A result of the passing of the Revenue Authority Act, No. 13 of 1996,
the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) is a national organisation, whose mission is
to “promote
compliance with Guyana’s Tax, Trade and Border Laws and regulations, through
education, quality service and responsible enforcement programmes, thereby
contributing to the economic wellbeing of the people of Guyana” 1. This organisation was
established on January 27, 2000, and operates under the guidance of a
government-appointed Commissioner-General. Consequently, due to its position as
a large, well-established organisation in Guyana, playing an integral role in
the management of national affairs, the researcher deemed it fitting to investigate
the GRA’s management of internal and external conflict.

Organisational conflict occurs, according to
Roloff (1987)2,
“when members of an organisation engage in activities that are incompatible
with those of colleagues within their network, members of other collectives, or
unaffiliated individuals who utilize the services or products of the
organisation”. Hence, it can be inferred that conflict is a major social force
operating within any organisation, inevitable because of the incompatibilities,
differences and disagreements that define human interaction. In fact, Rahim
(2010)3 defines conflict as “an interactive
process manifested in incompatibility, disagreement, or dissonance within or
between social entities (i.e. individual, group, organisation etc.)”.

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The sources of conflict have been extensively
researched by many scholars both in the field of business management and
otherwise. Pitterson (2014)4
examines organisational conflict as resulting from: management style
incompatibility, competition for scarce resources, lack of communication, clash
of personalities, and conflict of duties. Moreover, Rahim (2010)3 posits causes that overlap with these, but
identifies six (6) specific instances that typically lead to conflict, namely,
when a social entity(ies): ”

(i)                
Is required
to engage in an activity that is incongruent with his/her needs/interests;

(ii)             
Holds
behavioural preferences, the satisfaction of which is incompatible with another
person’s implementation of his/her preferences;

(iii)           
Wants some
mutually desirable resource that is short in supply, such that the wants of
everyone may not be satisfied fully;

(iv)            
Possesses
attitudes, values, skills and goals that are salient in directing one’s
behaviour, but are perceived to be exclusive of the attitudes, values, skills
and goals held be the other(s);

(v)              
Has partially
exclusive behavioural preferences regarding joint actions; and

(vi)            
Is
interdependent on the performance of functions or activities.”

Conflict, Rahim (2010)3 adds, occurs not only when these factors are
present, but when the threshold of conflict has been exceeded, meaning that the
point has been reached whereby the situation is at an intolerable intensity.

Furthermore, regarding the effects of conflict
on the organisation, there is some discord among scholars. In fact, this topic
can be discussed under two headings: the Classical View of Organisational
Conflict and the Modern View of Organisational Conflict.

Th Classical View of Organisational Conflict is
held by proponents of Classical Organisational Theory, which includes Taylor’s
Scientific Management Theory, Weber’s Bureaucratic Theory, and Fayol’s
Administrative Management Theory. Classical organisational theorists — such as
Fayol (1916/1949), Gulick and Urwick (1937), Taylor (1911), and Weber
(1929/1947) — “viewed conflict as undesirable, detrimental to the
organisation. Ideally it should not exist. The prescription was simple.
Eliminate it.” (Litterer, 1966)5.
Hence, conflict was viewed as a purely dysfunctional outcome resulting from
negative interactional patterns among the stakeholders of the organisation.
Consequently, this offered a simple approach to examining the behaviour of
instigators of conflict – their behaviour must be corrected for the benefit of
the organisation. Hence, under the Classical View, approaches to conflict
management tended to be strict and authoritarian (Walonick (1993)6.

Alternately, the Modern View of Organisational
Conflict arises from Modern Organisational Theory, which includes Behaviour
Management Theory (Human Relations School), System Theory, and Contingency
Theory, among others. With the rise of modern theorists, a shift in the
perception of conflict was seen. They recognised that conflict could be
functional, and in some instances, even necessary. In fact, according to Robbins
(1974)7,
Behaviouralists accept conflict as an inevitable facet of an organisation
(sometimes even viewing it as essential for increasing organisational
effectiveness), while Interactionist theorists recognise the absolute necessity
of conflict, explicitly encourage opposition, and defines conflict management
to entail stimulation as well as resolution methods. Hence, under this view,
“conflict can be functional to the extent to which it results in the
formulation and creative solution to the right problems or the effective
attainment of subsystem or organisational objectives that otherwise would not
have been possible.” (Rahim, 2010)3.

