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Resolving Conflict for Organizational Harmony

  • 12 Pages
  • Published On: 20-12-2023

One of the most important factors in organizational behaviour is workplace flexibility, especially with regards to how it helps maintain employee engagement, productivity and organizational performance (Padkapayeva et al, 2017). existing research has highlighted the role of flexible working patterns in improving employee commitment towards organizational goals (Kim 2018, Rastogi et al, 2018). It exemplifies the relationship between organizational production improvement and employee engagement. Furthermore, according to Nordback et al (2017), workplace flexibility improves organizational performance by enhancing employees’ job satisfaction. However, Janjhua et al (2020) also revealed that the undisciplined nature and sedentary behaviour nature of employees have created different forms of barriers to workplace flexibility, including a conflict between employers and employees. To solve this problem, this study will evaluate how flexibility has affected an organization and its employees, and whether the application of various managerial conflict resolution model can resolve flexibility induced conflict at workplaces.

Workplace Flexibility

Workplace flexibility is an organised arrangement between employers and employees, whereby the standard working arrangement can be altered to better accommodate employees (Oconnor & Cech, 2018). In most organizations, according to Sapulveda et al (2018), flexibility includes a prominent change in location, working hours or working pattern. Ugargol & Patrick (2018) wrote that such forms of workplace flexibility are strategic decision aimed at changing the expectations and circumstances of employees viewed as valuable to the organization. As per Tomilnson et al (2018), workplace flexibility has played a significant role in developing organizations’ attractiveness towards employees. Wainwright et al (2019) observed that flexibility at the workplace has been meant to introduce a justified transformation of standard working conditions based on the aspects and consequences of workers. Therefore, workplace flexibility has positively influenced organizational performance by creating a range of positive impacts on organizational development and job satisfaction.


Moreover, in modern organizations, there has been a rapidly increasing demand for workplace flexibility from employees (Sapulveda et al 2018). put in the present context, the presence of COVID-19 and its containment measures has put workplace flexibility, especially telework, in the spotlight. With many countries issuing stay-at-home orders and allowing only the essential workers to be physically at their workplaces, many employers have been forced to implement flexible working options (Ugargol & Patrick 2018). Therefore, workplace flexibility has transformed from an option for employers to a necessity in maintaining organizational productivity in this era of the pandemic.

Motives for workplace Flexibility

Existing research reveals that there are several factors motivating organizations to introduce workplace flexibility. However, flexible workplaces have remained attractive mainly due to the demands and satisfaction of employees based on different situational contexts (Janjhua et al, 2020). as organizations try to attract talent and follow recent recruitment trends, they concentrate on flexible working arrangements – which has presented as a strategic and attractive approach for individual employees. Therefore, it is plausible to claim employee attraction present as the main motivation for organizations’ adoption of workplace flexibility.

There is consistent evidence of a positive correlation between flexible workplaces and employee retention. For instance, Nordback et al (2017) and Sapulveda et al (2018) found that organizations that had more flexible working environments for their employees experienced less employee turnover compared to those with less flexible working environments. Similar conclusions were made by Janjhua et al (2020), who asserted that employees working in flexible workplaces are less likely to consider shifting to organizations with less flexible working environments. Therefore, organizations consider employee retention as one of the benefits introducing of workplace flexibility. Apart from these factors, the changing organizational perceptions about demographic patterns are also considered as a major driving force for the introduction of flexible workplaces in many organizations.

Impact of workplace flexibility on organizational performance

In a broader sense, literature shows a significant cause-and-effect relationship between flexible workplaces and organizational performance. According to Nordback et al (2017), the presence of workplace flexibility in organizations is considered a significant factor for measuring organizational performance. This implies that organizations that include workplace flexibility have better production levels (Oconnor & Cech, 2018). Therefore, it can be said that flexible workplace conditions positively influence organization production rates while simultaneously improving productivity and sales volume. But different factors influence the role of flexible workplaces in enhancing organizational productivity. In this regard, proper support from employers and improving employee satisfaction are key factors in play (Oconnor & Cech, 2018).

