Strategies for Managing Industrial Conflicts in an Organization

Strategies for Managing Industrial Conflicts in an Organization



1.1 Background to the Study

Many scholars and management practitioners have understood the importance of the human aspect of organizational resources. For instance Tamunomiebi and Wobodo (2018) reiterated that amid all organizational resources, the employees still remains the life blood of the organization as its success or failure depends largely on their performance and commitment to its mission. However, the implication of this is that the employees can make or mar the organization’s mission depending on how they perceive their policies and practices especially in relation to organizational justice. Therefore, when an organization’s policies and practices are anchored on the principles of justice, equity and fairness among its stakeholders, such environment is perceived as a breeding ground for industrial harmony. Industrial harmony among labours of a nation is considered very paramount for employees’ success at work and other aspects of life; and fosters synergy which is critical to task accomplishment and stability in life (Yusuf- Habeeb & Kazeem, 2017).

This attention became necessary according to Osamwonyi and Ugiagbe (2013) who observed that in Nigeria many organizations are faced with unabated industrial conflicts caused by inefficient management styles and lack of leadership skills as well as strained relationship between management and labor union representatives. Similarly, Nworgu (2005) cautioned that lack of quality leadership skills is likely to instigate labour dispute or standoff between administrators, managers and labor. Furthermore, Iheriohanma (2007) revealed that management practice of exclusionism, neglect of power sharing mechanism which ensures partnership amongst stakeholders in the workplace and derogation of organizational communication pattern will also contribute in breeding industrial conflict in Nigeria. More so, where this situation persists, it may slide the organization into early entropy; given the position of Yusuf-Habeeb and Kazeem (2017) that dispute among labours has taken a precarious dimension in Nigeria and as a matter of necessity requires cogent approach towards its proper settlement and management and transformation as essentials for peace and progress among labour while Nwokocha (2015) pointed out that productivity among labour of every organization has comparatively been hindered due to frequent industrial conflict.

Despite the strategic importance of labour in nation building, perturbation revolves around the general the general settlement of dispute among employees. After all efforts have been made for the settlement of dispute among employees by their management there is seems to be no headway. The management usually tries to devise several strategies in the settlement of dispute among labour so as to bring about increased employee productivity and organizational efficiency. Therefore, the management will have to try all means to manage conflict among its employees.


Given this circumstance, scholars across disciplines such as psychology, communication, organizational behavior, information systems (IS), and marketing (Deutsch 1990; Thomas, 1992; Wall & Callister 1995) have developed different taxonomies in which managers of contemporary workplaces can leverage upon to mitigate and resolve dysfunctional conflicts while promoting its functional perspective. These frameworks are generally efficacious tools in dealing with the array of internal and external constraints that the environment imposes on organization even though conflict is considered as a naturally endemic phenomenon among humans; as triggered by hostility and jealousy (Smith & McKeen 1992); including communication inadequacies, unfriendly policies, and frustration and low morale. On this note, Hussein, Salem Al-Mamary and Hassan (2017) argued that conflict is impossible to be avoided but very possible to be managed when we diagnose the symptoms. In the same vein, Alomyan (2002) contends that effective management of conflict can be achieved through the adoption of potent strategies to foster industrial harmony at the workplaces. But to our surprise, as potent as conflict management strategies in sustaining harmonious industrial relations, we have not seen much of research evidence especially, theoretical papers in this direction.

This is as some of the studies in this domain adopted other variables while some were conducted outside the context of our court of interest; for instance, Taher, Das and Rashed (2008) carried out a study on conflict management and its impact on organizational performance in some industrial enterprises in Bangladesh. Kassim and Ibrahim (2014) on the other hand investigated conflict management styles and organizational commitment among bank employees in Penang. Another study by Akume and Abdullahi (2013) focused on the challenges and prospects of effective industrial conflict resolution in Nigeria. It is on this foundation that our intellectual curiosity was built to examine the strategies for managing industrial conflicts in an organization.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The framework of substantive law established by the state for the resolution of trade disputes in Nigeria lacks some critical components of trade disputes resolution. For instance, the N1, 000 fine provided by section 25 (2) of the Trade Unions Act, as sanction for refusal by an employer to recognize a registered trade union in Nigeria, is highly doubtful whether it can serve as deterrence. Furthermore, the law has not stated how and who would monitor whether or not there is compliance with this provision of the law. Secondly, section 4 (1) and 18 (1) of the Trade Dispute Act requires disputants to always resort to the process of collective bargaining in settling their dispute. However, in Nigeria the government does not lead by example in its labour policy implementation. For instance, the government instituted collective bargaining process but it seldom respects the call for negotiation or complies with collective agreements reached with trade unions. This questions the possibility of ever allowing collective bargaining to achieve its intended purpose. Additionally, litigation has generally proven to be largely ineffective in resolving trade disputes because apart from being adversarial in nature, it is often very rigid as parties are often bound by decisions not of their own choices.


