power struggle
between workers and their employers. Contrary to the prevailing
perception, conflict indeed had played quite a positive role in several
respect for progressive and good governance of the universities. After
reconciliation from the conflicting parties better ideas are produced,
clarification of individual views, people willingly search for new
approaches ,and long standing problems brought to the surface and
Alper, Tjosvold and Law (2000)
assert that conflict occurs when the actions or beliefs of one or more
members of a group are unacceptable to others and hence are resisted by
one or more members of the group just like the crisis that came up in
the University of Calabar in the year 2011 between students and the
school management over sudden increments of school fees which led to
loss of properties, goodwill as well as loss of opportunity, this issues
would have been averted if proper conflict management strategies were
adopted. Karl Marx (1818) agreed that conflict is a clash,
confrontation, battle or struggle that could come up in any
organization. Eventually, Park and Bourgess in Otite (1999) has the same
view that conflict is truly designed to resolve any divergent dualism
and achieve some kind of unity even if it is through the annihilation of
one of the conflict parties.
Alper, Tjosvold, and Law (2000) also
confirmed that conflict occurs at all levels of organic existence and it
is pervasively ubiquitous and most destructive. It has a capacity to
severally constrain development and endeavor by destroying
infrastructure, interrupting the production process and diverting
resources away from product users. Workers who are the owners of labour
the world over have been known to organize themselves into associations
or unions with the primary objective of promoting and protecting
themselves from unnecessary abuse of their human rights by their
employers as well as by fellow workers. In essence, workplace conflict
can arise among the workers themselves because people disagree for a
number of reasons such as follows: Alper, Tjosvold, and Law (2000).
i) They see things differently because of differences in understanding and view point.
ii) People have different styles, principles, values, beliefs which determine their choices and objectives.
iii) People have different ideological and philosophical outlooks, as in the case of different political parties.
iv) People of different social
status think differently and these develop in them the sensitivity to
disagree which may result in conflicts of views or opinions. Contrary to
the prevailing perception, conflict indeed had played quite a positive
role in several respect for progressive and good governance of the
universities. After reconciliation from the conflicting parties better
ideas are produced, clarification of individual views, people willingly
search for new approaches ,and long standing problems brought to the
surface and resolved.
1.2 Theoretical framework
The following theories were discussed to provide a framework for this study.
1.2.1 The human relations theory; by Mary, Follets (1954).
1.2.2 The administrative management theory; by Henry, Fayol (1949).
1.2.3 The conflict theory; by Karl, Marx (1883).
1.2.1 The Human Relations Theory
Follett (1954), a great proponent
of human relations theory was also refered to as “prophetess of
management”. Follet (1868 – 1933) a Harvard Professor in social works
practiced Gestalt psychology and business consultancy. The human
relations theory involves the study of motives, behavior and the
development of criteria for designing organization which will stimulate
members co-operation in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the
It attaches much importance to
individuals motives, goals and aspirations in the conceptualization of
organizations. The organizational success is explained in terms of
individual, group motivational and inter-personal relationships,
particularly the relationship between administration and staff. She is
associated with the discovery of various phenomena such as the “Group
think effect” in committee meetings; creativity exercises like
”brainstorming” and most importantly, what later became
Management–By-Objectives (MBO) and Total Quality Management (TQM) and
Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI). Follett admonished employers
on the over-management of employees, a process now known as
“micromanaging”. The importance of informal processes within any
organization, and the idea of the “authority of expertise” which really
served to modify the typology of authority developed by German
contemporary (Peretomode 2006). Her ideas on negotiation, power and
employee participation were highly influential in the development of the
fields of organizational studies, alternative dispute resolution and
human relations movement. Her approach to conflict was to embrace it as
a mechanism of diversity and an opportunity to develop integrated
solutions rather than simply compromising (Bassett, 2011).
four principles of coordination where she noted certain principles that
must be followed to make coordination effective and these includes;
i) Principle of early stage –
coordination must start at an early stage in the management process. It
must start during the planning stage.
ii) Principle of continuity – co-ordination must be a continuous process. It must not be a one time activity.
iii) Principle of direct contact –
All managers must have a direct contact with their subordinates. This
will result in good relations between the managers and their
subordinates. This is so because direct contact helps to avoid
misunderstanding, misinterpretations and disputes between managers and
iv) Principles of reciprocal
relations: The decisions and actions of all the people (managers and
employees) and departments of the organization are interrelated.
