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Structural Functional and Dysfunctional Conflicts

Conflict is something that occurs in any workplace, it is an inevitable part of the work routine. Sometimes it can be actually helpful, as conflicts highlight a particular problem, and then it is possible to create a discussion around it and then find the solutions to the issue. Such type of conflicts is called functional because it provides a positive result. But in other cases, conflicts, if not solved immediately, can be destructive as they create a hostile atmosphere in the workplace.

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This type of conflict is called dysfunctional as it worsens the performance of the staff. There are several reasons that may produce a conflict, one of them being the structure of work. The reasons for such conflicts are based around the way the organization is structured and work is organized. It means that the actual arrangement of an organization is to blame, as well as the company’s rules, standards and values. For instance, companies with a low level of cultural and ethical work awareness are less likely to involve in negotiation and conversation with their staff. The employers in such organizations would rather act one-sidedly and forcefully.

However, the employers who understand different work approaches, values and objectives of their employees are more likely to take part in communication and search for mutual agreement and conflict resolution. There are several factors of work conflicts that are related to structure: they include specialization, resources, differences in objectives, relationship within a workgroup, relationships between staff and authorities.

When dysfunctional conflict occurs because of the structure, the most obvious solution is structural change. For example, two parties can disagree on the process of new product development. One party suggests purchasing a setlist of components that are needed for the design of the product. However, the other party rejects the suggestion and postpones the whole project because the price of components disturbs the budget. The delays in the project create conflict between the manager and the staff, and the staff cannot come up with the compromise; thus, the whole atmosphere of the workplace and the performance is damaged.

However, the manager can produce a solution for this dysfunctional conflict. For instance, the management can impose a new task for both parties to evaluate the cost of components while making sure that the risk of quality issues is reduced. In this instance, if the conflict occurs between two departments, a solution is to modify the structure, so those departments connect their goals.

If the conflict occurs between members of the working staff, the most obvious solution is to change the arrangement of the team, separating the conflicted individuals from each other. In cases where conflict is caused by differences in working styles, norms, and standards between members of the working team, finding a substitute for some of these workers may resolve the problem. If that cannot be done due to the unavailability of such substitutes, a physical layout solution should be taken into consideration, as dysfunctional conflicts poorly influence the work process.

On the contrary, functional conflicts improve work performance in the long run. For example, when the two parties have different ideas on how to manage common resources. The management can resolve this conflict by listening to both sides and finding a compromise, which equally includes some of the ideas of two parties. In this way, work routine can be modified in a positive way, satisfying every side of the conflict and providing fruitful results. Moreover, functional conflicts eventually improve work efficiency and encourage communication among staff workers as such conflicts teach people to listen and understand each other’s values.

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