Furthermore, section 24 of the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act obliged all registered trade unions for the purposes of collective bargaining to constitute Electoral College to elect members who will represent them in negotiations with the employer. The problem with this section is that it does not prescribe the modalities for setting an electoral college. This gap may give room for the state or employers to manipulate the criteria for the selection of bargaining agents and consequently, generate more industrial strife than it is intended to resolve. Finally, it is doubtful if ADR Centre at the NIC would be attractive for workers to refer a trade dispute for settlement because of the overbearing influence of the President of the NIC. For instance, the President determines whether any extension would be granted to initial stipulated period for settlement. He also constitutes the panel for any ADR process based on his discretion. The exercise of such enormous powers by the President of the NIC is capable of affecting the trust and confidence workers may have in the ADR process, considering that the President of the NIC, who established the ADR Centre, is an employee of the government.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The general objective of this study is to examine the strategies for managing industrial conflicts in an organization. However, the specific objectives are:

i) To determine whether or not conflict disrupts the activities of business enterprises and whether management of organization could avoid conflict in the organization.

ii) To study the various way/means and also strategies organizations could employ towards handling conflict situation

iii) To identify the effects of conflicts on organizations growth.

iv) To enquire the various factors that can be related to the occurrence of conflicts and also when, where and why conflicts is likely to occur.

1.4 Research Questions

i) How does conflict disrupt the activities of business enterprises and whether management of organization could avoid conflict in the organization?

ii) What are the various way/means and also strategies organizations could employ towards handling conflict situation?

iii) What are the effects of conflicts on organizations growth?

iv) What are the various factors that can be related to the occurrence of conflicts and also when, where and why conflicts is likely to occur?

1.5 Research Hypothesis

The followings are the research hypotheses to be tested for this study:


H0: The existence of conflict does not hinder industrial harmony.

H1: The existence of conflict hinders industrial harmony.

H0: Effective conflict management is essential if coordinated efforts and productive achievements are to result.

H2: Effective conflict management is essential if coordinated efforts and productive achievements are to result.

1.6 Significance of the Study

This study is a thorough study into the conflict management strategies in organizations in Nigeria. The study points out factors or causes of conflicts in organizations and the society at large and the various approaches towards resolving a conflict situation. Therefore by knowing this factors and possible remedies, the management will know how to deal with conflicts. This study is also important because of its contribution to this growing field of knowledge. Because of people’s misunderstanding of conflict to always be associated with negativity, this study will be an avenue to put managers/employees in the know about the positive aspects of conflict.

1.7 Scope of the Study

All organizations in Nigeria cannot be covered in this study, because of this; this study is going to restrict itself to two indigenous firms or industries in Lagos. These industries are Forte Oil and MRS Oil Ltd.

1.8 Limitations of the Study

In this research work, a lot of constraints and limitations were encountered. Some of these constraints were usual constraints encountered during the course of such academic exercise while some were unusual and boring. Collections of primary data for this study were a major constraint and some people sampled especially at Capital Oil Ltd were uncooperative thereby making the availability of data about the company difficult. Financial constraints also posed a major problem/limitation during the investigation. The researcher would have wanted to carry on the same type of investigation in other enterprise but for financial constraints. Time was another limitation encountered during the course of the study. Time constraints have forced the study researcher to limit this study on conflict management strategies instead of spreading the study on the entire phenomenon of management in organization. Sometimes, secondary data collected were not reliable, hence they were rejected. A lot of time was spent on the selection and examination of secondary data for the study.

1.9 Definition of Terms

Conflict: Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitude, beliefs, values or needs. It can also originate from past rivalries and personality differences.

Strategy: A strategy is a large scale action plan that sets the direction, for an organization. It represents an educated guess about what must be done in the long term for the survival or prosperity of the organization or its principal parts.

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