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Intergroup Conflict at the Workplace, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1730

Research Paper

The Problem Description

The term intergroup conflicts refer to any form of conflict that manifests between two or more groups and how it affects the members of those groups. Nevertheless, the concept is also used to refer to any form of formal or formal discord between groups of different natures, such as activists or political parties or affiliates. According to Neuberg and Schaller (2008), the phenomenon is often regarded as the main cause of the biases and prejudices between groups. In other words, it causes members of one group to discriminate against the members of the other group or groups. Intergroup conflicts often manifest at workplaces and in other settings characterized by people having similar characteristics group distinctively together. In the workplace setting, groups are defined by job professions such as lawyers, accountants, and the sales team, among others (Sommer, 2013). Within organizations, conflicts have become inevitable as each distinct group aims at advancing its interests. Therefore, most conflicts between groups emerge due to differences in interests, opinions, ideologies, and beliefs.

Controlling behaviors and antagonistic attitudes are often the products of conflicts of interest among groups. Value or power differences and economic disagreements when the groups aim at satisfying their needs cause them to become incompatible (Neuberg & Schaller, 2008). Simple incompatibilities can thereby graduate into destructive forms of conflicts courtesy of cognitive and perceptual processes. Categorization into groups also leads to the formation of favoritism within the group. The result will be negative stereotyping of the opposite groups. On the other hand, cognitive biases also cause group members to assign positive characteristics to the members of their group while downplaying any negative characteristics that they may possess. Intergroup conflicts also tend to emanate from group-level processes. Different groups have their own distinct identities and a sense of identity that individuals assign to their group affects how they interact with the members of other groups.

Most groups are characterized by cohesiveness as members identify with the group and desire to stick with the group. As Tajfel and Turner (1978) state, cohesiveness is a factor that creates pressure that forces an individual to adhere to the norms of the group, especially whenever a conflict occurs. The desire to conform to the group forces one to adopt the group’s thinking patterns, triggering irrationality when considering other groups. As such, all these factors are responsible for intergroup conflicts. In return, conflicts also seem to escalate these factors. The escalation leads to structural and psychological problems that make the group members not desire de-escalation of conflicts. Intergroup conflicts at the workplaces can hinder the performance of a given group hence leading to delays in projects or the ability to achieve the set objectives. The phenomenon ought to be resolved promptly to avoid its losses.

Detailed Background

As aforementioned, intergroup conflicts are bound to occur in any workplace setting. This is because there are different groups formed within workplaces for various purposes. Such groups may be formal or informal and long or short-term (Tajfel & Turner, 1978). In a certain scenario, two different groups were formed to work on a given project, and as such, they ought to have had a similar objective to achieve. At first, the two groups seemed to have been working harmoniously, as seen during meetings and field visits. The company manager often encouraged the two groups to ensure that they always collaborated on issues that required input from both spheres. The two groups were formed from two different departments, the information and communication (ICT) department and that of sales and marketing. The idea of the project was to launch a new product into the market. The ICT group was brought in since the product was IT-based and was developed by the department. The sales and marketing department was to handle issues related to promotion and conduct market research to identify consumer preferences.

However, when the project was underway, a disagreement emerged regarding which group should be handling the online marketing campaigns. The ICT group argued that since they had better product knowledge, they ought to handle the online marketing campaigns. On the other hand, the sales and marketing team stated that any activities related to sales and marketing, whether face to face or online, ought to be under their jurisdiction. The two groups went back and forth on this matter hence jeopardizing the set goals of the project. At some point, they could not even see eye to eye and hence, they never even attended regular meetings together as they used to at the onset of the project. The project had to stall for some time as the top management team tried to find a solution to the conflict. The members affiliated to each group were seen speaking with one voice, with no single member attempting to reason or willing to compromise their stands. The sales and marketing team even resorted to calling the ICT team names such as “nerds” and “imposters.” The ICT team branded the sales and marketing team “technical dwarfs.” The main reason behind this conflict was that it was the first project that the ICT team had advanced up to such a stage, and they wanted their efforts to be recognized. Having undertaken several projects, the sales team maintained that they had the right expertise to ensure that the project was successful and that the ICT had done their bit, and the rest of the tasks fell under their department.

