Defining Workplace Conflict: Types and Perspectives

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  • 0:08 Workplace Conflict
  • 0:50 Traditional Conflict
  • 1:40 Interactionalist Conflict
  • 2:40 Managed Conflict
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
When conflict develops within an organization, there are different ways that managers can handle issues. The three different perspectives regarding conflict are traditional, interactionalist and managed conflict.

Workplace Conflict

Violet Jones, Geoffrey Burger and Cindy Salsa are three managers at the local Intestinal Distress Taco restaurant. Managers at the restaurant have an extremely stressful job. They have to handle conflict from employees, other managers, bosses and customers. Workplace conflict occurs due to disagreements in goals, facts or expectations.

All three managers have different ways of interpreting and handling conflict within their organization. The three views of conflict are traditional, interactionalist and managed conflict. Let's see how each manager handles a different problem using a unique conflict perspective when it comes to Intestinal Distress Taco.

Traditional Conflict

Violet Jones has been employed with Intestinal Distress Taco for a few years. She is a rising star in management and has overcome many job problems with her traditional view of conflict. A traditional view is when conflict is seen as a negative and disruptive type of organizational behavior. Individuals view conflict as destructive and will avoid it at all costs. Violet would rather not reprimand an employee and have conflict arise. Instead, she prefers to try and solve problems herself.

Opposite of Violet, some other managers with a traditional view try to eliminate conflict with an authoritarian iron fist. They do not listen to other views and force decisions on subordinates. Either way, under the traditionalist view, no conflict is acknowledged.

Interactionalist Conflict

Violet's co-manager Geoffrey has a different approach to conflict. Geoffrey Burger is the newest manager at the taco restaurant. He views conflict totally different than Violet. In fact, he feels that conflict can empower a group as well as destroy it. This view of conflict is called interactionalist. Geoffrey believes that conflict can either be dysfunctional or functional in nature.

For example, some of the managers have gotten into arguments over who gets the one corner office. This is dysfunctional conflict because the fighting results in a win-lose situation with only one manager benefiting. A functional version of this same situation would be if all of the managers discussed how to share the corner office to create a win-win positive outcome. The managers could have a lottery or rotate use of the office. In both examples, the conflict acts as a catalyst to cause change in an organization. If managers employ functional conflict, the changes can be good.

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