Most people working in an office scenario are a part of a formal group within the organization. These groups are formed as a result of the organisation structure. Their main task could be to provide technical and sales support, providing accounting services, human resources services, and marketing services in each respective departments of technical and sales, accounting, and HR. Groups generally go through through similar evolutionary stages.
The five-stage group-development model characterises groups as proceeding through five distinct stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning5. In the first stage is the group forming stage when group members are recruited for their individual expertise, knowledge and experience. A group progresses through from forming stage to the storming stage. At this stage group members go through discovering what is considered acceptable behaviour, determining the real task of the group and defining group rules6. It may take up to a year before the group reached the norming stage. During this time, informal and social group may be formed. Colleagues would go for lunch together on work days and possibly meet after work for social gatherings.
At this stage group members in the formal group may be jostling for position. Conflict may arise during these stages. Conflict may be a result of one employee getting a promotion or position that is coveted by others in the group. When a decision is made to promote one employee over another in a climate of ambiguity, where facts are rarely objective, and thus open to interpretation, overlooked employees within the organization will use whatever influence they can to taint the facts to support their goals and interests. That creates activities called politicking3.
A conflict could arise from relationship conflict between employee and manager. This conflict is dysfunctional and destructive and can hinder group performance. Friction and interpersonal hostilities inherent in relationship conflicts increases personality clashes and decreases mutual understanding, which hinders the completion of organizational tasks3. Could the conflict arise as a matter of ineffective communication or communication barriers between the two parties? Effective communication is difficult under the best of conditions.
If you are working in a multi-national company, cross-cultures are common. Cross-cultural factors clearly create the potential for increased communication problems. This is particularly true for people from different national cultures. There are barriers caused by differences among perceptions. People who speak different languages actually view the world in different ways.
Internal social conflicts which concern goals, values or interests that do not contradict the basic [values] upon which the group relationship is founded are likely to be positively functional for the social structure. Such conflicts tend to make possible the readjustment of norms and power relations within groups in accordance with the felt needs of its individual members or subgroups.
Organizations need to recognize the prevalence and significance of disruptive behaviours and develop policies and processes to address the issue. Key areas of focus include recognition and awareness, organizational and cultural commitment, implementation of appropriate codes of behaviour policies and procedures, and provision of education and training programs to discuss contributing factors and tools to build effective communication and team collaboration skills4.
What threatens the equilibrium of the group structure is not conflict as such, but the rigidity of the structure, which permits hostilities to accumulate and to be channeled along one major line once they breakout in conflict2. Understanding what happens in a group often removes communication barriers and encourages candor and true interaction. This in turn generates commitment through involvement, which results in effective performance. Researchers have found that individuals will be attracted to a group when it satisfies their needs, helps them achieve important goals, boasts a shared and cohesive culture, and when outsiders prize such group membership1.
2. John,K 2000, ‘Basic Needs, Conflicts, and Dynamics in Groups’, Journal of Individual Psychology, Vol. 56 Issue 4, pp. 419-434, viewed 13 December 2009, EBSCOhost, Academic Search Premier, item: AN 9049863.
3. Robbins, SP & Judge, TA 2007, Organizational Behaviour: Twelfth Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, USA.
4. Rosenstein, AH, O’Daniel, M 2006, ‘ Impact and Implications of Disruptive Behavior in the Perioperative Arena’, Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Vol. 203 Issue 1, pp. 96-105, viewed 13 December 2009, EBSCOhost, Academic Search Premier, item: AN21363344.
5. Tuckman, BW 1965, "Development Sequences in Small Groups", Psychological Bulletin, pp. 384-399.
6. Wood, J, Zeffane, R, Fromholtz, M, Fitzgerakd, J 2006, Organizational Behaviour: Core Concepts and Applications First Australasian edition, Wiley, Australia.