Resolving Conflicts arising from Group Processes

Organizational Theory and Applicability in Modern Organizations

Conflicts within organizations are not always negative. Differences between members should be viewed as strengths used in working towards a common goal rather than suppressing those differences. The classical model embraced by theorists Elton Mayo and Fredrick Taylor echoes the significance of capitalizing on the differences in working towards a common goal for the benefit of the organization. In this paper, we echo the significance of harmonizing individual differences in the workplace basing on Mary Parker Follett’s theories. In her theories, we endeavor to utilize the theory of the group process in shedding more light on this subject.

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The Group Process

The focus of Follett endeavored to address group processes in industrial organizations. According to Follett, basic principles of human behavior that include integrating, emerging, interacting, and evoking are the same in business and other group settings (Cole, 2004). These fundamental concepts envisaged her discussion on this subject. The focus of Follett in business organizations emanates from her experience in the business environments having established networks with prominent businesspersons during her career. Business settings offered interesting materials for the analysis of the group process. Business environments provide an opportunity for personal development and a platform for the creation of spiritual values. Other than profit making, businesses offer a platform for creation and development of human relations.

The knowledge on organized activity endeavors to address world challenges in the separation of mediocrity from the high endeavor. Primarily, organizations strive to achieve coordination within the working groups. The accomplishment of coordination involves direct contact with individuals and departments to attain certain goals within the organization. According to Follett, coordination depicts a continuous process of planning and execution essential in all organizations in bringing about the achievement of the set goals (Cole, 2004). Follett’s argument on the group process echoes the significance of coordinated working groups in the achievement of common goals within the organizations. Working with individuals or groups within a particular organization endeavor to achieve the set goals despite the different roles played by each of them. Follett’s arguments suffice the essence of the group process within an organizational setting in achieving particular goals through a wholesome approach.

The Role of Conflict

The occurrence of conflicts within organizations is inevitable. According to Follett, the effects of conflicts are neither good nor bad. Additionally, unintegrated differences emanating from conflicts may be pathological. It is vital to capitalize on the conflict in organizations as it occurs as an inevitable case. Dissonance and conflict should present individuals a platform to produce unity and harmony. Assimilation of diversity encompasses the process of interweaving and interpenetration of actions and ideas. Follett brings into play three techniques utilized in the resolution of social conflict. These techniques include compromise, domination, and integration. According to Follett, the aspect of compromise relies on the principle of ‘reciprocal abandonments’ (Cole, 2004). It occurs as an unsatisfactory technique for resolving social conflicts. Follett argues that compromise starves the cooperative nature of humans.

Domination as a technique encompasses the attributes of persuasion, voluntary submission, coercion, and imitation. However, Follett faults this technique based on the aspect that it benefits only one side of the conflicting parties. She advocates for integration, a process that involves refocussing of the efforts of each side so that both sides win from the conclusion of the conflict. All the two sides gain from this conflict as none of the sides are subjected to unfair treatment. Creative solutions emanate from the problem-solving techniques adopted in this strategy. As a mutual benefits stance, integration engulfs trust as a fundamental approach to solving the problem. Vital aspects of integration include commitment and consensus. Integration addresses the insights from individuals holding different perspectives.

Follett holds the argument that conflict is not always a negative happening (Graham, 2003). However, conflict should occur as a platform where individuals can engage with open minds to bring along creative solutions for all. The effectiveness of an organization relies on conflicting parties to reach a common ground in the emergence of conflicts. Integration as a technique serves to relinquish the view of conflict as a negative occurrence. On the other hand, it suffices the benefits of wholesome engagement of the conflicting sides in reaching a common ground. Logical dialogues enable individuals to reach a new understanding for the benefit of the organization and its members.

The Circular Response

The concept of the circular response envisages the occurrence of a conflict. It rests upon the theory that depicts that the pattern of relations between actors occurs as a unit of social analysis. A union of interests of the actors conceives a single situation (Graham, 2003). The modulation of the activities and sentiments of the actors within the environments depicts circular response. The theories echoed in circular response points to the essentiality of integration in dealing with social conflicts. Achieving integration requires the introduction of various forms of coordination as fundamental principles of the organization. As a continuous process, coordination occurs as a vital aspect of the achievement of goals.

Application of these concepts in the conflict between academics and the management within a university

Similar to other workplace settings, conflicts occurs as an inevitable happening in higher education institutes. Academic and non-academic staff may engage in a conflict leading to the escalation of differing opinions, attitudes, and perceptions about certain subjects and aspects. It is crucial for these conflicting sides to engage in constructive dialogue to prevent the detrimental occurrences that may lead to failure in attaining the set goals within the organization. Follett’s theories on group process in an industrialized setting come in handy to address these challenges in a higher learning institution setting (Graham, 2003).

Harnessing the conflict to the advantage of both sides depicts the significance of integration as a process to ensure that the two conflicting sides reach a common ground. Follett’s theories on integration require the identification of viable opportunities and bringing up existing differences in an open way. The process encourages the interaction of different techniques to deal with broader issues leading to the occurrence of the conflicts.

