The Metamorphosis of Workplace Conflict

Bruce Fortado
  • Human Relations, September 2001, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/0018726701549003

What is it about?

If employees feel unfairly treated, they may not just forget about it or silently lump it. They may try to "get even." Conflicts can twist and change form. This process is termed "metamorphosis." Managers sometimes see certain employee behaviors, or the results of them, and may be puzzled or at least somewhat uncertain about what these actions mean. This article describes four broad ways employees can try to even the score: namely, restating an issue, applying pressure tactics, resorting to acts of retribution, and carrying out compensatory acts. Some of the common motives for the above categories are set forth to ease the interpretive process.

Why is it important?

Previously, workplace conflicts have often been framed narrowly in short-term, individualistic, rational and substantive terms. Much can be learned by viewing these situations in long-term, social, interactive, emotional and symbolic terms. In order to select an appropriate remedial action, managers must first be able to diagnose what relational issues exist in a particular situation.

Read Publication

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Fortado Bruce