Moreover, with regard to conflict management,
theorists have proposed various models of the styles of behaviour that can be
used to manage interpersonal conflict. According to Jones and Brinkert (2008)8,
these range from the Model of Two Styles (competition and cooperation) of
Deutsch (1949) and Tjosvold (1990), to the Model of Eight Styles (avoiding,
compromising, dominating, emotional expression, integrating, obliging, passive
aggression, and third-party help) of Ting-Toomey, Oetzel and Yee-Jung (2002).
The most common, however, is the Model of Five Styles.

According to Rahim (2010)3, the Model of Five Styles was first
conceptualised in 1926 by Follett (1940). She conceptualised three main ways of
managing conflict: domination, compromise and integration, as well as two
secondary ways: avoidance and suppression. However, it was Blake and Mouton
(1964) that first presented a scheme for classifying the styles into five
types: forcing, withdrawing, smoothing, compromising and problem-solving. They
described the styles based on attitudes of the manager, concern for production
and for people. However, a reinterpretation of this scheme was presented by
Thomas (1976), who considered the intentions of the party (attempting to fulfil
one’s own’s concerns or attempting to fulfil the other party’s concerns) as the
basis for classifying the styles of managing conflict into five types. In
addition, Rahim and Bonoma (1979)9
differentiated the various styles of handling conflict into two dimensions –
concern for self and concern for others called the Dual Concern Model (see Fig.
1 below).

 

 

 

 

Fig. 1: The Dual Concern Model of the Styles of
Handling Interpersonal Conflict

 

 

According to this model, except for
integrating, all conflict management styles lead to ‘win-lose’ situation, with
avoiding seeming to be the most unfavourable (Gehrke and Grundler, 2013).

 In
conclusion, organisations typically follow these theoretical models for
interpreting and handling conflict. Therefore, the researcher, in the study of
conflict and conflict management at the GRA, will also seek to examine: the
sources of conflict and whether they satisfy the factors proposed by theorists;
whether conflict’s impact on the organisation satisfies the principles of the
Classical View or the Modern View; and the extent to which the organisation
conforms to the commonly used Five-Style Model for managing conflict.

 

References

Guyana Revenue Authority. (n.d.). About Us.
Retrieved from Guyana Revenue Authority Website:
http://www.gra.gov.gy/about-us#page
Jones, T. S., & Brinkert, R. (2008). Conflict
Coaching. Sage Publications.
Litterer, J. (1966). The Analysis of
Organisations. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Pitterson, J. (2014). Management of Business for
CAPE Examinations. London: Macmillan Education.
Rahim, M. (2010). Managing Conflict in
Organisations (4th ed.). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
Rahim, M., & Bonoma, T. (1979). Managing
Organizational Conflict: A Model for Diagnosis and Intervention. Psychological
Reports.
Robbins, S. P. (1974). Managing Organizational
Conflict : A Nontraditional Approach. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Roloff, M. E. (1987). Communication and Conflict. Handbook
of Communication Science.
Thomas, K. (1976). Conflict and Conflict MAnagement.
(M. Dunette, Ed.) The Handbook of Industrial and Organisational Psychology.
Walonick, D. (1993). Organisational Theory and
Behaviour. Retrieved from Statpac.org:
http://www.statpac.org/walonick/organizational-theory.htm

1
Guyana Revenue Authority. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from Guyana
Revenue Authority Website: http://www.gra.gov.gy/about-us#page

2 Roloff, M. E. (1987). Communication
and Conflict. Handbook of
Communication Science.

3 Rahim, M. (2010). Managing Conflict in Organisations
(4th ed.). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

4 Pitterson, J. (2014). Management
of Business for CAPE Examinations. London: Macmillan Education.
 

5 Litterer, J. (1966). The
Analysis of Organizations. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

6 Walonick, D. (1993). Organisational
Theory and Behaviour. Retrieved from Statpac.org:   
http://www.statpac.org/walonick/organizational-theory.htm
 

7
Robbins, S. P. (1974).
Managing Organizational Conflict : A
Nontraditional Approach. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

8 Jones, T. S., & Brinkert, R. (2008). Conflict Coaching. Sage Publications.

9 Rahim, M., & Bonoma, T. (1979). Managing Organizational Conflict:
A Model for Diagnosis and Intervention. Psychological
Reports.
 

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