Workplace flexibility has also widely been considered as a positive influence on organizational behaviour. Besides, a combination of flexible working conditions and adequate time of completing tasks has helped in enhancing employee job performance and job satisfaction (Ugargol & Patrick, 2018). When employees are satisfied, according to Janjhua et al (2020), their work engagement increases, and this enhances organisational productivity. As a result of flexible working conditions, employees foster their positive engagement to positively affect organizational performance.

Impact of flexible workplace on employee engagement

Apart from impacting organizational performance, workplace flexibility has also been evidenced to influence employee performance. They are considered beneficial agreements between employers and employees. As part of this agreement, both parties agree on flexible working locations, working hours and several other conditions that create positive impacts on the firm (Ugargol & Patrick, 2018). In this regard, Nordback et al (2017) argued that flexible working conditions are a non-financial agreement that not only helps to maintain job satisfaction among employees but also enhance their work-life balance. As per Janjhua et al (2020), work-life balance is an essential element of employee satisfaction that leads to an improvement of their performance.

Accordingly, the presence and proper implementation of flexible workplace organizational policies can not only improve employee satisfaction but also enhance the reputational image of the organization as a good employer. A positive image of the organization as a good employer enhances its employee attraction and retention capabilities. Alternatively, the job satisfaction and better work-life balance that accompanies flexible workplaces help to improve employee performance (Padkapayeva et al, 2017). Furthermore, according to Nordback et al (2017), changing workstations such as work from home has been found to have a positive impact on employees. Consequently, cases of workplace absenteeism are reduced while the potential for employee work engagement is increased.

Workplace flexibility and organizational conflict

Regardless of the positive impacts of flexible workplaces on employee and organizational performance, the process of implementing workplace flexibility present different levels of conflicts that are a challenge to many organizations. For instance, work from home, as part of workplace flexibility, has presented many conflict-related challenges that are associated with the increased stress of family life (Ugargol & Patrick, 2018). Furthermore, the availability of remote working options has placed an additional burden on employees as a result of excessive work pressure, making it difficult for employees to achieve their task targets.

Similarly, flexible working conditions has also introduced sedentary behaviour among employees, noticeably reducing the quality of work as well as overall organizational conflict (Oconnor & Cech, 2018). When employees are flexible to arrive and leave work at any time, they develop negative discipline attributes that put them in conflict with their seniors (Padkapayeva et al, 2017). More, unfortunately, according to Nordback et al (2017), workplace flexibility has harmed employees’ professional careers as well as the firm’s production rates. Besides, Nordback et al (2017) observed that when working under flexible terms, employees may develop negative beliefs towards the flexible working patterns that may affect the culture of the workplace environment. In the following figure, Oconnor & Cech (2018) perfectly illustrates how these challenges (stress, excessive work pressure and sedentary employee behaviour) leads to organizational conflict:


There is a plethora of evidence highlighting the cause-and-effect relationship between flexible workplace environments and reduced interaction among employees, which hinder teamwork and collective decision-making among employees. Without a proper social resolution, conflicts in such social situations can lead to tension and stress among employees and their seniors (Ugargol & Patrick, 2018). furthermore, Nordback et al (2017) observed that whenever an interpersonal conflict occurs, it implicates more than just the two involved individuals, and requires more than just the two individuals to resolve.

Consequently, according to Krishna & Lorenz (2020), employees lack the opportunity to deliberate on and resolve issues of conflict. As per Nordback et al (2017), the sedentary negative beliefs held by employees towards flexible workplace environments have disrupted organizational sales and profitability by disrupting organizational production. Upon realising this, line managers constantly step up their supervisory roles and put pressure on employees to better their performance, a phenomenon that breeds conflicts between them and their employees.

