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Industrial conflict in the contemporary business world

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Industrial conflict has become a key issue of discussion in the contemporary business world. A brief read through the daily newspaper inevitably presents the reader with an abundance of articles relating conflict in workplaces, and its varied impacts on organisations. Conflict is an issue that affects all working Australians, so it is important to understand exactly why it occurs, and how it can be managed. An important question that arises is whether or not management can rid the workplace from conflict. The ultimate goal of management is to coordinate productive resources with the aim of achieving its objectives. (Deery et al. 2001 p. 173) One of the resources that need to be coordinated is that of human labour. For the manager, this is the most difficult resource to manage because employees may have alternate interests that intersect with that of management. These opposing interests can lead to conflict. So what then is conflict? Conflict can best be understood through examples. Generally a party in the employment relationship will take action to fulfil its interests, for example in the form of a demand. ...read more.


Given the often expensive nature of conflict, managers will be extremely meticulous in strategy implementation to try and keep conflict to an acceptable minimum. There are four main strategies that managers can adopt when managing an organisation: the traditionalist strategy, the sophisticated paternalist strategy, the sophisticated modern strategy, and finally the standard modern strategy. These various policies, each draw elements from the three approaches to management. As a result of that, the treatment and ultimate manifestation of conflict is very different in companies utilising these strategies. The traditional strategy draws heavily from the unitary approach to management. It is characterised by hostile and negative stances to trade unions and a highly exploitative approach to the workforce. In addition, there is a strong belief of management prerogative, and the legitimacy of these rights (Rose 2004 p. 64). In the early 19th century when this strategy had extensive influence in organisations, this strategy was fairly effective in controlling conflict. The reason was the lack of a legal framework that enforced workers rights. Workers were thus forced to work under the "dictatorship" of management in order to survive. ...read more.


21). An indirect method of minimising certain causes of workplace conflict is through legislation concerning working hours, safety and minimum wages. The conflict in the workplace regarding these issues is thus reduced to an extent. In addition to this, the government plays an important role in conflict resolution through services like arbitration tribunals. Given its sources it seems that conflict is an inherent characteristic that is derived from human nature. It will always be an element of industrial relations (Hill & Lansbury 1988 p. 36). Good management, in any of its forms, will never be able to completely rid industries from conflict. Therefore it is the obligation of management to try and keep conflict to a minimum. This can be achieved through the implementation of appropriate strategies. It is also important not to forget the important roles that the states and unions play in conflict minimisation as well. Industrial conflict may often impose a considerable cost on the participants and on their communities. However, conflict is an important force for progress in an industrial society (Hill & Lansbury p. 36). Therefore, the question that managers should consider is not how to eradicate conflict, but instead how to learn and develop through conflict resolution. ...read more.

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