Managing Conflict in Organizations

Managing Conflict in Organizations

Managing Conflict in Organizations

Managing Conflict in Organizations


This revised and updated edition of Rahim's classic work on managing conflict in organizations presents new evidence that suggests, contrary to generally accepted views, that organizational conflict need not be minimized or avoided in all cases. Some conflicts are functional and others are dysfunctional. Substantive or task-related conflict is functional for nonroutine tasks, but affective conflicts are dysfunctional irrespective of the task conditions. Classifying conflicts as intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup, or intergroup, Rahim explains how to diagnose conflict, how to intervene effectively, and how to handle all the different types of conflict that typically arise in organizations.


Conflict is inevitable among humans. When two or more social entities (i.e., individuals, groups, organizations, and nations) come in contact with one another in attaining their objectives, their relationships may become incompatible or inconsistent. Relationships among such entities may become inconsistent when two or more of them desire a similar resource that is in short supply; when they have partially exclusive behavioral preferences regarding their joint action; or when they have different attitudes, values, beliefs, and skills. “Conflict is the perception of differences of interests among people” (Thompson, 1998, p. 4). Another definition of conflict would be

a process of social interaction involving a struggle over claims to resources, power and status, beliefs, and other preferences and desires. The aims of the parties in conflict may extend from simply attempting to gain acceptance of a preference, or securing a resource advantage, to the extremes of injuring or eliminating opponents. (Bisno, 1988, pp. 13–14; see also Coser, 1968, p. 232)

The theme of conflict has been with us and has influenced our thinking from time immemorial. It received different degrees of emphasis from social scientists during various periods of history. Over the years the phenomena relating to conflict have

fallen within the purview of the historian, the novelist, the philosopher, and the theologian, and [have] been treated systematically by authors in all of the biological and social sciences. Conflicts between nations, political parties, and ideologies have been examined by the political scientist; conflicts in the market place have been examined by the economist; group conflicts of various kinds—familial, racial, religious, and social class— . . .

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