1 Fabian Terver Aende, 2 Terfa Kwaghkar
1 Department of Business Education, College of Education, Katsina-Ala
Department of Physics, 2College of Education, Katsina-Ala
This work sets out to study conflict management and resolution in an organizational setting: Benue State Local Government Education Authorities in Perspective. To facilitate objective investigations, the central problem was identified, historical background and other related literature reviewed. In the course of finding out the basis of conflict in Local Government Education Authorities in Benue State, hindering educational advancement and how the conflict can be resolved or managed, the investigators used two research tools for data collection and analysis. Among these are primary and secondary sources of data collection. For adequacy and accuracy of facts, analyses were based on the descriptive research model and the use of simple percentages in the interpretation of data. The data collected were presented, analyzed and interpreted. From the research questions stated, questionnaires were drawn and interview conducted. The results obtained show that conflicts are inevitable in an organization and there are immediate and remote causes of conflicts in Benue State Local Government Education Authorities. The conflict exerts a lot of influence on education authorities thereby portraying itself in negative light rather than positive. Based on these findings, the paper further makes far-reaching recommendations and suggestions on ways of improving the smooth operations of Local Government Education Authorities in Benue State for effective and efficient development of the grassroots education industry.
An important task of management is to create an environment in which individuals and groups of people can cooperate with each other to achieve their goals and those of the organization. Yet, one persistent problem in organizations is that individuals and work groups compete for limited resources, power, status, to mention a few, to the extent that their competition leads to the disruption of cooperative endeavours. Organizational conflict is viewed by Ayatse (1999) as competition by individuals and groups for organizational resources and rewards. This competition, bad or good is generally known as conflict.
When viewed against this background, conflict can be defined as a process that begins, when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected or is about to negatively affect an issue of concern, to which the first party shows resentment. This definition is broad as it describes that point, in any ongoing activity when an interaction crosses over to become an inter-party conflict. It encompasses the wide range of conflicts that people experience in organizations, namely, incompatibility of goals, differences over interpretation of facts, disagreement based on behavioural expectations among other conflicting issues. In addition, this definition is flexible enough to cover the full range of conflict levels, from overt and violent acts to subtle forms of disagreement.
Conflict in organizational life is inevitable and even necessary no matter how organizations are designed and operated. George Simmel in Otite and Albert (2001) insists that conflict is a form of socialization and that a certain amount of discord, inner divergence and other controversy is organically tied up with the very elements that ultimately hold the group together. In fact, there is an optimal highly functional level of conflict at which performance is at its maximum. Optional and constructive conflict tends to introduce solutions to problems, encourage creativity and brainstorming activity, as well as define power relationships within the group. It calls attention to problem areas of an organization and leads to the effective realization of stated goals by re-directing behaviour in the desired end.
Conflict may be conceptualized as a way of settling problems originating from opposing interest and from the continuity of society. Thus, Park and Burgress (1929) argue that “Conflict is designed to resolve divergent dualism and achieve some kind of unity even if it be through the annihilation of one of the conflict parties”.
Conflict also can be dysfunctional. An organization is subject to the danger of death when the level of conflict is too high. Conflict might breed suspicion, mutual distrust and make room for defensive behaviour. It may lead to breakdown in communication and impersonal relationship, with the resultant negative effects on the achievement of organizational goals and objectives, as resources are depleted in an attempt to resolve conflict (Lundberg, 1939; Wilson and Kolb 1949). Based on the perceived dysfunctionalities, most Nigerian managers avoid conflict. They avoid contentious issues and would not like to offer contrary views, even when the situation advises otherwise, so as not to be seen as being confrontational and argumentative. As a result, most organizations are characterized by a pervading culture of silence.
Doutceh (1973) says that conflict may generally exist “Whenever incompatible activities occur” and may result in a “win-lose” character. The resolution, transformation and management of conflicts may produce a “win-win” situation. Hence, Coser’s (1968) elaborated definition of conflict becomes a useful classification:
Social conflict may be defined as a struggle over values or claims to status, power, and scarce resources, in which the aims of the conflicting parties are not only to gain the desired values, but also to neutralize, injure, or eliminate their rivals. Such conflicts may take place between individuals, between collectives, or between individuals and collectivities. Inter-group as well as intra-group conflicts are perennial features of social life.