Examples of Manifestation

The first instance where the conflict manifests is when each group member maintains their stands without the willingness to compromise or to try and reason rationally. As aforementioned, intergroup conflicts are characterized by all the members of the distinct groups sticking together as the group’s norms bind them. Due to their desires to stay put within the group, the members are willing to do everything possible to show their loyalty to the group. Another manifestation takes place when they begin to call each other names. Intergroup conflicts are often characterized by group members forming stereotypes against the other group, leading to discrimination. Whereas the ICT team branded the sales and marketing team as “technical dwarfs,” the latter referred to the former as “nerds.” Therefore, this formed the escalation point of the conflict. Each team also held to their beliefs that the project was theirs even though it was apparent that they needed to work together to achieve better results. Another manifestation of the conflict came when the project had to be stopped as the teams could not agree to work together. According to the available literature, workplace conflicts often lead to losses for the company.

The de-escalation point came when the top management tried to intervene. However, their efforts were not enough as the two groups disagreed once again, and the conflict escalated. Besides, the project also kicked off at a desirable point, with the members of both groups attending meetings together and discussing ways to ensure the project’s success. However, conflict of interest set in, and each group formed the interests they wanted to fulfill. One group desired that their first project ever becomes a success while the other wanted to maintain their good reputation, having conducted several successful projects. The scenario shows how different interests can cause conflicts and reduce the chances of success of a project. As such, a good conflict resolution strategy was required to resolve the issues and ensure the project’s success.

It is important to note that not every conflict will result in the project failing. In fact, a well-managed conflict can lead to positive results. However, the conflict in this scenario was poorly managed and hence it led to the project’s failure. The literature indicates that workplace conflicts are usually resolved through third-party intervention , where an outsider helps the two groups reach a consensus. However, in this scenario, the top management was unable to intervene as the conflict had escalated too far. It is also worth mentioning that the project manager should have been able to handle the conflict as it was his first time managing a project with two teams. Workplace conflicts are often  unavoidable, and they can lead to disastrous results if not well managed.

Previous Efforts of Resolution

The company’s management attempted to end the conflict on many occasions but in vain. The approach taken by the management was never successful since their idea was to bring the two groups together and try to reach a compromise. However, the groups refused to listen to them as they maintained their stands and continued stereotyping one another. Nevertheless, the company’s manager was not available to solve the problem on time since he had to attend to other business matters. The managers used a method that could not have worked since the conflict had reached a critical stage and continued to escalate. The reason is that instead of meeting individual groups separately first to get their divergent views, the managers brought them together at one table to discuss the issue. The result was that none of the groups was willing to listen to the other. Both groups maintained that their stand was the right one giving reasons that the managers could not understand. In such cases, the managers should have sought to use an ad hog approach to ensure that the project was not stalled due to the conflict between the two groups.

The ad hog approach would have involved the managers meeting each group separately and addressing their concerns. The managers could then try to find a common ground that both groups would be willing to work on. This would have required more time but would have been successful in ensuring that the project was not stalled. In addition, it would also have helped in coming up with a lasting solution to the conflict. However, this was not the case as the management continued to fail in its efforts to resolve the conflict. Moreover, it is also worth noting that when conflicts become too big, they tend to be resistant to change. This means that even if a new method of conflict resolution is introduced, it might not be successful.

References

Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2008). Intergroup prejudices and intergroup conflicts. Foundations of evolutionary psychology, 401.

Sommer, G. (2013). Review of” The Oxford Handbook of Intergroup Conflict”. Journal of Social and Political Psychology1(1), 74-85.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. (1978). Chapter 3: An Integrative Theory of Inter-group Conflict. Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations, 474p.

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