CONFLICT MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES AND ACADEMIC STAFF PRODUCTIVITY
1.1 Background to the Study
University education is arguably the most important and crucial component in human capital development. It is considered indispensable to the building of a strong and viable economy (World Bank, 2008; Akindele, Oginni and Omoyele, 2012). As Oziengbe and Obhiosa (2014) have argued that functional education is an important ingredient for national development. Furthermore, knowledge accumulation and its applications are seen as a major factor in the economic development of any nation leading to competitive advantage in the global economy. According to Ogu (2008), educating the citizenry of any nation is essential to its social, political, economic and cultural vitality. Okebukola (2008) opined that higher education provides the much needed human resources for actively improving the economy of nations and guaranteeing rapid changes. He asserted that “the greater the opportunity given to the citizenry for higher education, the more expansive the horizon for rapid social and economic development”.
University education can, therefore, be considered a platform on which the future development of a nation rests (Anyim, 2012). Indeed, Obasanjo (2012) opined that a nation can only develop in relation to its achievements in education. These assertions are not misplaced in that extant literature posits that educational systems are responsible for producing the skilled manpower and the knowledge needed for technological advancement and economic growth. Quite apart, university commands a lot of respect and trust. According to Clarke and Edwards (1980) in Arikewuyo (2008) “Universities, since their medieval beginnings, have been founded to preserve the positive heritage of society. They are committed to promote society’s corporate wellbeing and advancement by refining the ability of their members to select reasons and understand by enquiring into and seeking to explain the development and function of man as part of the natural world and by acting as guide and critic in those areas which can be informed by a university’s resources of knowledge and specialized skills”.
This is why much emphasis is placed on quality education in many nations. However, with reference to university education in Nigeria, the few universities set up after independence
undoubtedly possessed world-class stature with outstanding scholars in almost all the disciplines. According to Nuhu Yaqub in Kazeem (2009), the 1980s saw Nigerian universities as examples of excellence in academia and a pillar on which the nation’s developmental hope rested. The working conditions were satisfactory and there were adequate academic staff both in quality and quantity. Funds were available and individuals were glad to take up academic careers in Nigeria, irrespective of what was offered them in alternative sectors such as the oil industry or civil service. In addition, staff and students had access to good accommodation, pipe-borne water, regular supply of power, amongst other basic infrastructures. The environment was conducive for learning, and the university management related well with the staff and students as future leaders of the nation. Besides, jobs were automatic rewards of university education. Students saw the university as a ‘better home’ and were content with their studies as they saw that their future aspirations were within sight. (Oyetakin, Oluwole, and Kayode, 2012).
In spite of the enormous benefits derived from university education in nation building, Nigerian universities had over the years gradually deteriorated from citadels of learning to “centres of violence” (Rotimi, 2005). According to Liberman, Levy and Segal (2009), the latent force of educational system in developing countries like Nigeria is frequently disillusioned by long-standing problems of programme reforms, changes in policy, and onslaught of conflicts. Thus, contrary to the high expectations of the founding fathers whose vision and dream were to see that Nigerian men and women were equipped with university degrees equivalent to what obtained in Western countries, Nigerian universities have been plagued with conflicts (Oni, 2012). The realisation of the dream and vision of the founding fathers is almost becoming an illusion and movement towards global relevance has become a difficult task which can be partly attributed to unmanaged or mis-managed conflicts within the system.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Conflict is considered an inevitable phenomenon in organisations (Whyte, 1967; Jones, George and Hill, 2000; Bells and Song, 2005). According to Tjosvold (2008), “to work in an organisation is to be in conflict and to take advantage of joint work requires conflict management”. It has further been argued by different authors that for an organisation to thrive and develop, there is the need for conflict (Blackard, 2001; Alzawahreh and
Khasawneh, 2011; Leffel, Hallam, and Darling, 2012). Conflict, if not properly managed, can ruin any organisation or institution (McKenzie, 2002; Axelrod and Johnson, 2005). Adeoti (2003) and Axelrod and Johnson (2005) had posited that conflicts can hinder an organisation’s performance and the attainment of its goals. Rainey (2014) similarly posited that conflict can lead to “stress, frustration, dissatisfaction, high turnover, absenteeism and poor performance among employees”. According to Nahavandi, Denhardt, Denhardt, and Aristigueta (2015), conflict can be a destructive force but if properly managed, it can become useful as a source of renewal and creativity, as managers can assemble different pieces of information to yield productive result.