As the social and physical environments are always changing because of one reason or the other, such as the establishment of new organizations, local government councils and the location of headquarters, it is perhaps appropriate to focus attention on the inter-dependence of component ethnic groups and on their change of original positions when in conflict situations. Thus, a conflict according to Donohue and Kolt (1992) may be perceived to embrace hints and the necessity for its resolution and transformation. Conflict involves situations in which differences are expressed by interdependent peoples in the process of achieving their needs and goals. To Jordan (1990) it “arises when a difference between two or more people necessitates change in at least one person in order for their engagement to continue and develop. The difference cannot co-exist without some adjustment.
The rationale why we study conflict is obvious, whether we view conflict as normal or abnormal, it is a recurring natural or even pathological fact, depending on the perspective of the analyst. It is inherent in all kinds of social, economic or political settings and in business organizations, etc, characterized by ethnic, religious and other forms of pluralism. To Otite and Albelt (2001) conflict is the very essence of most formal organizations and processes, such as ethnic groups as well as state and local government councils and headquarters where appointments and promotions are made. The location of sites and facilities, such as markets and grazing lands, generates conflicts and when these are not resolved or transformed, their negative consequences are felt beyond the immediate environment of the organization or parties in conflict.
It is against this backdrop that we carried out the study in formal organizations/establishments especially the Local Government Education Authorities (LGEAs) in Benue State, under the umbrella of Benue State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Makurdi.
Theoretical Frame work
This empirical research work adopts conflict theories in explaining the causes/sources, resolution, transformation, management and the extent of the effects of conflicts on organizations.
Karl Marx and Max Weber are well known theorists in the sociology of conflict. Although, it is apparent that Karl Marx is more celebrated in conflict sociology, Max Weber’s contribution is more comprehensive (Coser, 1956).
Marxist sociology emphasizes two points: human societies are wholes or systems of inter-related parts, such as institutions, beliefs, etc, and that human societies are always changing (Bottomore 1968, Bottomore and Rubel 1996). Marx cited in Otite and Albert (2001) emphasizes the factor of economy which he elaborates to formulate two different classes- those who own the means of production and those who sell their labour and are exploited by the owners of these means of production. Conflict is perceived to be inherent in the relations between these classes.
On the other hand, Weber (1957) deals with the legitimacy of power, and how order prevails in society through its use, thus, a conflict situation is created when a person or group attempts or succeeds in carrying out its will by overcoming the resistance of other groups or persons and their interests in a situation of scarcity of resources. He has devoted attention to the theory of action and the social conditions and consequences of economic behaviour. He was concerned not only with group formation on the basis of material interest but also with the economic associations based on market and business interests. He defines social classes in the context of material interests. These matters, particularly those dealing with competition for political and economic power and resources have important bearings on conflict studies in organizations characterized by pluralism.
Since conflict is at the core of politics and society, several views have been expressed about it. The most commonly used theoretical perspectives are the liberal and Marxist approaches. It is therefore, on the basis of the conflict theories framework that, this research situates its analytic search light in unraveling the various causes/sources, effects, resolution, transformation and management in Benue State Local Government Education Authorities in particular and other organizations in general.
Statement of the Problem
In Local Government Education Authorities in Benue State, it looks as if there are conflicts virtually in all spheres covering both, administrative staff, field staff, and indeed, the community, where schools are situated, which if assessed properly, are largely responsible for the backwardness of developing education industry at local or grassroots level.
Apart from these conflicts giving the local governments a bad name, very little research and documentation have been made and solutions proffered to reduce them to tolerable levels. What then makes the staff, schools, and communities to go into violent conflicts or disagreements that defy all solutions? Is it because violence or conflicts are inevitable? Is it that violence or conflict occurs in Local Government Education Authorities when the traditional mechanism of settling such conflicts breaks down or is weakened by modernity?
These and similar problems triggered the research and of course, form the focus of this study of conflicts, their causes and the impact (positive or negative) they leave on the Local Government Education Authorities and the society in general.