If decision or action is taken
by managers, they should first find out the effect of that decision or
action on other persons (Kalyan & Sulaiman 2011). It should be
noted however that Follett’s influence can also be seen indirectly in
the work of Ron Lippitt, Ken Benne, Lee Bradford, Edie Seashore and
others at the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Marine, where
T-group methodology was first theorized and also developed (Kleiner,
1996). This implies that Follett’s work set the stage for a generation
of effective progressive changes in management philosophy, style and
practice, revolutionizing and harmonizing the American Workplace, and
allowing the fulfillment of Douglas McGregor’s management vision –
quantum leap in productivity effected through the humanization of the
work place (Wikipedia, 2012).
Human relation theory has its origin
from the work of Mayo (1946) of the “Hawthorne studies” which was
conducted in the 1920’s at the Hawthorne works of the western electric
Mayo stated that the reason
workers are more strongly motivated by informal things is that
individuals have a deep psychological need to believe that their
organization cares about them. Workers want to believe their
organization is open, concerned and willing to listen. Mayo believes
i) Supervisors should not act like supervisors, they should be friends, and counselors to the workers.
ii) managers should not try to micro-manage all affairs.
iii) People should be periodically asked how they feel about their work and their supervisors.
iv) Humanistic supervision plus morale equals to productivity.
v) Humor and sarcasm are good in the workplace – it is all part of group dynamics.
vi) Workers should be consulted
before changes are made and room should be given to workers to
participate in decision making.
Bernard (1938) was a formidable part of
the human relations movement. Bernard in his book “The functions of the
Executive”, noted that managers need to know more about human behaviors,
and in particular, more about the informal groups of an organization,
especially the relationship between workers and outsiders. Chester
Bernard is best known for his concept of “zones of indifference” which
is the idea that good leaders should try to take middle – of – the –
road, or neutral, position on issues because each person’s attitude
usually has such a middle – ground area where they will believe or obey
without question. Bernard noted that a certain amount of co-operation
between management and employees is necessary and that authority is not
all that is necessary as the classical schools of management would have
it. He reinforced what became a fundamental idea in organizational
theory; that all organizations pose either as a formal organization or
an informal organization.
Bernard asserted that the
informal organization regulates as if employees will obey all management
orders and instructions. The author then went ahead to outline three
basic types of orders that can be given by managers to employees;
i) Orders that are unquestionably
acceptable that are always obeyed because they lie within what they
called their zone of indifference, or typically dealt with things that
are part of an employee’s job description and are routine.
ii) Orders that may or may not be
followed, depending upon the employee and the conduct accepted by the
employees informal organization because such orders come close to being
iii) Orders that are completely
unacceptable and that will always be disobeyed because these kinds of
orders go beyond an employee’s zone of indifference.
Despite the contributions of
the human relations theory to the practice of modern management, the
movement has been criticized on several grounds. The human relations
theory is seen by management scholars to be too idealistic in trying to
remove all forms of conflict within organization.(O’Conner,2011). Inyang
(2004), has criticized the human relation movement for having the
tendency to be pro-worker, neglecting the primary objective of
industrialized profit and also neglecting the important role of trade
unions. However, some conflicts in work situation may not be solved by
this incompatibility between the interests of management and those of
labour in spite of the difficulties that may arise between them. The
relevance of this study is clearly seen in the progressive change in
management philosophy of establishing a veritable working relationship
model for employers and employees. It also set a stage for the
involvement of staff in virtually all the important stages of management
decision making without necessarily rendering the organization porous
for possible abuse by employee unions.
