Boomers Like to Confront, Generation Y Is Okay with Withdrawal, But They All Love to Negotiate in India

Published date01 June 2016
Date01 June 2016
C R Q, vol. 33, no. 4, Summer 2016 403
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and the Association for Confl ict Resolution
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21163
Boomers Like to Confront, Generation Y Is Okay with
Withdrawal, But They All Love to Negotiate in India
Priya Gupta
Sonali Bhattacharya
Netra Neelam
Monika Kunte
is article compares the confl ict resolution styles of the three genera-
tions in the Indian workforce today—baby boomers, generation X, and
generation Y—based on a research sample size of 503 respondents.  e
questionnaire developed by Pareek and Purohit ( 2010 ) classifi es confl ict
resolution styles into fi ve categories: three approach-based styles (confron-
tation, compromise, and negotiation) and two avoidance-based styles
(withdrawal and resignation).  e study found that Indian workers
by and large prefer approach-based styles, with negotiation being the
most preferred style across generations and gender. Baby boomers were
found to have a signifi cantly higher preference for confrontation than
those in generation Y. Generation Y is signifi cantly more likely than
baby boomers to choose withdrawal as their confl ict resolution style. In
addition, male baby boomers are more likely than female boomers to
use resignation as a confl ict resolution style.  e article discusses possible
reasons for these fi ndings in the Indian cultural context and suggests
future research.
A number of multinational companies have ventured into the Indian
diaspora in the past couple of decades. As people across industries have
started working in cross-national, cross-linguistic, and cross-cultural teams,
it has become important for expatriate managers to develop cross-cultural
understanding, or cultural intelligence, in order to arrive at eff ective solu-
tions for confl ict in the workplace ( omas and Inkson 2009 ), especially
in India, a multireligious, multilinguistic, multicultural, multicaste nation.
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21163
e Maruti Suzuki massacre at Manesar in 2012 arose from a cross-
cultural confl ict of work ethos (Krishnarao and Ukey 2013 ) that stemmed
from the low sensitivity of the Japanese management to the laborers.  e
trade union, led by young workers, was incensed by their low pay, poor
working conditions, and the abusive behavior of the supervisors.  e Indian
supervisors, operating from a culture of high power distance common in
that region, were generally abusive as well. In fact, the incident was sparked
by a derogatory caste-based remark made by a high-caste supervisor to a
low-caste laborer who physically attacked the supervisor as a result and
was suspended.  is incident stirred up the trade union leaders and led to
a strike, mob attack, destruction of property, and physical injury to some
employees. Management, in fact, had completely ignored the simmering
displeasure among laborers about their wages and working conditions and
the passive confl ict between the laborers and supervisor.  is incident was
due to cross-cultural diff erences in work ethos and management s strategy
to avoid the ongoing confl ict and laborer unrest.
In this article, we look at the issue of confl ict management through the
lenses of Indian ethos and culture, generational diff erences, and gender
Con ict
March and Simon ( 1958 ) defi ned confl ict as “breakdown of standard mecha-
nism of decision making.”  omas ( 1992 ) conceptualized the existence of
confl ict as when one party perceives that the other party has negatively aff ected
or can negatively aff ect issues that it cares about, given that both parties have
an interdependent and interactional relationship.  is relationship can be
cross-functional, cross-country, cross-disciplinary, or cross-generational. Con-
ict has been defi ned as task-related disagreement that arises when the goals
of a person or a group are perceived to be incompatible with those of another
person or when the goal is expressed with the intention of denying the oth-
ers’ goals (Dyer and Song 1997 ). Xie, Song, and Stringfellow ( 1998 ) defi ned
interfunctional confl ict as diff erences in goals and ideologies between inter-
dependent and interactive functional groups. Cross-functional confl ict may
often turn out to be positive when it stimulates the generation of new ideas
from confl icting parties to arrive at a good new alternative (Baron 1991 ).
It may help in information mobilization if it prompts a functional team to
gather and share information with cross-functional teams with confl icting
ideologies. Confl ict can therefore be viewed as substantive, task-related dis-
Con ict Resolution Styles by Generation in India 405
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21163
agreement, or it can be aff ective, charged with emotion and characterized by
anger, frustration, and distrust (Ross 1989 ; Wall and Nolan 1986 ).
ere are contradictory views on the impact of organizational confl icts
on team performance. Some studies argue that confl ict is destructive and
decreases team performance (Brown 1983 ; Schwenk and Cosier 1993 ).
Other studies have shown that confl ict stimulates high team performance
(Baron 1991 ; Bourgeois 1985 ; Putnam 1994 ).
Con ict Management
Researchers have suggested a number of methods for resolving confl ict
(Blake, Shepard, and Mouton 1964 ; Katz 1964 ; Likert and Likert 1976 ;
McGregor 1967 ; Pareek 1982 ; omas and Schmidt 1976 ). Normative
theory suggests an interaction-infl uence strategy for resolving confl ict and
emphasizes a participatory form of management. Pareek ( 1982 ) put for-
ward a contingency theory of confl ict resolution, which is based on the
criticality of the situation and the intergroup integration. It suggests either
an active approach for those in confl ict to solve the problem by themselves
or with help of others, or a passive approach of avoidance out of fear or
denial (Blake et al. 1964 ; Pareek 1982 ). According to Blake et al. ( 1964 ),
there are fi ve managerial styles—task manager, country club manager,
impoverished manager, dampened pendulum manager, and team man-
ager—each with diff erent strategies for dealing with confl ict—forcing,
smoothing, withdrawing, compromising, and confrontation or problem
solving, respectively. Likert and Likert ( 1976 ) established that a partici-
patory form of confl ict resolution is the best possible method of confl ict
resolution. Syna Desivilya and Yagil ( 2005 ) found that cooperative pat-
terns of confl ict management are associated with positive emotional states;
contentious or dominating patterns of confl ict management are associated
with both positive and negative emotional states; and an avoidance pattern
of confl ict management is associated with negative emotions only.
It has been observed that individuals or organizations that adapt con-
frontation or problem solving to deal with confl ict achieve high perfor-
mance and develop better interpersonal relationships (Blake et al. 1964 ;
Lawrence and Lorsch 1967a , 1967b ). Burke ( 1970 ), in one of his investiga-
tions, found that confrontation or problem solving was always related posi-
tively to the dependent variables of the constructive use of diff erences and
disagreements, and some aspects of the superior-subordinate relationship.

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