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Conflict Causes

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Conflict Causes

Conflict is a process in which one party perceives that its interests are negatively affected by another party (Kinicki 2009). This is a normal and natural part of any work place. When it occurs, there is a tendency for morale to be lowered and decreased productivity. However, conflict can be useful, it can push conflicting parties to grow, communicate and urge the flow of new ideas. For this to happen, leaders need to understand why conflict occurs and take the correct steps to resolve it. According to psychologists Art Bell and Brett Hart, there are eight common causes of conflict within the workplace; conflicting resources, conflicting styles, confliction perceptions, conflicting goals, conflicting pressures conflicting roles, differing personal values and unpredictable policies (Bell, 2002) This paper will discusses a few of this conflict causes as well examples with consequences and possible steps for resolution.
Conflicting goals: On occasion conflicting goals may occur in a workplace. As an example from my organization; the supervisor will tell us that it is important that our exams are done with the highest quality, to take our time and do a good job. On the other hand, the Physicians tell the technologist, I just need this test done, all I need to know is X, Y, Z, and I need it quick. These are two drastically differing goals, which can cause conflict in a variety of ways. Unfortunately this is all too often a scenario in our imaging department with resulting consequences. Let’s say the physician requests the technologist to perform a study on is patient prior to surgery. The physician only needs a limited amount of information that could not be obtained by a different mode of imaging. The technologist performs the study only obtaining and documenting the necessary information for the physician. Later down the line a differing physician reads and interprets the exam but it not aware of the requests for a limited study. What is passed to the supervisor is that the technologist completed a substandard study. In this particular example there a couple of things that are at the root of the conflict; however, it all started with the difference of goals between the lab standards and the needs of the physician. Luckily this situation has an easy solution, communication. After a few escalating issues regarding similar situations to this, policies where established to control the end line conflict and consequences. The ordering physician is to specially request a “limited study” on the orders and the technologist is to detail the requests of the physician in the exam report.
Conflicting Perceptions: Each of us views the world through our own eyes, and differences in how events are perceived can cause conflict. This is particularly true if one employee has a piece of information that another employee does not. This can also be a common cause of office politics, which was the case in my organization. The supervisor assigned a critical task to one of the senior technologists on the team. When the technologists with the most seniority learned of this, she saw this as threatening to her run for lead technologist as well as a blow to her sense of power. The technologist began to gossip and spread rumors of favoritism among the rest of the staff. Though the supervisor had a good reason for the task assignment the offended technologist was not privy to that information. Because of each individual’s differences in perception there will always be a potential for conflict. In an effort to eliminate this reason for conflict, communicate openly with your staff.
Different Personal Values: Consider that your manager has asked you to perform a task that conflicts with your moral and ethical values. In this case, would you do as your boss asks? Would you refuse? If you do refuse, would you fear retaliation? Conflict quickly arises when our work clashes with our personal values. One example of a case of differing values in my organization arose between a technologist and the supervisor. A patient had been sent for exam with an incomplete referral. When questioning the patient prior to the exam, the technologist determined that there was no billable indication for the exam. The referring physician’s office was closed for the day and could not be contacted to remedy the situation. When the technologist discussed the situation with the supervisor, she was told “just make something up and do the exam. Dr. X is refers to us often and we do not want to lose his business”. In this particular instance the technologist stuck to her values and explained the situation to the patient, who agreed to reschedule the exam. As a leader is important hold your employees to your same morals. Try not to ask your team to do anything that goes against their values or yours as a leader.
Unpredictable Policies: Policies and procedures are established to create boundaries for acceptable behavior and outline expectations. If there is a change to those policies and that information is not properly decimated to the staff, confusion and conflict can occur. As a leader, if you fail to apply policies consistently to the staff, the inequality in treatment can cause dissention in the workplace. There was one employee in my organization that could do no wrong in the eyes of the supervisor. He was tardy or regularly absent from work, let left work for other technologist to complete and the quality of his work was poor. Other team members became aware of the lack of ramifications for his actions. Rumors and gossip about the situation was a daily conversation among the team. Quickly the employees lost respect and trust for the supervisor. Conflict of this nature can again be solved be prevented with open communication, and the fair and equal treatment of all team members. Confronting and resolving conflicts that arise in the workplace is a significant challenge for managers and employees to face. Often time the parties feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the situation. By learning ways to prevent conflict and constructively resolve conflict when it arises, the potential negative consequences may be avoided.

Bell, Art. (2002). Six ways to resolve workplace conflicts. McLaren School of Business, University of San Francisco. Available on the World Wide Web at Date visited, July 6, 2014.
Hart, Brett. (2000). Conflict in the workplace. Behavioral Consultants, P.C. Available on the World Wide Web at Date visited, July 6, 2014
Kinicki, A. & Kreitner, R. (2009). Organizational behavior: Key concepts, skills & best practices 4th ed. NY,NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

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