Although most of the research on conflict has been conducted in traditional organisations according to Din, Khan, Rehman and Bibi (2011), this does not imply that conflicts do not occur in the universities. Gmelch and Carroll (1991) had opined that conflict “is sewn into the fabrics” of educational institutions as a result of the nature of the functional and relational characteristics of the various academic departments. Miklas and Kleiner (2003) had further explained that the educational institutions are “a perfect breeding ground for conflict” as a result of the academic freedom present there, whereby the academic staff are more independent in their approaches and viewpoints.
A poorly managed conflict does not only affect the length of time the students spend in the universities with attendant financial burden on parents, it also affects the image of the universities within the global context. Alabi (2002) asserted that it is unrealistic and impossible to completely eradicate conflict within the university system but the corollary is that no meaningful development can take place where a system is torn apart by conflicts (Adeyemi and Ekundayo, 2010). This brings about the need to properly manage conflicts in order to retain its positive aspect and improve job satisfaction. The effect and consequences of unmanaged conflicts in the workplace on employees and the organisation are crucial (Dijkstra, 2006). In order to manage or develop effective key conflict management strategies, it is essential to know the underlying causes (Havenga, 2005). According to Mayer (2000), if the causes of conflict are known, a conflict chart which directs management processes can be developed. This can enable organisations’ managers to develop appropriate strategies towards managing such a conflict. Notwithstanding, the knowledge basis of the sources or causes of organisations’ conflicts are minimal and this can be attributed to the low incidence of empirical research, especially in relation to Nigerian universities. One of the basic questions
that this research seeks to answer is how conflict management strategies can affect academic staff productivity in Nigerian universities. Since staff productivity is considered the major parameter in shaping the success of any organisation, it is important that organisations continuously strive to enhance the productivity of their staff (Leffel et al, 2012).
But looking at the Nigerian university system, there have been cases of conflicts often resulting into strike actions especially between the various staff unions in the public universities and the government; and staff and management in private universities. For more than thirty years now, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government of Nigeria have been in industrial disharmony over the non-implementation of agreements reached by both parties by the Federal Government. The agreements addressed issues of poor conditions of service of academic staff members in government-owned universities; problem of underfunding and infrastructural neglect in the universities; as well as lack of autonomy and academic freedom which ASUU claims, affect the quality of teaching, research and scholarship in the universities. These issues have featured prominently as the primary causes of the conflicts between ASUU and the government. Likewise, the other non-academic trade unions comprising Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have also gone on strike several times based on the non-implementation of agreements signed between the Federal Government and the unions. The said agreements border on funding, salary and allowances and the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) assessment report (Paul, 2013).
Other forms of conflicts also found in the universities are between students and university authorities and between academic staff and the students (Tucker, 1981 in Akpotu, Onoyase and Onoyase, 2008). An example is the case at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) where a lecturer was abducted by members of the Student Union Council on the ground that students used to fail his course (Akpotu et al, 2008). Conflict also arises between a member of staff and management of an institution and if the conflict is not resolved or properly managed, it could result to either dismissal of the member of staff by the institution or resignation by such member of staff. If in the case of dismissal, the member of staff felt that his or her termination was unjustified or the conditions of service under which he or she was employed
had been breached, the outcome might result into litigation which usually lingers on for years.
As earlier posited, some of the strikes within the Nigerian university system often lead to nationwide closures of universities. From 1993-2003, Adesulu (2013) put the total number of months lost as a result of this closure at 30 as explained by Table 1.1.
Table 1.1.1: Strike Actions between 1993 and 2003
|S/N||Year||Number of months lost in the academic session|
|5||1999||1 month, 5 days|
|9||2003||5 months, 5 days|
Source: Higher Education News Abuja (2003). Federal Ministry of Education. Retrieved on July 26, 2012, from; http://www.NUC.org.ng
While Ojeifo (2014) went further to put the total number of system as a result of ASUU strike between 1999 and 2013 to Table 1.1.2
years lost in the university over two years as shown in
Table 1.1.2: Strike Actions between 1999 and 2013
|S/N||YEAR||PERIOD OF STRIKE|
|11||2010||Over 5 months|
|13||2013||Over 5 months|
Source: Ojeifo, S. A. (2014). ASUU industrial actions: between ASUU and government is it an issue of rightness? Journal of Education and Practice. Vol. 5, No.6, pp 7.
It is evident that universities lost many months of learning time. The resultant prolonged strike actions have financial and social cost implications on parents and the society (Adesulu, 2013) and undue delay in students’ graduation as a result of disruption in academic calendar (Ige, 2014). Incessant strike actions and academic disruptions affect staff productivity in terms of the value of lost time as staff withdraw from performing normal duties (Fatile and Adejuwon, 2011). They also reduces motivation and increases staff turnover rate (Brahm, 2007), and invariably affects the basic objectives of the universities which include teaching, research and community development. All these can arguably be attributed to improper management of issues leading to conflicts. The same goes with private universities as Fapohunda (2012) identified dissatisfaction concerning pay disparity in comparison with the work done in such institutions as one of the causes of conflict. Such conflicts, if not well managed, can result in staff resigning from such institutions and high labour turnover is unhealthy for any organisation as it affects its growth.
