CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF FUNCTIONAL CONFLICT IN THE ORGANIZATION WITH REFERENCE TO OCEANIC BANK PLS (OBP) INTRODUCTION. Conflict refers to events ranging from inner turmoil produced by competing needs or desires to open violence between entire societies (Greenberg & Baron 1995). Conflict has grown to become a very imperative word in Organizations and in everyday human life, in the organization it is seen as the struggle between 2 or more people or groups in the organization, and could be functional or dysfunction.
Marketing and Operations & Service departments have different responsibilities and job functions in the banking Industry, the objective of this analysis is to discuss how Oceanic bank plc (OCP), one of the top 5 banks in Nigeria that had a reputation of excellent service deliver culture, but was losing that reputation because of poor customer service and poor relationship management; achieved organizational goals through functional conflict in the Organization.
Hall (1971) suggests that when properly managed, conflict may not only increase the innovation to seek solution to problems, it can often result in more creative solutions to problem solving. In the analysis, the role of management in the OCP experience will be related with various theories on functional conflict, also we will demonstrate how functional conflict was used by OCP to increase business volume, improve relationship management and on the overall achieve organizational goals and objectives. CONFLICT: VIEWS AND THEORIES.
Theorists all over, have different views on conflict. There is a school of thought that views conflict as Dysfunctional; saying that it is negative in the Organization and a sign of incomplete social structure. They propose that taskforces, committees and liaison roles are ways to manage and respond to conflict in the organization (Hatch 1997). Another group of theorist view conflict as neutral, saying that it is negative to organizational goals but it is however inevitable and that it is a part of the organization.
Pondy (1967), says that conflict as neutral may be regarded as negative and dysfunctional but as a neutral condition, it’s unavoidable and should be accepted. A more recent set of theorists view conflict as functional and that it supports organizational goals and objectives. This view was promoted by the realization that conflict can stimulate innovation and adaptability in the Organization. This view of conflict challenged the assumption that organizations are or should be co-operative systems (Hatch 1997).
This theory of functional conflict can be traced to Chester Barnard. CONFLICTS: MERITS AND DEMERITS. Conflict in the Organization could degenerate and affect how the conflicting groups or individuals relate, perceive and behave towards each other. It can induce a win-lose orientation (Filley 1997; Mac Callun et all 1985). This Win-Lose orientation can de-motivate employees and of course affect performance. Rifts between employees or departments within an organization if not promptly or properly managed could also lead to loss of quality employees.
The negative effects may translate to poor performance of the organization. In contrast, beneficial effects of conflict are seen through consultative Interactions as well as employee to employee audits (Cosier, 1978; Schwenk, 1989; Tjosvold, 1985). The existence of conflict provided the enabling environment for people to express their opinions, and to challenge others’ ideas, beliefs, and assumptions (Baron, 1991; Cosier, 1978; Tjosvold, 1985).
Accordingly, we agree that conflict is a constructive challenging of ideas, beliefs, and assumptions, respect for others’ viewpoints even when parties disagree, and consultative interactions involving useful give and take. THE OCEANIC BANK PLC EXPERIENCE. One of Nigeria’s Top 5 banks with a strong brand name that is based on its excellent service delivery culture and prompt response to customer request. Over the years, the very factors that built the strong brand name were on the decline.
Service and operations department that had the back end responsibility of delivering prompt service and delighting the customer and marketing department whose responsibility was majorly to manage the relationship between customers and the bank as well as respond to customer requests promptly, had both lost focus and had developed a nonchalant attitude towards their job functions. They believed that the strong brand name of the Organization would continually attract the customers irrespective of the quality of service and the sort of relationship that existed between the organization and the customers.
Service Quality Gaps. There were numerous complaints from customers bordering on basic service issues and relationship gaps; the prompt cheque confirmation process had been ignored, and relationship officers had become too lazy to upload customers’ confirmation online for cash officers to view bank-wide, a requisite for cheque payment. This resulted in customers having to waiting up to 30 minutes or more to get their third party cheques paid, even when the account holder had called in advance to confirm such cheques to the relationship officers.
There were also cases in which the relationship officers had uploaded the customers’ cheque confirmation online as is required but rather than the service officer check the online mandate, but decided to call the relationship officer who could not be reached because he was in a meeting; this again resulted in delayed payment to the customer. A third scenario also experienced were customers’ inability to operate their accounts because they had not been issued cheque books 4 weeks after account opening and fulfillment of all requirements. The service and relationship issues were countless and the result, dissatisfied customers.
THE ROLE OF MANAGEMENT. As the horrible experience went on, relationship officers took the flak for the lapses of the operations department for failure to provide back-end support, the cash officers also took the flak for the laxity of relationship officers, it was obvious that management had to step in to give focus to both departments and ensure that organizational goals were met. The management of OCP stimulated functional conflict between employees of these departments; it came up with policies to realign the focus of employees toward excellent customer service and dependable relationship management.
The polices included improving the service time allocated to a transaction; completion of service excellence forms by customers after each transaction in the banking hall; daily relationship reports used to track marketing staff and their relationship with customers. The functional Conflict in the organization was positive and was used to improve on service delivery, relationship management and ultimately organizational goals. (Felman & Arnold 1983) The most significant and most effective strategy was the use of employees to appraise employees in their various units as well as utside their units. Employees were made to escalate to the highest level, service and relationship gaps noticed in the course of service to the customer. If an employee had to deliver quality service to a customer, and encountered challenges due to the negligence or irresponsibility of another employee, irrespective of the department of the employee involved, the erring employee was instantly reported to the task force and immediate action was taken against that employee.
According to Hall (1971), conflict can help create arousal among employees, energize and mobilize them to become more aware of their job functions and expectations from management. It can also help increase and develop innovative solutions. Hall (1971) also suggested that when properly managed, conflict may not only increase the innovation to seek solution to problems, it can often result in more creative solutions to problem solving. This policy was very effectively managed, monitored and the integrity of this reports and escalations were very well verified.
The policy was priority to management and this was emphasized when an executive director was drafted to head the task force. He got day-by-day update on the activities of the taskforce and he reported directly and made recommendations as regards disciplinary measures to the CEO. The effect and indeed benefits of this stimulated Functional conflict led to an astronomical increase in the volume of business; the feedback from customers on relationship management was indeed very satisfying and the profit margin grew immensely. The organization began to achieve its set goals and objectives once again.
CONCLUSION. Although conflict may exist with negative effects as opined by Hatch (1997) and Pondy (1967), management can make it favorable by initiating competition. Service level agreements should be agreed between departments with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to which rewards and penalties are attached, as well as Service Level Agreements (SLAs) should also cover escalations and to what levels. Beyond reports from customers, intra and inter-departmental appraisals and mystery shoppers can also be introduced as part of the feedback mechanism.
The analysis shows that functional conflict is useful in the organization, as the growing complexity in organizations has provided increased empirical support for a positive relationship between conflict and group performance Bourgeois (1980), organizational learning Fiol (1994), and high quality decision making in the organization (Schwenk and Valacich 1994). It also showed that Functional conflict required proper and effective implementation and monitoring to achieve desired result.
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