Conflict refers to a collision, disagreement, variance in opinion, ideology or interests. These situations are common in places where people from different and diverse cultural backgrounds meet and interact in a team setting like places of work, worship or school. Conflicts can be both destructive and constructive, however, most conflicts are destructive if not successfully addressed (Goldfien, & Robbennolt, 2011).
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The extent to which a conflict affects a team depends on the time taken to identify the matter in contention and finding an appropriate solution (Baack, 2009). Thus, conflict resolution is a key component to ensure that the working environment is conducive for optimum output. A typical example of a conflict that occurred at my workplace is highlighted below.
Mrs. Right is employed as a marketing manager at Wilkins Pharmaceuticals Products. She is in charge of creating product awareness and market penetration and also advises the production and sales managers on the current market trends.
She is directly answerable to Mr. Brook, who is the company’s chief executive officer and also supervises all the other managers. Mrs. Right always works hard handling her duties and in the past years she has helped the company realize a rapid increment in its market share due to the ever increasing sales returns and turnover.
Despite her hard work and dedication to serve the company, Mrs. Right has never received any form of appraisal. This is contrary to other managers who reap heavy bonuses and packages whenever a slight improvement is noted in their work output. One of the reasons for this is setting very high targets for the marketing department by Mr. Brook, which are realistically hard to achieve despite the notable improvements and increase in sales.
Mrs. Right is humble and soft spoken, hence, she has never complained about this. In additiona, she is often sent on official trips, even on matters outside her field of expertise and sometimes against her will. Recently she was so upset when Mr. Brook blamed her for a one percent drop in the overall sales, and unable to contain herself, she broke out and angrily confronted Mr. Brook in front of all the other managers and support staff. More so, she loudly complained of being overworked and not appreciated.
There are three sources of conflict in the above scenario. The first source is poor leadership skills, since Mr. Brook intentionally sets very high non attainable goals for the marketing department. Thus, given that each department needs to meet its targets in order to be appraised, the marketing department manager feels bullied and mistreated. Mrs. Right feels Mr. Brook is stumping his authority by forcing her to attend to duties outside her area of expertise and against her will. This gave rise to an interpersonal conflict.
Personality mismatch is the second source of conflict between Mrs. Right and Mr. Brook, who expects her to react to various circumstances, but she does not since her calm and humble character ensures she is always collected.
She hardly speaks on the mistreatments thus making it hard to understand her feelings towards any of the issues. The manager capitalizes on her silence and mistakes it for contentment, since it is always assumed that an individual who does not complain is certainly contended, and this leads to an interpersonal conflict.
The final source of conflict is discrimination in the performance review process. The targets for the marketing department may be unrealistic, but Mr. Brook ought to appreciate even the slightest improvement.
Thus, by leaving out the department when giving performance appraisal packages, the whole department feels discriminated by the management, and since Mrs. Right is in charge of the department, she feels the most discriminated as if she is leading a team that is not producing results. Some of the staff working under Mrs. Right joined her in rebuking Mr. Brook for lack of positive performance review. This creates an individual versus group conflict (Sternberg, & Dobson, 2009).
Several strategies were employed to solve this conflict that was threatening to disrupt operations at the Wilkins Pharmaceuticals Company. Mr. Brook called a meeting for all departmental heads and not as a disciplinary session to discuss Mrs. Right, but as a consultative meeting where the managers had a chance to discuss various shortcomings in their departments.
They discussed issues on the overall responsibilities and individual tasks assigned to each manager. Mr. Brook was then able to redraw and implement a company work plan to ensure equal responsibilities among departments, thus creating a reviewed work plan for the company.
Mr. Brook has always managed the company through phone calls and memoranda. He rarely interacts with the workers to understand their personalities and to this effect a team building and bonding retreat was arranged for the management staff. Thus, nowadays Mr. Brook is seen walking around and occasionally engaging both the managers and subordinate staff in casual talks and chats; Mrs. Right included. This has helped to create a rapport between different levels of staff hence reduced cases of personality mismatch.
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The last approach was a review of the company’s performance review system. Mr. Brook accepted liability and regretted the harsh decision to have continuously excluded the marketing team from performance appraisal packages. Unlike the earlier scheme, where appraisal was done after achieving certain set targets, the new rewards and performance scheme allowed appraisal for improvements noted as well as for meeting set targets.
Efforts to solve this conflict can easily lead to other conflicts such as an employee versus management conflict. This will be in regard to performance review since a scenario where workers in each department will be pushing their management to confront the chief executive officer and present their views and plight without understanding that the marketing department only got Mr. Brook’s attention to its plight after a confrontation that was unplanned.
Another possible conflict would be a scenario involving Mrs. Right being discriminated by other staff. Mr. Brook convened several meetings and implemented a number of changes after the exchange of words with Mrs. Right. Depending on the personal judgment of her actions some staff members may perceive her as being too temperamental hence avoid her, while others may consider her to be and ridicule her. The two cases above would definitely make her stay uncomfortable and subsequently impact her work output negatively.
Finally, the company could find itself in a financial conflict, since in an effort to implement an employee friendly performance review scheme, it might end up spending more than what it had initially projected in the budget (Van de Vliert, & Euwema, 2010).
Initially, the company anticipated to only offer appraisal packages to the marketing staff once the department met its targets. However, the company has to include them in the new scheme in order to solve an earlier conflict. This will easily develop into a financial conflict since the company must meet its obligations once agreed with the staff.
Baack, D. (2009). Organizational Behaviour. New York, NY: Dame Publishing.
Goldfien, H., & Robbennolt, J. (2011). An empirical assessment of conflict strategies and attitudes toward mediation styles. Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 22(1), 277-320.
Sternberg, R., & Dobson, D. (2009). Resolving interpersonal conflicts: An analysis of stylistic consistency. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 794-812.
Van de Vliert, E., & Euwema, M. (2010). Agreeableness and activeness as components of conflict behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66 (1), 674–687.