Nature of the conflict
The triggering events in the conflict between Luther and Rihanna happened when Luther made a Chauvinist comment about Rihanna by saying that she ought to be in the kitchen cooking tea for men in the factory, as opposed to being a manager of a department. Though it was supposed to be out of Rihanna’s earshot, she was able to hear and hence the angry reaction by describing Luther as a sexist piglet. This scenario was a kind of declaration of war between the two people. The historic context of the conflict rests on the right to hold a certain position in the company as well as education.
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Luther feels that he is rightfully the manager because he has been at the company for a long time and that he deserves the position. Rihanna feels she is rightfully in the management position because of her performance and her educational background, which is superior to Luther’s testimonials. Luther feels that Rihanna should be subordinate to him because he is a senior employee in terms of work experience while Rihanna believes that she and Luther are on the same level. Thus, she is not submissive to him. Jun (2011) describes this type of conflict as a power conflict (p. 394). Other employees are more loyal to Luther, as opposed to Rihanna.
The parties have an assumption of the conflict going by their language. Luther sees Rihanna as a woman who should be in the kitchen rather than a colleague. Rihanna reacts by branding Luther as a sexist piglet for looking down at her for being a woman.
Each party is expressing the struggle by exercising its perceived authority at the workplace over the human resources available. Luther takes Rihanna’s people without consulting while Rihanna orders them back since she is their immediate boss unless Luther seeks her permission. The perceived incompatible goals are the perception by Luther that he does not need to consult Rihanna because she is junior to him and that Rihanna presses Luther to recognize that the two are the same level. The perceived scarce reward in this conflict is the recognition for delivery of the set goals on time.
Srirang (2010) states, “a selfish drive to achieve goals can lead to the development of conflict” (p. 74). The parties are interdependent in such a way that Luther produces widgets that Rihanna uses. Therefore, without her department, the widgets are useless. Rihanna needs widgets from Luther’s department because they are an important component of her finished product. Hence, without them, her products are incomplete.
Luther interferes with Rihanna’s staff members by allocating them duties without seeking Rihanna’s consent while Rihanna takes them back on the condition that Luther seeks her consent first, which indicates that she may not need them. They are cooperating in keeping the conflict in motion by coming up with moves to counter each other instead of reaching a consensus. The conflict has reached the destructive phase when each party’s action leads to the work of the other party to stop.
Styles of conflict
Luther uses the competing style of conflict whereby he puts his needs ahead of other parties’ needs (Muktar & Habib, 2010, p. 304). This style has no regard for future relationships. It is aggressive. On the other hand, Rihanna uses the stand-my-ground style in dealing with Luther by not conceding to Luther unless he does things her way. The individual style did not change because both parties were not ready to compromise as a way of accommodating the other party.
Each party perceived the other’s style as being aggressive and non-compromising and confrontational. When Luther describes Rihanna as just a woman, she hits back by calling him a piglet. She goes ahead to recall her staff people back to their workstations against Luther’s wishes. When they defy her, she goes ahead and fires them. In this case, the staff caught in the crossfire tends to suffer because of the conflict between their two superiors. The style of choices, in this case, can be described as complementary in that each party counters the move of the other party by using different acts that will still reinforce their moves.
The advantages of the style in the conflict are that each party makes a move that would see him or her gain ground in the conflict. When Luther takes Rihanna’s staff members, she recalls them immediately to which Luther incites them to stay put. Therefore, he gains ground in the conflict. To counter Luther for taking her staff officers without her consent, Rihanna recalls them. However, when they fail to go back to their stations under her, she fires them on the spot. The disadvantage of this style is that it is a ‘lose-lose’ situation for both because Luther will not be able to achieve the target goals and that Rihanna will be without some of her staff. The overall system has a confrontational style where each party wants to keep his or her ground.
The attitude of the two conflicting parties on power is different. Luther believes he has more authority than Rihanna because he is a senior member of staff in terms of experience. Hence, he can overrule her. On the other hand, Rihanna believes that she has the same powers as Luther and does not consider herself subordinate to Luther. The two warring parties do not talk about the power they have: they only act.
Luther sees Rihanna as being dependent on the widgets he produces as well as experience on the job while Rihanna feels that Luther is dependent on her staff for him to deliver the number of widgets required. In terms of power, the power in play here is the formal power where both parties use their legitimate authority bestowed on them by the positions they hold (Shetach, 2012, p. 27). The power currencies shown here are motivation to promote self-interest by Luther who feels threatened by Rihanna’s progress in addition to the need for self-preservation by Rihanna who feels her authority is being undermined.
