Conflict and Cooperation at the Workplace


Human resource management is increasingly becoming broader in terms of scope as the business world keeps changing to adapt to the changing world. The human resource management has started incorporating industrial relations gradually, but rapidly over the recent couple of years. The term industrial relation is used to refer to the relationship that an organisation develops with its employees. The term employment relations and industrial relations can be used interchangeably. There are some authors who indicate that the term employment relation is a synonym to human resource management. Industrial relations deal with the study of the situations that affect employees in their workplace, whether they are in a union or not (Edwards, 2003). Employees face many issues and situations in their workplaces, some of which may affect their productivity.

The morale of an employee largely depends on the environment they are working in, the working conditions, and the treatment they receive from their employer. These are some of the issues that industrial relation deals with. As a result, the term has become delicate and of much concern in the modern industrial society. Industries can barely progress if there is no harmony between labour and management. The term industry refers to productive activities, while relation is the relationship that exists between employees and employers. Therefore, industrial relation creates a good relationship between employee and employer in order to improve the productivity of the organisation (Edwards, 2003).

Conflict in the workplace is one issue that can affect the relationship among employees and between employees and the employer. Conflicts are common and they are always going to be there. How well conflicts are dealt with is what determines the relationship that will dominate. Cooperation, on the other hand, is a positive attribute that positively impacts production. Employee productivity improves when they cooperate. Therefore, the management should try to create better cooperation. This paper discusses conflict and cooperation in the workplace.

Industrial relations theories

Scholars in the field of industrial relations have come with a number of theoretical perspectives that can be used to analyse and understand the relations in the workplace. There are a number of theorists who have expressed differing views on the topic. However, there are three major theories that explain the concept of industrial relations from varying perspectives. The different theories give differing interpretations of the events that take place in the workplace and give differing roles of unions, as well as job regulations. The three theories are the radical theory, unitarism, and pluralist theory (Edwards, 2003).

Radical theory is also referred to as the Marxist theory. The focus of this theory is in a capitalist society. In such a society, there is a clear distinction between labour and management. Under this perspective, there exist a lot of inequality in wealth and power. There are two classes of people, where one is the wealthy class and the other is the poor class of people. The employees are commonly among the poor class. There are more conflicts that exist in the workplace and the trade unions as a result of these inequalities because employees feel they are oppressed and they try to respond to that exploitation.

The other perspective theory is the unitarism. This is arguably the best since it emphasises on harmony and integration among all aspects of an organisation (Edwards, 2003). The organisation is viewed as harmonious. The management and the employees have a common purpose and they emphasise on cooperation. Employees are required to be loyal to the organisation. Trade unions are not necessary given the unions that exist under this theory.

The employees and the organisation have a mutually exclusive loyalty such that it is difficult and almost impossible to have two sides of the industry. Whenever a conflict arises, it is viewed as being disruptive and a major cause of friction between and among persons in the organisation. In addition, conflict is said to be a major cause of communication breakdown and it affects the performance and productivity of the organisation.

Finally, there is the pluralist perspective theory. This is the perspective where an employee is viewed to be a composition of strong sub-groups that are usually divergent (Edwards, 2003). Each of the sub-groups has its supporters who are loyal to it. They also have their own interests and objectives. In most cases, there are two sub-groups that are dominant. The sub-groups are the trade unions and the management. While management focuses on the performance of the organisation, trade unions represent the employees and aid in finding solutions to conflicts. In case of a conflict, bargaining is the major method that is used to find a solution. Conflict is not seen as a bad thing since it is likely to bring a positive change if well managed.

Conflict and cooperation in the workplace

Human beings are bound to have different opinions and stands on various issues. The differences that exist are potential causative agents of conflicts among them. It is common to have conflicts among employees among the managers, as well as between the managers and employees in the workplace. It is rare to come across an organisation that does not experience conflicts. Office politics are common in most workplaces.

Different bosses can lead to disputes that may arise within a project team and cause conflicts in the organisation. The way one deals with such problems is very important since it determines the success with which one rises up the ladder in their career and the success of the organisation as a whole (Collins & O’Rourke, 2009). It is important to first understand the basics in order to perfectly solve conflicts. It also helps in coming up with good resolutions and learning how to become an effective team player.

Conflict is a topic that has become increasingly famous among employees and people in the workplace. Various stakeholders in the workplace are interested in understanding work conflicts and how to avoid them, as well as understanding how conflicts can be dealt with in the event that they arise. Managers need to have the knowledge and skills that they can use to deal with a conflict that may arise (Johnstone, 2010).

Managers should also be in a position to harness that conflict in order to bring a positive change to the organisation. A conflict has the ability to destroy the organisation, thus harnessing it to get a positive result is essential for the success of the organisation. It is important to first understand the major types of conflicts that are likely to be experienced in an organisation. This way, it is easy to strategically plan ahead and outline how a conflict can be dealt with in the event that it occurs.

There are two major types of conflicts: substantive conflict and personalized conflict. The former is concerned with actions that are taken in an organisation, decisions, as well as directions and ideas. This type of conflict is referred to as substantive since it deals with a substance of issues. Substantive type of conflict is likely to occur on almost any issue. It occurs when two parties within an organisation fail to agree on a given issue. Substantive conflict can be beneficial since it may bring a positive change, but it can also be bad in that it might bring destruction (Johnstone, 2010).

