Universiteter i forandring – konflikt, ledelse og mægling

af Kjeld Lanng

The dissertation investigates conflict features in organizations focusing on Danish universities. The universities have gone through considerable changes in recent years due to new legislation including financial and managerial reforms. Rapid social and organizational change increase the potential for conflict and effective conflict resolution is considered essential to fulfil the aims and objectives associated with ideas about future universities.

The four theoretical focus points are a) the conflict patterns in modern organizations on interorganizational, intraorganizational, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels, b) the shift from predominantly “cold” structural conflicts to “warm” interpersonal disputes in modern working life especially in the Nordic countries, c) the challenges from a still more competitive culture creates pressure on traditional cooperative values and d) the complex pressure mechanisms on public managers, e.g. at universities, and the strategies for handling these through different modes of leadership.

The dissertation draws on discussions and insights from theories and recommendations within the scientific field of research management and university leadership. It points out, that the main challenges seem to be connected to the fact that university cultures are very competitive and that personal and professional recognition is a crucial value together with an individualistic and contending conflict style.

The working culture emphasise freedom, competition and flexibility though this might be under pressure due to the introduction of New Public Management strategies. Furthermore a reflected balance between divergence and convergence seem to be an important research management responsibility.

The identification of conflict dynamics in university cultures follow the key learning points from the Master in Mediation and Conflict Resolution Programme stressing mechanisms which are shown in e.g. the model “The Conflict Escalator”. Statements from experienced university leaders indicate that university cultures might be especially vulnerable due to the cultural features of this type of organization. It is suggested that an element in future HR-thinking should be the facilitation of a development from a predominantly Tacit Compromising preserving culture to a professionally Problem Solving value creating culture.

Indications from a number of interviews show on the one hand high interest in mediation and on the other hand a lack of professional knowledge in the field among university leaders including HR-professionals. It is suggested that mediation and other methods within the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution is a promising way to go when further development of management strategies at modern universities are to be considered.