Culture and conflict: A comparative study of organizations
Jones, Lynn K.
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In social service organizations, more time, attention and energy are often invested in staff conflict than in client care. The reasons suggested for this paradox--lack of a generally-accepted program philosophy, personality conflicts and competition for power--all fail to persuade. Something more fundamental is going on: Organizational cultures shape how people relate to one another and how work gets done.;This study documents the types of conflicts that occur in two residential treatment centers, one with high-conflict and one with low-conflict, and examines their organizational cultures. The relationship between the organizational cultures and interdepartmental conflict and the relationship between the organizational cultures and administrative strategies used to manage the conflicts is investigated.;A survey that measures interdepartmental conflict was administered to staff members of ten residential treatment centers. Based on the outcome of this survey two organizations were selected for further study: one with a high index of interdepartmental conflict and one with a low index of interdepartmental conflict. A qualitative analysis was conducted at these two organizations, using archival analysis and structured interviewing.;The major findings of this study were: The perception of interdepartmental conflict differed significantly among organizations. The older facilities had less interdepartmental conflict than younger facilities, and nonaccredited facilities had less conflict than accredited facilities.;At the two organizations, culture was the major factor contributing to conflict. A "culture of caring" characterized the low-conflict organization. A "culture of embattlement" characterized the high-conflict organization.;Staff homogeneity differentiated the two cultures. At the low-conflict organization there were few minority staff (15%) whereas at the high-conflict organization, minority staff (71%) comprised a powerful subculture that appeared to be at the root of the conflicts.;Administrative staff were relatively unaware of the importance of the cultures at their organizations. In addition, there were few differences in the management strategies. The differences that existed were determined by the organizational cultures and were not the result of conscious choices made by the administrators themselves.