Mitigation of Conflicts in Academic Institutions: A Study

Mitigation of Conflicts in Academic Institutions: A Study

Raveendranathan Chellappan Kalathil (Rajadhani Institute of Engineering and Technology, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1726-0.ch008


Conflicts arise in academic institutions due to many reasons, which are counterproductive and have to be resolved. Conflicts arise due to lack of communication, missing authority, and not properly assigning responsibilities. Hence, the tools and techniques to resolve conflicts are evident. Conflict resolution is a daunting task. One of the important reasons for conflicts is the lack of proper communication between the members in the hierarchy, which has to be addressed. Conflict management can be done effectively by enhancing communication between all stakeholders and by training all those who are involved. Mitigation and resolving conflicts should always be the major focus activities. In academia, conflicts often take place between the faculty, students, and the administration. Differences in goals, misinterpretation of institutional rules, breaches of contracts, power struggles, and personal antagonisms are all possible sources of conflict. In this chapter, the authors examine how conflicts can arise in academic institutions and how they can be effectively managed and resolved.
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1.0 Introduction

Conflicts are bound to occur in all systems involving human beings. Several studies by different scholars across the globe suggest that conflict can both be constructive and destructive, at the same time. Constructive conflict is also as known as functional conflict. On the other hand, “destructive conflict” is known as “dysfunctional conflict”. Functional conflict is termed as “constructive challenging of ideas, beliefs, and assumptions, and respect for others' viewpoints even when parties disagree” (Massey & Dawes, 2007). The functional conflict is often viewed as having a positive impact on the organization and is hence desirable. However, the dysfunctional conflict is generally viewed as damaging to the overall goals of the organization. Hence it is, by and large, unwarranted in organizations. The dysfunctional conflict tends to increase dissatisfaction among employees and employers. It decreases the affective well-being of the employees and is diminutive to the organizational efficacy (Rahim, 2000; Guerra et al., 2005). It is self evident that functional (constructive) conflicts are to be encouraged in organizations, where as dysfunctional (destructive) conflicts are to be curtailed for the smooth transactional flow and increased productivity.

In this chapter, we mainly focus on the conflicts that may arise in educational environments and means and ways to mitigate them. It is interesting to note that educational ecosystems are characterised by a group of individuals who function collectively with a common goal which is mostly academic and research oriented. The productivity of an academic system is monitored by the number of “successful” candidates it produces every year, making use of the available resources, including the human resources. Research institutions are closely same in outcomes, where the number of intellectual property produced every year is the measure of performance. In modern educational systems, both pedagogy (conventional teaching-learning process) and research had some semblance and quite often they are of complementary nature. Note that most modern ranking frame works of academic institutions always count the number of successful, employable candidates produced as well as the quantity and quality of intellectual property owned by the institution, which include number of patents filed, books and journals published and technology transfers done and so on. It is apparent that mitigation of dysfunctional conflicts in academic institutions is of high priority to enhance the outcome of the institutions.

1.1 Sources of Conflicts in Academic Organizations

Conflicts often arise due to lack of communication among the people involved; or due to the inadequacy of communication. The reason for the same can be improper transactions, both verbal and written, due to the mismatch in the perception and linguistic abilities of the speaker and the listener. It can also be caused by inadequate personal connection between the speaker and the listener-often caused by the egoistic clashes between the two. It is interesting to note that both oral and written communications are plagued by dysfunctional delivery of information. This can lead to conflicts, which is almost always dysfunctional. As mentioned earlier, dysfunctional (destructive) conflicts are to be mitigated at any cost in an organization to enhance productivity. This is quite true even in the case of academic institutions.

Lack of authority and breach of hierarchy can also result in dysfunctional conflicts. People tend to hear what they are interested to hear, rather than what is really communicated. Several psychological studies have shown that the nonverbal cues of the speaker (generally considered as the body language) affect the ultimate information conveyed.

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