Interdepartmental Conflicts in organisations; A case of conflicts between the Marketing department the other departments in an organisation
Table of Contents
Conflicts in organisations have become one of the issues that those organisations have to deal with in order to create an environment in which employees will be happy to work – and work better. Conflicts will always arise in organisations, as in all areas of life, be it between departments, managers and other employees or between two employees.
Coulter (2003) describes conflicts as disagreements and differences that lead to opposition between two parties. Most conflicts are bad to organisations as they prevent groups or individuals from achieving their goals (Coulter 2003). Conflicts will mostly arise where there is incompatibility in those goals or ideas between two parties, and this can obstruct and prevent the achievement goals or objectives (Mullins, 2002)
Incompatibility in ideas can come about as a result of differences in the beliefs, skills, attitudes and values of the conflicting parties, be it between departments or individuals (Rahim, 2001). Most conflict results in anxiety and stress that may lead to negative attitudes and perceptions from employees as well as customers: good reason why such conflicts are not welcomed in any organisation (Carsten K. W, 1997).
This report is based on the conflicts that can arise as a result of departments in an organisation disagreeing. The focus of this report is on differences that can arise between the marketing departments and other departments in an organisation as a result of the production of a product. The reports looks at the various types of conflicts are described by Huber. D (2006) and later at what can bring about conflicts in an organisation. The latter part of the report gives a brief on how conflicts mentioned could be resolved.
There are three main types of conflicts as described by Huber (2006).
Relationship conflicts occur when both parties in a conflict cannot agree on a personal basis, causing fiction and tension as a result of dislike amongst staff members, groups or departments which might cause annoyance, irritation and frustration (Huber, 2006).
This type of conflict comes as a result of differences in opinions in pursuing a task and it may be caused by either relationship conflict, excitement or differences in the way one party may approach the task which may not be suitable for the other (Huber, 2006).
Conflicts that arise as a result of how to proceed with a task and how they should be accomplished because of differences on how to delegate resources and duties and who is responsible for what (Huber, 2006). Different people have different approaches on how to carry out a task and therefore this can cause conflicts
There are always conflicts arising between department in an organisation, especially between the marketing department and other departments because most of their tasks are dependent on how well the other departments are willing to cooperate.
The carrying out a task depends on other departments doing their job properly especially when the task requires high quality and coordinated performance with limited resources; in such situations conflicts may arise (Mullins, 2002; 2007). For example, if the marketing department wants to start promoting and advertising a new product, they will need to know how the packaging and design of the product is supposed to look and this will depend on the production and design department. Conflicts may arise as the marketing department may want a particular design or packaging but there may not be the resources available to the production team to come up with exactly what the marketeers want.
At the beginning of every financial year, various departments always fight for a good deal of their budgets so as to meet their departmental goals, therefore causing conflicts especially if a department receives less than they were expecting in times of low revenues (Mullins, 2002; 2007). Changes in the environment, such as fall in demand and government or banking restrictions on finance can also cause a fall in resources and therefore conflicts (Mullins, 2002; 2007). The marketing department may have all their marketing strategies drawn out and costed, but this may have to be revised in the light of a reduced budget. This may cause conflict between the marketing department and the Finance department. There is always conflict in when it comes to budgets because every department is always fighting for an adequate share of resources.
Managers of a department may find it difficult to cooperate with managers of other departments because they are used to doing their own jobs and might find other managers are being controlling (Mullins, 2002; 2007). It is perhaps usual for most departments find the accounting and finance department very controlling and always have conflicts with them when it comes to budgets. The marketing department tends to be known as a ‘flashy’ creative department which may make it difficult for them to work together with the accounting department. Marketing departments can also have conflicts with the production department as they want to put the products in the marketplace as soon as possible.
This type of conflict is caused by managers not acting the way they are supposed to in their given roles especially when they are not compatible with their roles (Mullins, 2002; 2007). This is associated with role incompatibility (people have little knowledge of their responsibility), role ambiguity (they do not know what to do and have mixed ideas after they have been placed in the role), and role overload (they carry out so many roles and a lot is expected from them) (Mullins, 2002; 2007). Role conflict may lead to conflicts between managers and workers and low quality or work (in the case of role overload) (Mullins, 2002; 2007).
In a company that is owned by one person, role overload is very common: the entrepreneur will want to make sure all the areas are well managed. This might lead to poor results because every department will depend on the entrepreneur’s autocratic decisions – which may not be the best – and decision making might be slow. The marketing manager may find the production manager incapable of producing what they think is the best product to market.
Every department has its norms, values and culture that they cherish and do not want anyone from another department to violate, including office space (Mullins, 2002; 2007). Job description is also part of violating a department’s rules where someone from another department intervening in the jobs carried out by one department and also using a special space set for meetings by a group for something else (Mullins, 2002; 2007). For example, there will definitely be a conflict if someone from the finance department goes to the marketing department to try to tell them what to do to sell products – and vice-versa. They may find this offensive because it made them look like they cannot do their jobs and those in finance tend not to be very creative or experts in marketing.
The most important way of managing conflict is by making clear the organisation’s goals and objectives and also defining roles to prevent misunderstanding (Mullins, 2002; 2007). By defining these, the various departments can work towards achieving this one goal to contribute in the success of the organisation
There should also be good Human Resource management and procedures to help reduce conflicts by carrying out job analysis and description, disciplinary and grievance procedures, appeals, punishment and reward procedures, recruitment and selection and mediation (Mullins, 2007).
Resource allocation has always been a problem as departments tend to have a lot of conflict about it with the management. Management can also reduce conflict in this area by giving departments a chance to write a special report if they are not satisfied with their budget or think it is unfair (Mullins, 2002; 2007).
This helps the group to understand individuals as a whole and how they behave, and also encouraging departments to work together by delegating tasks where they can bring out their ideas and talk in a constructive manner (Mullins, 2002; 2007). This helps in reducing conflicts in the nature of activities and departmental specialisation.
Managers should create a more participative and supportive environment where workers can work and be encouraged, and can co-operate by showing respect and building trust (Mullins, 2002; 2007).
Conflicts can have a negative effect on an organisation’s performance and image. Managers should be able to negotiate in times of conflict so as to come out with the best solutions and avoid future conflicts especially on what has already been negotiated on (Cloke et al, 2005).
But, according to Carsten et al (1997), conflicts can help to improve on company’s performance as individuals in a group tend to work closely together and coming out with the best results and also different ideas could be helpful for the organisation. If staff feel unable to contribute for fear of being criticised for ‘creating conflict’ then the company may become very stale and ruled by ‘group think’, and thus unable to innovate or respond to changes in the business environment. To expect there to be no conflict in unrealistic; the key here is to manage the inevitable conflict better to chieve a positive outcome for all.
Different companies approach it in different ways. Some can, in extreme cases of conflict, call for mediation between both parties which will involve the two parties and a third party to listen and come out with a solution (Mullins, 2002; 2007).
Finally, then, it can be concluded that companies view conflict in different ways and also know which conflicts should be resolved first, and which are to be resolved later, depending on their intensity. Some conflicts are encouraged in companies because of the benefits they bring – such as innovation, creativity, honesty and openness – while others tend to be resolved as quickly as possible – if possible – because they may facilitate low performance and production, and may damage the organisation’s image.
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