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Social, Economic and Legal Factors Contributing to the Rise of Workplace Conflict Management Systems

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The last three decades have witnessed the burgeoning utilization of conflict management systems in the workplace. This paper will address the principal factors which have contributed to this relatively new phenomenon and analyze their current status in American business. Along with this perspective, this article will outline some of micro-organizational considerations at play when corporations consider whether and how to utilize these systems, and provide a framework for design and implementation.


In the recent book, Updating America's Social Contract: Economic Growth and Opportunity in the New Century, the term "social contract" is defined as "the explicit and implicit agreements among members of a political community that define the rights and responsibilities of people vis-a'-vis their government". (Penner, Sawhill, & Taylor, 2000). In the workplace, various social, economic, and legal developments have given rise to a new social.

Traditional social contract theory in the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth century was characterized by industrialization, scientific management, standardization of employment practices, and hierarchical and authoritarian management. Conflict was considered dysfunctional and dissent in the workplace was not tolerated. The New Deal era modified traditional social contract theory through legislation which encouraged the rise of unionism and provided employees with rights and privileges they had not previously enjoyed. For those employees who chose to unionize, collective bargaining, mediation, and arbitration characterized the resolution of workplace disputes. However, it did not substantially alter management's ultimate authority. (Lipsky, Seeber, & Fincher, 2003).

The emerging social contract in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first century can be characterized as the result of various legal and economic developments. Initially, the 1960's signified a growth in individual rights with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Additionally, President Kennedy issued an executive order mandating collective bargaining for federal employees. However, the true transformation in the social contract began to arise in the 1980's with various economic changes. At that time, based on exponential advances in technology, the American economy began to shift from an industrial-based economy to a technology or information-based economy. Additionally, at the same time, the United States was faced with global competition in both its industrial and technological



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