The parties disagree on the balance of power between them by Luther feeling he is superior to the other under experience while the second party feels she is equal to the first party. Luther takes an aggressive stance in his choice of conflict by trying to bully Rihanna while Rihanna takes a defensive stand in trying to keep off Luther. Luther underestimates Rihanna’s ability to counter his transgressions.
Evidence of destructive power balancing occurs when Rihanna decides to fire employees who defy her orders under her supervision. An outside observer can see that Luther has transgressed Rihanna’s turf, which is wrong while Rihanna overreacts by firing the employees who defy her. None of them tries to bring peace. Some unused sources of power that have not been tapped are the power of the two to dialogue or take the matter to their superiors for further guidance and direction.
The parties frame their goals in an individualistic style. Though the work they are doing is part of the same process, they do it by looking at things from an individual’s achievement point. They work from a narrow view of the immediate process they have to accomplish, and not the whole process (Hunger & Louis, 1976, p.594). Each party feels that the perceptions of the other’s goals as being dissimilar because they are more concerned with their unit achievement rather than the whole group goal thus tending to want to keep available resources to themselves. Each party feels the other party’s goals are a threat to his or her goals.
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Luther feels Rihanna is a competitor to his growth while Rihanna feels Luther is an inhibitor to her goals of growth. When the conflict started, Luther had a purpose in undermining Rihanna. This goal has progressed from involving only two people to involving other workers too. The conflict has transformed into a group conflict. The prospective, trans-active, and retrospective goals of the parties are similar because both have been working hard to deliver in their departments. They are further going to work together to deliver the company’s targets.
Luther seems to have strategized on his acts against Rihanna because it has a premeditation touch in it while Rihanna seems to react spontaneously because she is not an aggressor but the victim. Victims of unexpected aggression tend to react because they had not expected it. Rihanna’s view is that Luther’s strategy is meant to undermine her. Therefore, both parties are using counteracting style as their tactic for the conflict by matching each other’s steps. The tactical options used by both parties in each case are competition whereby each party takes the conflict to the next level. The participants’ tactics are mutually influencing the other’s choices because they are acting as a catalyst for further reaction with each party trying to outdo the other. The strategies are therefore overlapping to drive the disagreement to the stage of growth.
The rule of repetitive action here is that the conflict is frequent from a specific party to the other. In this case, Luther repeatedly transgresses Rihanna on different issues thus making it a pattern. Quantitative tools can be used to give information on the element of the conflict by finding out the frequency of the main element that is a source of conflict.
Self-regulation in conflict
The parties have the option of resolving the conflict by either respecting the other and their positions. If Luther respects Rihanna’s position, there will be no conflict. If Rihanna concedes to be viewed as a junior to Luther, it will satisfy his ego. The philosophy of conflict characterizing in the system is the formal system design approach because the conflict is found around how the system has been designed, which is a bit vague in terms of scope of authority.
No technique for self-regulation has been used so far because the conflict is still escalating. Both parties are holding their high ground regardless of the management informing them of the new order that would require them to collaborate. The last incident is the highest point of escalation.
So far, no efforts have been put in place in an attempt to manage the conflict because it is still within the departmental stage. The conflict has not reached senior management. An attempted solution is absent. The only unconscious attempted move by the senior management that would make the two parties work together has escalated the problem because the two parties have not yet reached a point where they can see the need to work together in harmony. Third parties have been brought into play. As a result, they have escalated the whole problem thus changing it from a two-party to a three-party problem. The third-party in this case is Rihanna’s sacked subordinates who Luther had influenced to defy her.
This conflict can be described as a repetitive one without attempted solutions because Luther keeps on transgressing Rihanna and that it does not seem to stop. Attempted solutions that have not been tried include dialogue and compromise. By having a dialogue, parties in the conflict can come to an agreement that would stop the conflict (Cheng et al., 2007, p. 227). On the other hand, by having a compromise, the parties can reach a middle ground that would define how they engage with one another. The compromise would see them agree on what to do and what not to do.
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Hunger, J., & Louis, S. ( 1976). An Assessment of the Functionality of the Superodinate Goal in Reducing Conflict. Academy of Management Journal, 19(4), 591-605.
Jun, Y. (2011). An Empirical Examination of the Interactive Effects of Goal Orientation Participative Leadership and Task Conflict on Innovation in Small Business. Journal of Development Entrepreneurship, 16(3), 393-408.
Muktar, S., & Habib, M. (2010). Private Sector Managers Approach to Conflict Management. A Study Between Conflict Management Styles and Personality Type. Institute of Interdisciplinary Business Research, 2(1), 304-314.
Shetach, A. (2012). Conflict Leadership. The Journal for Quality & Participation, 35(2), 25-30.
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