Organizational conflicts

Theoretically, conflict refers to a perceived or actual opposition of needs, interests and values (Nazari et al, 2020). Yousaf & Furrukhzhad (2020) argued that conflict can either be internal i.e. within oneself or external between two or more individuals. It explains various aspects of social life such as conflicts of interest, social disagreements and fights between groups, individuals and organizations (Sharon, 2018). For instance, conflict may occur in flexible work environments, between employees and their seniors, when employees no longer complete their tasks in time as they used to do before a flexible workplace agreement. Similarly, a flexible work environment may lead to a lack of collective decision-making, leading to some employees dissenting with the decisions made by senior management. The decisions made by senior management in the absence of employees’ input may lead to conflicts of interests (Dilek, 2021).

Conflict resolution models

Several conflict resolutions models can be applied to resolve such conflict when they arrive, including the bargaining conflict model, the bureaucratic model and the systems model. According to Osullvan (2017), the conflict bargaining model is often applicable among interest groups that are competing for scarce resources, for example, labour management conflicts. In the context of a flexible workplace, a typical scenario would be when employees are fighting over work-from-home shifts. When such a scenario occurs, managers may apply either the integrative or distributive bargaining conflict mode. In the integrative bargaining model, according to Krishna & Lorenz (2020), the conflicting parties compromise to increase the total amount of leaves available to both (Mirzaei et al, 2020). On the other hand, the distributive bargaining model is whereby the parties use threats and bluffs as strategic tactics to gain maximum benefits.

In case the manager employs an integrative bargaining approach, they will rely on open communication and free will between the conflicting parties to facilitate the achievement of mutually satisfactory solutions to the conflict (Hu et al, 2017). Therefore, the integrative bargaining model does not entail the use of pressure or power tactics. Instead, according to Uhl-Bien & Arena (2018), the manager will strive to increase productivity by striking a compromise between the conflicting parties.

But critics of this model claim that the integrative bargaining model of conflict resolution is not the best in resolving organizational conflicts due to its various limitations. As per Wachsmuth et al (2017), successful implementation of the model relies on various cognitive factors. For example, attempting to resolve the conflict by providing a new set of information to the conflicting parties may not cause a change in behaviour in the long term. In the case of two employees fighting over work-from-home shifts, the manager might explain why they might need to split the shift and resolve the conflict, but that information might not be effective in resolving any similar conflict that might arise in future. Similarly, according to Wallensteen (2018), the integrative bargaining model of conflict resolution might not be the perfect conflict resolution model because the parties might have divergent interpretations of identical information – both interpreting the information differently.

Practitioners who seek to avoid the limitations of the integrative bargaining model of conflict resolution often use an alternative: the bureaucratic model. Ideally, according to Yousaf & Furrukhzhad (2020), the bureaucratic model attempts to resolve conflicts by compelling obedience to orders, organizational prescribed values, rules and procedures. Thus, this model is often applied in conflicts involving autonomy versus coordination and control. Typically, such conflicts often arise between the managers and their subordinates within the organizational hierarchy. For example, in a situation where an employee wants two days of work-from-home shifts and the supervisor is only willing to give out one such day (as per organizational policies), this conflict can be resolved through the bureaucratic model.

In such a scenario, impersonal procedures and rules are used instead of personal control. However, a significant disadvantage of this model is that the rules create more conflict as they become more inflexible and impersonal (Yousaf & Furrukhzhad 2020). Furthermore, Wallensteen (2018) argued that this model replaces personal supervision with controlling rules, a phenomenon that severely restricts the subordinates. Therefore, this model might not work well in large organizations where employees need control over their affairs.

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In conclusion, this study has established that whereas workplace flexibilities are one of the most important factors for organizational productivity, various factors such as employees’ undisciplined nature and sedentary culture create barriers to the implementation of workplace flexibility, leading to various conflicts between employees and their colleagues, as well as between employees and their superiors. However, to some extent, these conflicts can be resolved through various conflict resolution models such as the integrative bargaining model of conflict resolution and the bureaucratic model of conflict resolution.


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