The objectives of the Study
Specifically, the study seeks to:-
- Find out whether conflicts are inevitable in organizations like Local Government Education Authorities and cannot be easily avoided;
- Examine and assess the level of conflicts and their effects on the Local Government Education Authorities in the discharge of their statutory functions;
- Unveil the underlying, immediate and remote causes of the conflicts with a view to identifying the possible issues for resolutions;
- Proffer solutions and recommendations to the identified problems with a view to helping the authorities concerned to take about appropriate actions in dealing with the problems, when conflicts break out.
- Are conflicts inevitable and cannot be excluded from an organization like Local Government Education Authority?
- What are the: (a) immediate (b) remote causes of conflicts in Local Government Education Authorities?
- Do conflicts exert enormous pressure on an organization’s manager/staff at all levels, leading to diversion of attention and resources from the primary concerns of the organization?
- Are there possible negative and positive effects of conflicts in an organization (Local Government Education Authority in this case)?
Significance of the study
The importance of this study lies in the implication, which the findings will have on the Local Government Education Authorities. It is expected that findings from this study will be recommended to the Local Government Education Authorities policy makers, and if such recommendations are implemented, it would certainly improve significantly, the conflict resolution and management in the organization. It is hoped this will be of immense significance to the management and staff of the authorities to be able to appreciate the consequences of conflicts and alternative ways of settling them.
The study is also significant in that no similar study has been carried out on any of the Local Government Education Authorities in Benue state. This study will obviously serve as a mirror or working guide to managers of Local Government Education Authorities and other organizations engulfed in conflicts or crises.
It will indeed, be of paramount importance to Ministry of Education (MOE) and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) which are policy formulators to Local Government Education Authorities and future researchers who might want to make further research on the subject matter.
Two research tools for data collection and analysis were used, namely: primary sources such as questionnaire, observational techniques and oral interviews, while the second one is secondary sources, such as the use of various textbooks, journals, encyclopedia, management digests, statutes, newspapers and seminar papers.
For adequacy and accuracy of facts, analysis was based on the descriptive research model. Statistical frequency and simple percentages were employed in the interpretation of data. This was considered more suitable because, the researchers tried to dwell more on what is in existence by merely soliciting information from the respondents based on the prevailing situation, without manipulation of any variable.
The research population covers all the Local Government Education Authorities in Benue State. Consequently, all arms of the authorities are embraced in the study. This starts from the administrative staff: senior and junior, unit supervisors, 182 head teachers of public primary schools and teachers. The Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) chairmen of the schools are included to act as representatives of communities in which these schools are situated. These amounted to twenty nine thousand, seven hundred and thirty seven (29, 737) targeted population.
Stratified random sampling was adopted for selecting the sample. The sampling was two hundred teaching and non-teaching staff, and Parents Teachers’ Association (PTA) Chairmen of Primary Schools in Local Government Education Authorities in the three Benue State Education zones, randomly chosen out of the research universe earlier stated. Out of the 200 questionnaires distributed to the respondents, only 193 were completed and returned; 7 were not returned for various reasons. The questionnaires were designed to include both open and closed ended questions. The questionnaires were accompanied with letter of introduction on how to fill the needed information. The questionnaires were then divided into two sections: Section ‘A’ and ‘B’. Section ‘A’ contained basic information about the respondents, while section ‘B’ contained the questions related to the findings. Observations were made and oral interviews were used to interview most of the respondents from far and difficult terrains of the state.
After the data had been collected, it was analyzed and classified under the appropriate headings to facilitate tabulation, coding cases, comprehension and the application of statistical techniques on the data so coded or tabulated. Various methods of data analysis which were statistically inclined were employed to bring out the relevant facts for easy perusal.
