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Conflicts, Politics, and Conflict-Handling Styles

Conflicts in society and organizations are inevitable as any environment that presents a common ground for an exchange of different opinions is inevitably subjected to disagreements. Although conflicts are frequently associated with negativity and emotional involvement, conflict as a term stands for the clash between individuals with differences in interests, opinions, attitudes, or backgrounds. Thus, the conflict itself does not involve negativity or personal relationships; however, negativity is sourced within the individuals’ coping mechanisms and conflict-handling style. In organizations, conflicts often become a point that emphasizes the need for action or improvements and have positive outcomes unless they involve personal relationships. One of the most prominent areas of modern society, politics, is based on conflict of opinions. The societies of the past would not be able to progress to the current situation without the occurrence of conflicts and disagreements. Conflicts allow individuals to defend their viewpoints and convey their opinions to those who disagree with them.

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With the rising of capitalism and big corporations, the workplace became one of the places where defending personal political views and opinions became almost impossible due to corporate limitations. Although the country’s policies allow freedom of speech, there is a common opinion that political activism in the workplace can negatively impact one’s career progression. While in some communist countries, political activism is persecuted by the government, here the issue involves barriers placed on the career path of more politically active employees by individuals in leadership positions.

There are several reasons why big corporations force limitations of political views on their employees. First, the companies are concerned about their image and how it could be affected by the political activism of employees and create tension within their customers’ audience (Hirsch, 2018). In the recent prominent political events of Black Lives Matter movement many employees supported the movement by wearing clothes with the movements’ symbols. However, many of them were instructed by the HR representatives in their workplace to stop showing their support to avoid disturbing the customers and prevent customer complaints or lawsuits. In addition to the potential harm to the company’s image, political discussions are unwelcome in corporate culture due to potential tension between employees that could negatively impact the efficiency of the working process. Both reasons do not imply companies setting up a barrier on the career path of more politically advanced employees, and the majority of the companies allow participating in peaceful protests outside of working hours. However, when employees disregard the company’s values for the sake of their political views, the employer is allowed to put sanctions on the employee.

Current trends in business development and hiring principles suggest aligning the company’s mission, vision, and goals with the employees’ individual goals, which explains why more companies make their collective political views more apparent. Being transparent in their political position allows businesses to attract new employees with similar views and increase productivity through high employee motivation. Although I believe that an individual’s political tendencies should not determine their career progression, I agree that excessive political activism is inappropriate in a workplace unless it involves the organization’s inner activities. However, I assume that if all employees were able to convey their political views in the form of neutral discussion without creating any tension, that would benefit the working environment and atmosphere in working teams.

In terms of the working environment within the organization, keeping the status quo for employees can negatively affect the efficiency of the business. In business and management, the best ideas and decisions are made as a result of active discussions or even conflicts between the participants. The conflict illustrates the individual’s interest in the result or decision and emphasizes the determination to the goals. On the other hand, keeping the status quo slows the discussion and demonstrates the individuals’ indifference to the problem. However, depending on the organization, there could be situations in which employees would prefer to keep the status quo rather than openly expressing their opinions due to an unwelcoming working climate and environment.

To prevent the occurrence of such situations organization’s leadership should regularly evaluate the working climate and make sure that all employees are comfortable expressing their opinions. The limitation of the personnel involved in the decision-making process could distort and alter the final decision to fit only the needs of groups or individuals who actively participated in the discussion. The issue would negatively affect the business by creating a politically charged environment and making other employees feel powerless and insignificant to leadership. Moreover, according to Geurkink et al. (2020), there is a direct connection between an individual’s workplace voice and political participation. Thus, conflicts are mainly beneficial to organizations with a healthy working environment that encourages employees to express their opinions to increase their level of engagement and input in the decision-making process.

One of the critical skills for the collective decision-making process is the ability to use different methods and styles of conflict handling. Many different conflict-handling styles primarily connect to the individual’s personality, so people might intuitively choose one or several conflict-handling styles without even knowing about other conflict-handling styles. Although the final goal of conflict handling is negotiation, not all conflict participants may hold the capacity to negotiate or have an open-minded conversation (Ellis & Abbott, 2020). Several conflict-handling styles include avoiding, accommodating, compromising, competing, and collaborating aspects. While in some situations involving personal relationships, the avoiding or accommodating styles might help make valuable decisions and keep the relationships, the most suitable conflict-handling style for professional purposes is collaborating.

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Collaborating conflict-handling style implies taking the interest of both parties into account. Collaborating is recommended for organizations’ purposes because it allows both parties to express their concerns and reach a win-win outcome (Mosadeghrad & Mojbafan, 2019). I prefer the negotiation approach with a collaborating style; however, when collaboration is not possible due to complications or a short time frame for discussion, I prefer to choose the compromising style. In terms of bargaining strategies, I find that integrative bargaining promotes negotiation and supports the win-win outcome, which fits the collaborating and compromising conflict-handling style that I use primarily.

In conclusion, this paper explored how conflicts allow individuals to defend their viewpoints and convey their opinions to other people. Conflicts in organizations with a healthy working environment that welcomes employees to share their opinion in the decision-making process, in general, have positive outcomes. Although nothing prevents employees from defending their viewpoints, excessive political discussions and activism in the workplace could harm the company’s image and negatively affect the company’s connection with customers and create tension in the work teams. In the professional sphere, the most suitable style of conflict-handling is collaborating. Integrative bargaining promotes negotiation and supports the outcome that would benefit both participants.

References

Ellis, P., & Abbott, J. (2020). Managing conflict in the workplace: Handling ingrained conflict. Journal of Kidney Care, 5(4), 192-194.

Geurkink, B., Akkerman, A., & Sluiter, R. (2020). Political participation and workplace voice: The spillover of suppression by supervisors. Political Studies, 1-21.

Hirsch, P. B. (2018). Trolls in the cafeteria: Managing political speech in the workplace. Journal of Business Strategy, 39, 56-59.

Mosadeghrad, A. M., & Mojbafan, A. (2019). Conflict and conflict management in Iranian hospitals. International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, 32(3), 550-561.

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