In a university setting, it is inevitable to suppress the escalation of a conflict. Higher institutions of learning do not occur solely as complex workplace depicting bureaucracies. On the other hand, they occur as communities that play roles as centers of learning, advancement and preservation of knowledge, and hubs that propel societal self-reflection and change. Understanding of these dynamics should occur as a prominent factor in relinquishing these conflicts. However, the conflict presents individuals with an opportunity to approach the conflict from a point to utilize for the benefit of these conflicting sides. Let us take an example of a case where university administrators have established laws and policies that endeavor to ‘micromanage’ the university. In such a case, the rules and regulations focus on changing the campus environment whereby the administrators depict a ‘higher’ level of superiority over the academic staff. In such a case, the university management may use the aspect to suppress the demands of the teaching staff. Areas of conflict that possibly occur in such a case include recruitment policies, remuneration rates, and various policies on conduct between the academic and non-academic staff within the university. In the early 1960s, university enrollments in the U.S. expanded, regarding staff and students. As a result, administrators created rules and regulations aimed at ‘micromanaging’ academic staff.

Conflicts can occur in various forms within a university setting. For example, the management may deny a professor some funds to engage in a particular project that he/she is interested in and has substantial evidence supporting the project. Laboratory assistants may also differ with professors on the timing of the laboratory sessions and how to run the sessions. The above-mentioned cases depict the inevitability of conflicts in a university setting. Another prominent case of conflict depicts the occurrence of disagreements from non-academic staff with the management structures in place. Higher learning institutions endeavor to find a balance between its finances and government cuts. Funding various projects within the institution requires clear frameworks in budgeting to ensure that all areas in the university that require funding get a reasonable share. However, this is not always the case. At times, allocation of finances in the event of a shortage of funds creates disagreements within the institutions. Some decisions reached by the non-academic community fails in taking into consideration the views and opinions from the academic side. In such a case, not much freedom is accorded to the academic profession. It occurs as a case of demeaning the ability of the academic community in making substantial views and arguments on certain issues that affect the university.

The conflict between the administrators and the academic staff, for example, professors creates a platform that can lead to the underachievement of the goals and objectives of the institution, if not well managed. Significant areas of contention encompass the lack of trust and respect between the two sides and discontent in the medium of the interaction of the academic and non-academic staff. These two aspects create a platform of disharmony and lack of the realization of set objectives for the organization.

As a future professor, I will endeavor to address this conflict relying on Follett’s theories of conflict resolution basing on the aspect of integration to ensure that the aspects of the conflict do not lead to detrimental consequences for the university. Integration technique occurs as a significant strategy to address this challenge. At an individual level, I propose that the university council should have an equal representation from both the management and the academic staff. Equal representation cancels leadership and powers struggles in the management of the university. Implementing equal representation substantiates the aspect of democracy whereby the council members are drawn from different sides of the divide in equal measures. According to Follett, the group process within industrialized organizations (like the University) depicts the essentiality of a wholesome approach to dealing with conflicts that arise (Ramsbotham, Miall, & Woodhouse, 2011). The process involves ensuring that the conflicting diverse interests reach a common ground. The confrontation of two diverse interests occurs as demands from either side that try to ensure implementation of their interests.

In this case, equal representation of the academic and non-academic staff depicts the significance of integration. It is a win-win situation in that all the conflicting sides have the opportunity to reach a particular decision based on personal views and perceptions on an issue and not the tyranny of numbers from a particular side. As a professor, I would rally the academic staff in backing my call for equal representation on the council. I also realize that this may not come easy basing on discontent from the management. An academic union, representing this side of the community, comes in handy as a bargaining ground. First, constructive dialogue must occur. During this dialogue, I would present the plight of the academic community regarding the underrepresentation of its members in the council. My argument focuses on addressing this challenge that hinder constructive decision making from both sides of the institution.

In approaching this case, it is vital to acknowledge that some differences are irreconcilable (Ramsbotham, Miall, & Woodhouse, 2011). As a result, the domination of leaders in dominating over others and manipulative tactics may occur that creates discontent in achieving integration. Rallying back the academic union as a force comes in handy to alleviate suppression from the management side. As a leader of the union, for example, I would clearly set out the areas of contention to suffice my quest in reaching a common ground. I would also allow the management to give their side of the story. Opportunities present in integration endeavor to ensure that both sides reach an agreement. Evidently, coming out as an academic union depicts a formidable force to iron out the difference between the conflicting sides. At the end of the discussion, I believe the management will realize the significance of the academic union in the achievement of goals within the University. As a result, the inclusion of the academic community in the council will occur to facilitate equality in decision-making processes.


As a subordinate to the organization, I realize the inevitability of conflicts in my workplace, in the university setting. Additionally, I also understand the essentiality of solving these conflicts through initiating an integrative approach to relinquish the dynamics present in the conflict within the organization. As a colleague in the academic community, reaching win-win situations in the case of conflicts brings into play the significance of addressing the conflicts based on an inclusive approach to both sides. Reaching a win-win situation from conflicts enables me as a leader to ensure that my subordinates realize the significance of democracy in addressing emerging issues in my workplace. As a professor, it is vital that my students realize the benefits of learning through an interactive approach whereby I consider their opinions in reaching decisions that affect them.


Cole, G. (2004). Management Theory and Practice. New York: Cengage Learning

Graham, P. (2003). Mary Parker Follett– the prophet of Management: A Celebration of Writings from the 1920s. New York: Beard Books

Ramsbotham, O. Miall, H., & Woodhouse, T. (2011). Contemporary Conflict Resolution. New York: Polity

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