Work-Groups Conflict at PetroTech-Italy, S.R.L.: The Influence of Culture on Conflict Dynamics

Work-Groups Conflict at PetroTech-Italy, S.R.L.: The Influence of Culture on Conflict Dynamics

Angelo Camillo (Woodbury University, USA), Loredana Di Pietro (University of Molise, Italy), Francesca Di Virgilio (University of Molise, Italy) and Massimo Franco (University of Molise, Italy)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3966-9.ch015
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Field experts take numerous approaches to modeling how culture influences groups in dealing with interpersonal conflict and its dynamics. Researchers investigate cultural traits that may predict a range of cultural conflict behaviors. In addition, anecdotal evidence shows that researchers continue to take up a constructivist approach of identifying the centrality of cultural influence that causes work related conflicts. This study attempts to determine the different types and levels of conflicts within a multicultural workforce by considering various factors such as ethnicity and geographic and lingual diversities within the global context. The scope is to find possible solutions to reduce and/or eliminate group related and, to a certain extent, individual conflicts within the work place, which have become a matter of concern for any international organization. The findings reveal systematic conflicts between and within work-groups and suggest that regardless of type, relationship, and process, conflicts are detrimental to the operation and total outcome. Those conflicts have a negative impact on performance in the production, especially when they escalate. Displays of interpersonal hostility (yelling, name-calling, throwing things at people and making derogatory inferences about others’ own cultures) prevent productive work in all groups, which are inefficient and do not seem motivated to complete their tasks. Increased bickering and hostile behaviour inhibits talking about and working on the immediate task. To a certain extent, the situation could be described as a “toxic working environment.” A key finding reveals through interviews and participative and non-intrusive observations demonstrated that members of these work-groups are psychologically distressed when there are frequent arguments about interpersonal issues. Consequently, the intrinsic problems which escalate over a five year period, together with extrinsic economic problems due to the global economic downturn, cause the company to have high cost of labor and material. With less than expected sales and, operational destruction due to distress about going concern, PTI is put to challenge. Hence, PTI faces a serious test in solving the existing group conflicts. Failure to improve the working relationships could jeopardize the strategic going concern of the company.
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Contextual Highlights

To understand “Conflict Dynamics,” it is important to understand how conflicts originate and evolve. Considering various factors such as ethnicity, geographic and lingual diversities within the global context, conflicts become a matter of concern for any international organization. The term “group dynamics” describes the positive and negative forces within groups of people and it can be referred to as “team chemistry.” Team chemistry can be described as the spontaneous reaction of people, especially a mutual sense of attraction or understanding that create the patterns of interaction among team members that determine team spirit, harmony, cohesion, and morale. In this scenario “conflict” can be described as the disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people working together toward a common goal. The term “group conflict” can be described as the normal, predictable occurrence and condition of disagreement involving group members at work.” Lastly, within the context of global conflict dynamics we interpret the term “dynamics” as the relationships of power between “culturally diverse” people in a group.

In this same context, we explain the meaning of “Cultural fluency,” which involves recognizing and acting respectfully from the knowledge that communication, ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict, approaches to meaning-making, and identities and roles vary across cultures. Within this framework, conflict dynamics can be understood as an “escalation” of a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people working together toward a common goal. We then interpret “conflict escalation” as the increase in the magnitude of disagreements, including, but not limited to, hostilities or possible verbal or even physical violence. We believe that conflict escalation depends on the way group members involved in groups’ interactions react in response to others. When management fails to identify and manage basic disagreements, conflicts can evolve and escalate to the point of becoming potentially harmful to the firm. Indeed, conflict can derail companies’ strategic objectives. Many conflicts at the workplace originate because of unfulfilled needs within the area of control, recognition, affection, or respect for one another.

In humans, it is a normal occurrence to react hastily and even ferociously when faced with circumstances threatening their fundamental needs. Therefore, when management fails to recognize conflicts or avoids dealing with basic groups’ disagreements, serious conflicts emerge which then escalate to the point that spill over from the original issue and begin to affect other interactions. Consequently, if conflicts are not resolved they can turn into polarization which can be characterized by severe negative emotions and uncontrollable behaviors. At that point group members may no longer be able and willing to listen, understand, and accept one another. Consequently, their relationships are broken and become difficult to repair.

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