As important as conflict management in universities is, researchers, looking at its effect on the productivity of the staff, have pointed out that not enough research studies have been carried out on conflict management strategies in higher educational settings (Adams, 2006;
Donovan, 1993; Green, 1984; Pritchard, 1985). Therefore, conflict management strategies in educational settings are areas that need further exploration (Adams, 2006; Donovan, 1993; Green, 1984; Pritchard, 1985). The calls for research in this area provided support for this research work. Also, the essence of this research is to examine the impact of choice of conflict management strategies on academic staff productivity in selected public and private universities in Southwest Nigeria as it has been shown that researches on conflict management in higher institution are quite few (Donovan, 1993; Adams, 2006).
1.3 Research Questions
The study focused on providing answers to these questions:
- To what extent do conflict management strategies adopted by academic staff in public universities differ from conflict management strategies adopted by academic staff in private universities?
- To what extent does the level of academic staff productivity in public universities differ from that of private universities?
- To what extent do conflict management strategies affect academic staff productivity?
- To what extent does university ownership structure moderate the effect of conflict management strategies on productivity?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to investigate strategies used in managing conflict in selected Nigerian universities and the effect of such strategies on the productivity of academic staff. The specific objectives of this research are to:
- assess the extent to which conflict management strategies adopted by academic staff in public universities differ in private universities;
- examine the differences in the level of academic staff productivity in public and private universities;
- determine the effect of conflict management strategies on academic staff productivity; and
- investigate if university ownership structure moderates the effect of conflict management strategies on productivity.
1.5 Research Hypotheses
In order to achieve the goals of this study, the following hypotheses were tested.
H01: Conflict management strategies adopted by academic staff in public universities are not significantly different from those adopted by academic staff in private universities.
Ha1: Conflict management strategies adopted by academic staff in public universities are significantly different from those adopted by academic staff in private universities.
H02: There is no significant difference in the level of academic staff productivity in public and private universities.
Ha2: There is significant difference in the level of academic staff productivity in public and private universities.
H03: Conflict management strategies do not have a significant effect on academic staff productivity.
Ha3: Conflict management strategies have a significant effect on academic staff productivity.
H04: The university ownership structure does not moderate the effect of conflict management strategies on productivity.
Ha4: The university ownership structure moderates the effect of conflict management strategies on productivity.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Examining conflict in Nigerian universities today empirically shows that conflict, if not properly managed, can negatively affect the goal of any organisation (Alok and Shaheen,
2014). In view of this assertion and its consequential effect on Nigerian universities, it became imperative to carry out this study.
This study, therefore, examined the causes of conflicts in universities and the strategies adopted in managing them without allowing such conflicts to escalate to the extent of affecting the productivity of the academic staff and the overall goals of the universities. The study is significant in the sense that it will make the following contributions to conflict management literature in public and private universities in Nigeria:
First and foremost, this study will enable universities management to have better insights into the causes of conflicts and how to positively manage the situations caused by these conflicts in order to aid the proper administration of the university system. Secondly, findings will enhance the understanding of government educational agencies and other stakeholders in university administration in Nigeria. This is to effectively manage conflicts as most of the conflicts in public universities centre on poor conditions of service between the academic staff and the government. Thirdly, it will provide an insight into many and diverse aspects of conflict management in the nation’s university system and how these conflicts can be better situated to bring about their functionality. And lastly, this study will be of immense academic benefit to advance further research on conflict management strategies and related topics.
1.7 Scope of the Study
This study examined conflict management strategies and their impact on academic staff productivity of both public and private universities in Southwest Nigeria. The study focused only on academic staff in both types of universities based on their importance in the overall objectives of universities which are: teaching, research and community service. Academic staff members also play a major role in global institutional ranking and national accreditation of universities, therefore, unmanaged or mismanaged conflicts can adversely affect their set goals and objectives.
To carry out the survey for the research, three out of the six States in Southwest Nigeria, namely: Lagos, Ogun and Oyo were chosen based on their proximity and being among the oldest States representing fifty per cent of the total number of States in Southwest Nigeria. From these three States, three public and three private universities, namely: University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ajayi Crowther University, Pan
Atlantic University and Babcock University-being the oldest universities based on their year of establishment-were further selected. The reason for this selection was based on the fact that over the years, these universities are likely to have been exposed to conflicts and the strategies for managing them.
1.8 Limitations of the Study
Research study is often beset by a lot of shortcomings and limitations, some of which may be circumstantial.
