Conflicts in work situations are a consequence of the breakdown in the standard mechanism of decision making (March et al 1965). The bureaucratic measures may be seen as a response to breakdown in social relationship (Gouldner 1955) . Since a symbiotic relationship is existing between an organization , and the management practices which are shaped by a tension between centrifugal and centripetal pressures (Gouldner 1960), conflict which is a ‘vivid form of interaction’(Coser 1968) cannot be taken to be peripheral to the functioning of an organization. For a successful functioning of any organization, reduction of conflict below the level which is disruptive, and provision of ways and means to enhance sufficient satisfaction to individual members is essential ( Caplow 1953). Industrial conflicts take place within the basic social consensus (Coser 1968, Crompton et al 1977) or within the framework of shared values reflected in procedure (Dubin 1960). Coser (1968) and Dahrendorf (1959) hold that the chances of incidence of conflict are less in a system where conflict interaction gets regularized through legal norms and other mediation agencies. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is because of a better understanding of diversity of interests that disputes are caused, and certainly not because of a misunderstanding of interest (Tawney 1920). Established procedures may be seen as ‘substitute for open conflict’ (Kerr et al 1973). Conflict in work situations takes the form of ’antagonistic cooperation’ (Sumner 1907), where power differentials help confer greater benefits through the adoption of cooperative methods. But for the ‘hidden injuries of class’ (Sennett et al 1977), which the employees were unable to put up with, the ‘collective worker’ would not have emerged. Seen in this perspective, bilateral dissensus (Carchedi 1977) help the unions and management to come to terms.
In that way, conflict may be taken to be a motivating factor in obtaining or making concessions (Zeuthen 1930) or forcing one into decision making. Elridge (1973) claims that he has not come across such a succinct statement as the one provided by Clark Kerr (1964) on the variety of forms which industrial conflict can take. For Clark Kerr, ‘the means of expression of industrial conflict are as unlimited as the ingenuity of man’. The parameters within which the study of conflict process takes place are the organizational context and structure. In the course of interaction, conflict emerges as a counteracting force to be reckoned with, and paves the way for better interactional situations. Mary Parker Follet (1940) recognized the possibilities of ‘making conflict work for you’. In defense of conflict she writes that ‘we should set it to work for us. Why not? What does the mechanical engineer do with friction? Of course, his chief job is to eliminate friction, but it is true that he capitalizes friction. The transmission of power by belts depends on the friction between the belt and the pulley. The friction between the driving wheel of the locomotive and the track is necessary to haul the train. All polishing is done by friction. The music of violin we get by friction. We left the savage state when we discovered fire by friction. We talk of friction of mind on mind as a good thing…..We have to know when to try to eliminate friction and when to capitalise it, when to see what work we can make it do’.