1.2.2 The administrative management theory Henry Fayol (1949)
The administrative management theory is
associated with Henry Fayol, a renowned French Engineer, manager and
industrialist. Fayol (1949) analyzed the activities of industrial
undertakings into six groups: technical (production, manufacture and
adaptation); commercial (buying, selling, exchange and market
information), financial (obtaining capital and making optimum use of
available funds); security (safeguarding property and persons);
accounting (information on the economic position, stock taking, balance
sheet, costs, statistics); and managerial.
He further divided the activities into
five elements which are to forecast and plan; to organize; to command;
to co-ordinate; and to control. Fayol suggested that a set of
well-established principles would help concentrate general discussion on
management theory, but emphasized that these principles must be
flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.
He recognized that there was no limit to the principles of management but advocated fourteen (14) in his writing and these are:
1) Division of
labour: The principles of specialization of labour in order to
concentrate activities for more efficiency and increase in productivity.
2) Authority and responsibility: Authority is the right to give order and the power to ensure obedience.
3) Discipline: Discipline is
absolutely essential for the smooth running of organization and without
discipline, there is bound to be waywardness among the workers.
4) Unity of command: An employees should receive orders from only one superior.
5) Unity of direction: One hand and one plan for a group of activities having the same objectives.
6) Subordination of individual
interests: The interest of one employee or a group should not prevail
over that of the organization.
7) Remuneration of personnel: Compensation should be fair and as far as possible afford satisfaction.
8) Centralization: Centralization is essential to the organization and is a natural consequence of organization.
9) Scalar chain: The scalar chain is the chain of superiors ranging from ultimate authority to the lowest rank.
10) Orders: The organization should
provide an orderly place for every individual. A place for everyone and
everyone in their place.
11) Equity: Sense of justice transform the organization.
12) Stability and tenure of personnel: People need time to learn their job.
13) Initiative: One of the greatest satisfaction is formulating and carrying out a plan.
14) Esprit de corps: Harmonious effort among workers is the key to organizational success (Mullins, 1996).
Furthermore, the theory considers
management as a profession where people can be trained and developed.
The administrative management theory sees broad policy issues as the
responsibility of top managers, which they have to handle seriously for
organizational survival and growth. It relates with the work in the
sense that administrators should not see administration as positions but
as responsibility directly related/connected to their profession and
that failure in administration means failure in the profession. More so,
if the organization must succeed, the administrators should master the
heuristics of the administrative profession and follow them seriously
1.2.3 The conflict theory
Several theories which emphasize social
conflicts have roots in the ideas of Karl Marx (1818). As a great German
theorist and political activist, he saw conflict theories as theories
of social stratification which anchor on analysis of capitalism, social
change and a view of human liberation.
Even though it is a necessary condition
for social change to occur, individuals or groups interacting in the
society which share different interest and have different economic
capabilities always resist change. According to Marx, classes develop on
the basis of the different positions or roles which individuals play in
the productive scheme of a society. The material view of history begin
from the premise that the most important determinant of social life is
the work people are doing most especially the work that result in
provision of the basic necessities of life, food, clothing and shelter.
He maintained that, everything of value in society results from human
labour, thus it is clearly seen that working men and women are engaged
in making society the conditions to suit them for their own existence.
The three primary aspects of Marxism are as follows:
1) The dialectical and materialist
concept of history which implies that human kind of history is
fundamentally a struggle between social class. The productive capacity
of society is the foundation of society and just as this capacity
increases over time, the social relations of production and class
relations evolve through definite stages like slavery, primitivism,
communism, feudalism and capitalism esterra.
2) The critique of capitalism was seen by Marx as dominant in 19th
century. For Marx, the central institution of a capitalist society is
private property, the system by which capital such as money, machines,
tools, factories and other material objects used in production are
controlled by a smaller minority of the population. Marx argues that in a
capitalist society, an economic minority who are called the
bourgeoisies referring to the owners of capital dominate and exploit the
economic majority who are called proletariat referring to the workers
whose only property is their labour and time which they have to sell to
the capitalists. Owners are seen as making profits by paying workers
less than their work is worth and thus exploiting them. He argued that
while the production process is socialized, ownership will still retain
in the hands of the bourgeoisies and this forms the fundamental
contradiction of capitalist society.