Conflict Culture Emergence

If management expects the employees to be incompetent on the job, they may not recognize employee behaviors that would contradict this meaning, even when they are there. This structure supports a perception that could constrain management decisions and behavior toward overt domination, micro-managing, and/or impatience when interacting with these employees. Likewise, if the employees don’t feel valued by management, their decisions and behavior could be constrained toward apathy for being great at their jobs. If there is no shared spontaneous communication arena between the management and employee groups to negotiate the reality of these meanings, a reinforcing feedback loop might be created between the two groups that supports the two discursive-structures of domination and apathy. These structures could then dissipate unchecked within the groups until their scope of impact grows to affect organization-level functions through intergroup and interpersonal conflicts that reduce cooperation and effective communication. If these structures are transmitted to new hires as the reality of working there, then an individual/group-level discursive-structure with an organization-level scope of impact will likely embed itself as a belief about that organization, and even the most-qualified new-hires could appear, or learn to behave, as though they are incompetent.

All of these communicative interactions, discursive-structures, experiences, and shared meanings are interdependent elements, and they influence the emergence of an organization-level function known as culture. Culture represents the collective values and beliefs that individuals reference to understand what it means to be an employee of the company and what behavior is necessary to survive as a functional employee of the company (Schein, 2010). Being aware of this information helps ensure their survivability within that organizational system. Company culture reflects the reality of working for the company and guides individual behavior and learning within the company context. As an emergent phenomenon (Ikegami, 2000) no single individual can control culture. However, through the management of discursive-structures, the building blocks of culture might be influenced to guide the emergence of culture along desired ideals.

To manage discursive-structures, leaders could try attending to how they construct their own personal meaning about the people they work with, while also considering how their own communicative interactions with those people construct meaning about the organizational systems governing them all. Ample evidence suggests that employee perception of their work environment can create very real costs (or benefits) to the company (Kopaneva, 2015; Choi, 2019; Prasad & Prasad, 2000) that goe beyond the formation of counterproductive discursive-structures. Evidence also suggests that company culture is comprised of multiple, distinct subcultures and countercultures that individuals use collectively to understand different aspects of their work (Jermier, Slocum, Fry, & Gaines, 1991), and they too influence individual-level function. Katz & Flynn (2013) contend that a sub-culture can be formed around organization-level beliefs on how to engage and resolve conflict. If conflict is constructed as a disruptive behavior among individuals, individual behavior will likely lean toward a negative affect, causing a poor natural reaction to tensions, perceived differences, and escalated conflicts.

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