When two parties disagree on an issue, it is possible that one of them will be on the right and the other on the wrong. It is also possible that each of them is either wrong or right. Therefore, the right decision is likely to be reached, or a decision that is better and more creative compared to the original idea that one of the parties had if this type of conflict is handled correctly. If a good decision is reached, it would be as a result of that conflict. In other words, the benefit that will occur would not have resulted if the conflict did not occur in the first place.

The other type of conflict is the personalized conflict. This is the type of conflict that occurs as a result of personal issues between employees. The employees, or the parties involved simply do not have a liking towards each other. This could be a bad thing for the organisation, unlike the substantive conflict that could be good if handled in the right way. One of the reasons why personalized conflict could be worse is the fact that it is emotionally driven since one person has a negative perception of the other. The second reason why this type of conflict is not good is that there are no issues to be solved, unlike the case of substantive conflict. The parties in this conflict might not be interested in solving the conflict, thus it becomes almost impossible to find a solution. Thirdly, the conflict may become worse, especially if it becomes impossible to convert it into a substantive conflict.

Solving conflicts in the workplace

The first stage in solving a conflict is identification of the type of conflict in question. If it is a personalized conflict, the second stage would be to convert it into a substantive conflict. It is easier to find a solution once the conflict is converted into substantive issues since the disliking element and the emotions initially involved are eliminated. Consequently, each of the parties is interested in finding a solution. The next stage is to find the possible solution to the conflict. This is a process that involves intense critical and creative thinking. Selecting the best solution follows once all the alternatives have been listed. There is only one best solution that best solves the conflict and is beneficial to the organisation. This solution should be implemented and then measures to avoid such conflicts in the future are outlined. Personalized conflicts should be avoided since they have more potential of destroying the organisation (Maravelas, 2008).


Cooperation in the workplace refers to a situation whereby employees work together and participate in the management when performing their duties. Employees and the management consult each other, discuss issues, and work as a team. Communication should be a common feature in such an organisation. Cooperation in the workplace is very important and has a high potential of improving the general performance of the organisation. It is, therefore, worthwhile for a company to invest in training programs that teach employees how to work together. The major benefits of cooperation in an organisation include enhancing the competitive advantage of the business (Johnstone, 2010). Employees are able to solve many problems and enhance innovation when they work together. This gives the organisation a competitive advantage. Secondly, cooperation minimizes the level of misunderstanding, thereby reducing the chances of conflicts.

Third, cooperation is effective in that it enhances the decision making process. Employees share ideas that can be used to reach the best possible decision that benefits the organisation. Cooperation also motivates employees and improves their commitment and performance. Finally, cooperation helps in improving job satisfaction. Employees are satisfied with the treatment they get from the management and they are satisfied working in the organisation. It is important to note that the trust between the management and the employees is enhanced, thereby increases job satisfaction further. Job satisfaction is also enhanced by the fact that the working environment is better when there is cooperation within an organisation (Johnstone, 2010).

Cooperation can be expressed in a number of ways. These include decision making, where employees and the management work together to make decisions. Information sharing is another way via which cooperation can be expressed. Employees share information with each other. Consultation is also an indicator of cooperation. Finally, cooperation can be expressed through negotiation, whereby employees and employers participate in negotiating an issue that is of concern.

Establishing Cooperation in the Workplace

The following guidelines should be followed in order to establish cooperation in an organisation. To begin with, the management should carry out a review of the communication policies that exist in the organisation. The management should then identify any problem that may be affecting the communication system. This could be the same problem that hinders cooperation since the latter cannot exist without communication. Derivation of alternatives of solution to any identified communication problem should then follow. These could be factors regarding the culture of the organisation, philosophy of the management, nature of business carried out, as well as the organisational structure, among other factors. Selection and implementation of the best solution should be carried out thereafter. The solution should be monitored once it has been implemented. Its effectiveness should be reviewed regularly (Johnstone, 2010).

Recommendation and Conclusion

The human resource management is responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of the employees. This results in better productivity of the organisation as a result of a productive workforce. Industrial relations deal with the wellbeing of the employees through the establishment of good relationships among them. The most effective industrial relation theory that can ensure good relation is the unitarism theory. This theory avoids any potential conflict. Conflicts are of two major types and may have negative or positive impacts on the organisation depending on the way they are handled. Substantive conflict is likely to bring good changes. In solving a personalized conflict, it is important to convert the conflict to a substantive one first before solving it. Establishing good cooperation in an organisation is dependent on the level of communication that exists in the organisation.


Collins, S. D., & O’Rourke, J. S. (2009). Managing conflict and workplace relationships. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Edwards, P. (2003). Industrial relations: Theory and practice. Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

Johnstone, S. (2010). Labour and management co-operation: Workplace partnership in UK financial services. Surrey, England: Gower.

Maravelas, A. (2008). How to reduce workplace conflict and stress: How leaders and their employees can protect their sanity and productivity from tension and turf wars. Surry Hills NSW, Australia:

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