The limitation of this study was basically the fact that only academic staff from six universities in Southwest Nigeria and a few interviewed government officials were engaged in the conduct this research consequent upon which the findings may be of limited generalisation.
Others included limitation to questionnaire studies and the respondents’ ‘sincerity’ in answering the questions in the instruments. Some of the respondents did not answer all the questions in the instruments; some respondents were not too willing to give some vital information during the interviews conducted and the failure of some respondents to return copies of the questionnaire.
1.9 Operationalisation of Research Variables
Operationalization of Research Variables is the conceptual relationship between the independent and dependent variables of any research study. The independent variable is that which can be manipulated by the researcher, while the dependent variable is that which can be manipulated by the independent variable. This research work is based, therefore, on two major constructs which are conflict management and academic staff productivity. That is:
y= f (x)
Where y= vector of the dependent variables
x= vector of the independent variable.
Hence, y= Academic Staff Productivity.
x= Conflict Management Strategy i.e. ASP=f (CMS)
This is represented as (x1 x2 x3 x4 x5)
Similarly, the dependent variable is disaggregated into two viz:
y1= Staff promotion
y2= Research and publication
- 10 Structure of the Work
The work is organized into five chapters. The first chapter which is the introduction, briefly discusses the background to the study, statement of the research problem, research questions, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation to the study, and structure of the work. Chapter two contains a comprehensive review of literature relating to the study in which the conceptual, theoretical, and empirical frameworks were reviewed. Chapter three focuses on the research methodology adopted in carrying out the research which include the research design, study population and sample, data collection and a detailed description of how the survey instrument was developed, tested and analysed. Chapter four presents the result of the data collection, analysis and discussion. Chapter five presents the summary of the findings, recommendations, contributions to knowledge as a result of the research and the conclusion.
1.10 Definition of Terms
The following terms were used in the study:
Academic Staff: Academic Staff are regarded as lecturers from graduate assistant cadre to professorial cadre within Nigerian universities (Okebukola, 2002).
Avoiding Conflict Management Style: Individuals that use an avoiding conflict management style generally have low regard for themselves and others. The avoiding conflict
management style is often seen by a party‘s retreat and evasion of resolving the conflict (Rahim, Antonioni and Psenicka, 2001).
Compromising Conflict Management Style: The compromising conflict management style utilise an intermediate concern for self and others, with both parties cooperating to reach an acceptable middle ground (Rahim, Buntzman and White, 1999).
Conflict: A felt struggle between two or more interdependent individuals over perceived incompatible differences in beliefs, values and goals, or over differences in desires for esteem, control and connectedness (Hocker and Wilmont, 2011).
Conflict Management: This involves designing effective macro-level strategies to minimize conflict dysfunctions and enhance constructive functions in order to enhance learning and effectiveness in an organisation and not reducing or terminating conflicts (Rahim, 2002).
Conflict Management Strategy/Style or Theory: Conflict management styles and conflict management theories are sometimes used interchangeably and they refer to the behavioural orientation of an individual in a conflict situation (Rahim, 2002).
Conflict Resolution: This implies a reduction, elimination or termination of conflict; it involves mediation, negotiation, bargaining and arbitration which fall into the conflict resolution category (Robbins, 1978).
Dominating Conflict Management Style: Individuals who use the dominating conflict management style will often have high regard for themselves and low regard for others, leading to a win-lose target. Often forceful behaviours are used to achieve the desired position (Rahim, Antonioni and Psenicka, 2001).
Integrating Conflict Management Style: The integrating style of conflict management is used by individuals with high regard for themselves and others. The goal is to work together for a possible win-win outcome in a problem solving manner (Rahim, 2001).
Management: The process of mobilizing the available scarce human and material resources in an organisation to realize stated goals and planned mission (Mukoro, 2013).
Obliging Conflict Management Style: The obliging conflict management style is utilized by an individual with low concern for himself/herself combined with high concern for others. The individual will often take a lose-win approach and forfeit his/her own needs for those of the other party involved (Rahim, 2001).
Staff Productivity: Staff Productivity is the measurement between the amount of time and effort staff spent working and the resultant output (Sheahan, 2011).
Trade Dispute: This is any dispute between employers and workers or between workers and workers or workers represented by unions and employers which is connected with employment or non-employment or conditions of work of any person or in a place of work (Section 51 of the Trade Union Act).
Trade Union: This refers to any combination of workers or employers, whether temporary or permanent, the purpose of which is to regulate the terms and conditions of employment of workers, whether the combination in question would or would not, apart from this Act, be a lawful combination by reason of any of its purposes being in restraint of trade, and whether its purpose does or does not include provision of benefits for its members (Section 1 (1) of the Trade Union Act).