Differences between conflict and misbehaviour at work Academic Essay

Briefly, explain the differences between conflict and misbehaviour at work and between official and unofficial industrial action. In your answer, give a brief review of contemporary trends in the type of conflict and industrial sanctions.
Here we focus on the conflict at work – you can think here of industrial action and of lower level conflict that might be exhibited in tensions between the employee and line manager. Explain the difference between conflict and misbehaviour. Then, with specific reference to industrial action, explain the difference between official and unofficial action. Finally, refer to some data that explains recent trends in conflict and specifically in industrial action.


Difference between conflict and misbehavior

Wiener and Vardi (1996), define misbehavior as “any intentional action by members of organizations that violates core organizational and/or societal norms.” There is sufficient evidence of members of an organization are in some cases involved in sabotaging processes, harassing others, stealing, misappropriating or damaging company property, cheating the government and even misleading customers. These are all forms of misbehavior.  The underlying thread in the definition of misbehavior is the intention that underlies the misbehavior, leading to categorization of misbehavior as either type S- that whose intention is the benefit of the self-such as stealing, type O, which is intended for the benefit of the organization such as cheating the government and finally type D, which is intended to inflict damage, such as damaging company property or sabotaging company processes. Regardless of the type, misbehavior is eventually costly to the company, country, and individuals. Management should, therefore, be on the lookout for any forms of misbehavior in the organization and take appropriate action to nip it in the bud.

Unlike misbehavior which is individual-centered, conflict is a natural phenomenon that is bound to occur either in workplaces, associations or groups, as long as people from different/diverse backgrounds congregate. It increases in frequency, especially where there are expectations that need to be fulfilled, or where the parties involved are meant to stay together for a longer period of time in pursuit of either personal or corporate goals and targets. The term conflict, however, means different things to different people. While to some, conflict involves fighting, trade embargoes, and even war,  to others, and especially in the workplace, differences in opinion, personalities, and perspectives often result in tensions, negatively affecting workplace performance.

In the workplace, conflict includes any type of disagreements that take place I the workplace or among workers, and potentially include conflicts that occur between and among workers outside the set working hours. Current definitions of conflicts in the workplace go beyond basic disagreements to include interpersonal conflicts that arise from clashes in personality and difficulties in working with one another, both of which can lead to negative impacts in the organization (Volosevici, 2015). The contemporary definition of conflict also encompasses workplace complains such as disagreements with organizational policies and managerial decisions, which culminates in conflicts between employees and the employer, or between employees and the employer’s representatives.


Official and unofficial industrial actions

When conflicts arise between employers and employees, there is every reason for efforts to be expended to ensure that it is resolved before it escalates to an industrial action, especially in unionized work environments. Often times, employees are in conflict with their employers due to a myriad of issues such as a clamor for better working conditions, better pay, unfulfilled promises, unmet collective bargaining agreements etc.  If these issues are not resolved amicably to the satisfaction of either party, an industrial action may result. In the context of labor relations, an industrial action is any action taken by trade unions to reduce productivity in the workplace and often takes the form of strikes, go-slows, overtime bans etc.

Current trends in labor relations point at increasing levels of unionization (John, 2015). Many employees are voluntarily joining trade unions so as to protect and enhance their employment interests. When there is an unresolved conflict relating to the above-mentioned issues, between employees and employers, trade unions step in to try and find solutions, failure to which they result in an industrial action. An industrial action is ‘official’ if it’s formally backed by a trade union, with members of the union taking part in it. Since industrial actions mean a breach of employment contracts, the right legal procedure must be followed to ensure that the action is ‘protected’ against unlawful employment actions such as dismissal and lack of pay. Sometimes, some employees may call an industrial action such as a go-slow without the backing of their trade unions. Such actions are deemed ‘unofficial’, are often not protected and therefore, employees risk dismissal.

Since conflicts, misbehaviors and industrial actions, whether official or unofficial have a significant negative impact on an organization, it’s important that managers enhance their capacity to identify and manage misbehaviors and conflicts before they destroy their organizations or escalate to industrial actions which can be very costly.  Having proper disciplinary mechanisms for identifying discouraging and punishing misbehavior in their organization while effectively managing conflicts goes a long way in reducing chances of industrial actions. Proactive managers should also be able to manage conflicts between management and employees before they escalate to industrial actions which significantly affect productivity. Employees, on the other hand, must be aware of the legal implications of engaging in industrial actions and ensure that they are official and protected, to reduce their chances of being dismissed without recourse.



Wiener,Y and Vardi, Y. (1996). Misbehavior in Organizations: A Motivational Framework. Journal of Organization Science, 7(2) pg151-165

John, K. (2015). Conflict: trends and forms of collective action, Employee Relations, Vol. 37 Issue: 6, pp.720-732https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-06-2015-0102

Volosevici, D. (2015). Trends in Industrial Relations in the European Union. Economic Insights – Trends and Challenges Vol.IV(LXVII) No. 3/2015 117 – 124


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