Issue No 9: November 2004
Budget cuts but proposal quality rises
Q&A: Monitoring and assessment rules: Update
Web system closes gap between clients and suppliers
Algorithm to help Hong Kong keep competitive edge
Project integrates supplier networks
Cooperative conflicts ‘strengthen decision-making’
Pay-back from staff investment
Human capital needs change as economy opens
Artificial Intelligence helps rostering

Prof Tjosvold and one of his books
Conflict in the workplace is usually regarded as bad news but researchers at Lingnan University say it is vital for a company’s decision-making process.
“Conflict is said to be stressful, but avoiding conflict can be a lot more stressful,” said Principal Investigator Prof Dean Tjosvold.
“Avoiding conflict is also costly in terms of decision quality, and costly with regard to employees being less than committed to the team and decision-making.”
Managing conflict for mutual benefit, says Prof Tjosvold, actually strengthens teamwork, decision-making and improves the use of human resources. Structures and methods to manage conflict within companies are being developed, he said.
Project teams draw employees from all sections of a company, for example, to plan, produce and sell a new product.
“Conflicting issues from all departments can be handled at the beginning of the process and everyone feels they own the issues,” he said.
“Previously, each section met in isolation and there would be no opportunity to openly deal with any inter-section conflicts.” He added: “For participative management to work, it’s vital to manage conflict.”
In his research, Prof Tjosvold surveyed more than 100 companies in mainland China and found that the Chinese cultural value of “saving face” is important because it confirms the individual’s desire to maintain a strong, cooperative relationship.
“Showing respect for each other’s face means that individuals are able to discuss their different perspectives and integrate their ideas constructively because they believe they are working together for mutual goals.” In one case, a factory’s new female line manager was asked by a director to complete a rush order of products by staying late, but there was no mention of overtime.
Anticipating that workers would be unwilling to stay late with no overtime, she “negotiated” with her boss on extra pay, or time off in lieu. In securing a remedy, she also felt she had set a good precedent for handling future overtime cases.
Conflicts, said Prof Tjosvold, are more constructive when people try to resolve them for mutual benefit; conflicts involving goal incompatibility and ethical issues can be more difficult. ̉Rather than suppress ethical issues, if they can be discussed open-mindedly and codes of conduct used as guides, the issues can be dealt with constructively,” he said.

Principal Investigator
Prof Dean Tjosvold :