It was based on this analysis that an evaluation of the research questions was revisited to arrive at a decision accepting or rejecting or modifying the stated research questions. It was also based on this analysis that a conclusion was drawn and recommendations made accordingly.
|Research Question 1||Yes||No||Total|
|Conflicts are inevitable and cannot be excluded from an organization like LGEA. Do you agree with this statement?||Respondents||113
Sources: Field survey 2016-12-02
Question 1, as shown on the Table 1 above was designed to find out the inevitability of conflict in an organization, more especially LGEA. It was established that 113 respondents representing 58.55% asserted that conflicts are possible in an organization and LGEAs are not an exception, while 80 respondents representing 41.45% feel conflicts could be avoided in an organization.
|Research Questions 2.||Strongly Agree||Agree||Un-decided||Dis-agree||Strongly disagree||Total|
|Major causes of conflicts in LGEAs are competition for scarce resources, claims for values or status, power, other views, professional misconduct, land encroachment, schedule of duties, high handedness on the part of those on top.||Respondents||
Table 2 above strongly agree by 133 respondents, representing 68.91% of the causes of the conflicts stated in the table. 56 interviewees which represent 29.02% of the respondents agreed but not strongly as opposed to those who were undecided, disagreed and strongly disagreed which represent 2.07%, 0% and 0% respectively.
|Research question 3.||Strongly Agree||Agree||Un-decided||Dis-agree||Strongly disagree||Total|
|Do you agree that conflicts exert pressure on an organization’s manager /staff at all levels leading to diversion of attention and resources from the primary concerns of the organization?||Respondents||
In the above table 3, 82 respondents representing 42.48% strongly agreed, 50 respondents also agreed but not strongly. This represents 25.91%, while 51 respondents carrying 26.43% were on cross-road. 9 disagreed and 1 strongly disagreed bagging 4.66% and 0.52% respectively. When you add up those who strongly agreed and those who only agreed, it will total 132 which takes 68.39%. This means that conflicts always bring to bear a lot of pressure on organization’s managers/staff and divert both attention and resources.
|Research questions 4.||True||False||Total|
|In as much as there are negative effects of conflicts on an organization like LGEA, there are positive effects as well.||Respondents||94||99||193|
It could be observed from the table 4 that, 94 respondents representing 48.71% have concurred that conflicts are though bad, there are also good side of conflicts. Whereas, 99 respondents engulfing 51.29% did not see anything good in conflicts. It should be noted that those who said there are no positive effects in conflicts are more than those who have seen positive effects in conflicts. It is therefore, good in concluding that conflicts have both positive and negative effects but negative ones overshadowed the positive ones.
Research question one sought to find out the inevitability of conflict in Local Government Education Authorities in Benue State and other organizations in general. The respondents responses in Table 1 made it possible for the researchers to conclude that conflicts are necessary in whatever organization we find ourselves, since all organizations are made up of human beings, and people struggle to occupy positions, to acquire material resources, to achieve high statuses in the society, and the organization operates in an environment full of interactions with internal and external forces. This answer given to the research question is in line with Bur (2002) who reveals that “conflicts are therefore, inevitable and part of life. Conflicts need not necessarily follow negative courses. If conflicts are constructively and positively handled, they can be indices of growth and development”. Again Sandole (1992) points out, “there is nothing inherently wrong with conflict or perhaps, we should say that we need conflicts as catalysts for development, and as means of removing dullness and monotony from society”.
Further, the second research question sought for the remote and immediate causes of conflicts in organizations, including Local Government Education Authorities. The responses of respondents in Table 2 agreed that the immediate and remote causes of conflicts in Local Government Education Authorities (LGEAs) are struggle over values or claims to statuses, competition for positions, scarce resources, power, professional misconducts, maltreatment, political differences, land encroachment, and other views (general jealousy/envy), findings on the research question is drawn as such based on the responses of the interviewees. The answer tallies particularly with the submission from the work of Ayatse (1999) that “organizational conflicts emanate due to competition by individuals and groups for resources. These competitions whether bad or good generate conflicts”.
On research question three, table 3 above shows that conflicts are diversionary of both attention of managers/staff and resources of the organization culminating into abysmal performance or realization of the organization’s targets and can cause manager/staff to work under duress or stress. Clearly, the effects of stress whether triggered by work problems or domestic/social problems will eventually lead to reduced manager(s)/staff performance at work, increased sickness, absence and even early death. This finding is in consonance with the research work of Otite (2001) who questions “can we ever resolve conflict? Is conflict resolution realizable goal? Or is it an ideal situation to which we may strive? The word “resolution a suggests that conflict is a bad social phenomenon, which should be removed because of its assumed destructive outcomes,” he concluded.
The fourth and the last research question, in Table 4, sought to find the negative or positive effects of conflicts in Local Government Education Authorities in Benue State. The respondents identified negative effects of conflicts on LGEAs as, unnecessary transfers, delay or withholding of staff promotions/salaries, issuance of queries, lopsided distribution of materials, sectional appointments/ employment, non-observance of seniority, over staffing in some schools/sections, development stagnation in some schools, controversy over study leaves, poor attitude to work and above all, diversion of attention and resources of the organization.
Some of the respondents mentioned further, that unresolved or improperly managed conflicts can spark off crises, which often take more resources to solve. If litigation and government fail to resolve it at this stage, violence remains the only alternative course of action. Once violence breaks out, it leads to vindictiveness, vengeance, personal injury, vandalism, assassinations, and burning down and looting of property. This is followed by fear, suspicions and intensified fighting among those involved, resulting in damaged relationship, disruption of the community, and the dispossession of means of livelihood and the plunging of the entire society and its people into refugee status.
The researchers still wanted to know the reactions of the people on the positive side effects of conflicts in order to draw findings on both sides of the research question. The respondents accepted and enumerated positive effects of conflicts as, energize and motivating social change, optimal and constructive conflicts tend to introduce solutions to problems, encourage creativity and brainstorming activity, as well as define power relationships within the groups and make people to know who is who in the organization. The work of Otite and Albert (2001) seems to support these groups of interviewees as he says thus:
Conflict challenges the rational man to think of alternative ways of meeting contesting human needs and interests. What is to be emphasized is not conflict per se but the ways man/organization responds to it. Conflicts need not follows a negative course. If constructively handled, it can become an agent of growth and development for all parties. To this extent, conflict is not to be demonized but confronted with efficient procedures for co-operative problem solving.
Based on the above analysis of the responses of the respondents to the research question, it suffices to state at this juncture that, conflicts have both negative and positive effects but the negative effects overshadow the positive ones, therefore, conflicts should be discouraged as much as possible in Local Government Education Authorities or any other organization, if it cannot be totally eradicated.
Looking back at the findings made from this research, one can conclude without reservations and fear of contradiction that conflict management and resolution are important aspects in any organization’s life. Conflict management and resolution have impact not only on the internal control of the organization but also on its external control. When it is well managed and amicably resolved, the organization’s image is redeemed and the conflict that would have given it a bad name outside is minimized and the name of the organization is protected to some extent. Consequent upon the aforesaid, every organization is advised to first of all put in place a solid conflict management and resolution machinery to facilitate efficient and effective conflict handling to achieve maximum performance.
Recommendations and Suggestions
In view of the findings drawn by the researchers, the following recommendations/suggestions have been made:
- Since we are made to realize that conflicts are inevitable in all organizations, a standing committee should be setup to manage and resolve or transform all conflicts in the Local Government Education Authorities. This committee should be empowered by the State Universal Basic Education Board and LGEAs to mediate in all disputes that affect the LGEAs.
- Conflict handling styles in the LGEAs should be improved upon. Conflict handling strategies such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, mediation, advocacy, grief work, therapy and healing, find allies for mutual support, reduction of prejudices, community public dialogue, coalition building, legal resort, civic disobedience, boycotts, sit-ins, walkouts, demonstration, aggression and constructive engagements should be employed as appropriate in the LGEAs.
- Conflict Management and Resolution workshops and training programmes should be organized and some key stakeholders in primary education, such as teaching and non-teaching staff, community elders where schools are situated and PTA chairmen in various schools are drawn and sensitized on the need to embrace peace as partners in progress.
- Except for very serious incidents, law enforcement agents and legal system can be excluded. If the operations of these laws are fair and just, there will be joint benefits and outcomes for both parties. The impact shall be both conflict avoidance and conflict prevention.
- Communication with all stakeholders of LGEAs should be improved upon. Acting on hearsays and rumours should be discouraged. All members of staff and other stakeholders of education in the LGEAs should be carried along. No divide and rule tactics should be used.
- Some conflicts in LGEAs have seemingly defied solution. However, since people have to live together in an organized and orderly society based on law and order, there is the need for consensus to reign among them. A leadership must be created to bring about this consensus so that the people can be integrated for purposeful primary education development in LGEAs in Benue State.
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