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Conflict models or theoretical approaches Case Study

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Updated: Mar 29th, 2019

In every organisation, there must be conflict. Therefore, we must accept conflict as a part of an organisation. Aspects of conflict reflect such notions of antagonism and undesirability. However, we must acknowledge that not all conflicts are dysfunctional.

Depending on how an organisation manages its conflict, there are constructive aspects of conflict that can introduce new solution to a problem, define power relationships within groups, bring non-rational emotional dimensions into the open, and provide a room for the release of catharsis by identifying long-established conflict.

If an organisation engages in destructive conflict, then the results can lead to a loss of the main objectives in the pursuit of sub-group interests, induce people to be defensive, and may results into disintegration of the organisation (Thomson, 2002).

According to Condliffe, “conflict has three vital components, which include interests, emotions and values. Conflict processes go through stages of perception, realisation, avoidance, flashpoint, intervention, strategy and evaluation” (Condliffe, 2002). Conflict models serve people with simple ways of thinking what conflicts are and their root causes.

We must acknowledge the fact that conflict models cannot offer all the solutions to conflicts. Instead, they provide us with better ways of understanding conflicts. We shall use the Deutsch model in an attempt to understand the conflict among John (employee and a subordinate to Bob at the Bank), Bob (the Human Resource Manager), the female Student (a potential recruit), and Melanie Roberts, the Bank CEO.

Deutsch looks at conflict in terms of underlying overt or manifest features. This way of looking at conflict is open and express. Deutsch model represents safe expression of hidden aspects of conflicts. Manifest conflict may reveal some aspects of conflict in interactions such as a power struggle, gender issue, and authority, among others.

Therefore, Deutsch model is useful because it will help us think clearly about separating underlying issues and overt disputing behaviour in conflict assessment. In order to understand conflicts, we must distinguish between these two elements. Unless we address these two aspects of conflicts, outcomes will not offer the long-term solution.

Deutsch focuses on conflicting interests and incompatible behaviour as separate aspects of conflict. Interest motivates us. For instance, Bob, the Human Resource Manager gets motivation and desire of fulfilling is sexual desires by making proposition to a student. This is the reason he wanted the student to accompany him for late night drinks.

On the other hand, we also see incompatible behaviour. Incompatible behaviour reflects actions of one party in a conflict that intend to counter the other party. Deutsch looks at these two dimensions of conflict and develops four scenarios as follows.

Deutsch model has four positions of conflict that include incompatible behaviour (involve conflict and false conflict) and compatible behaviour (latent conflict and non-conflict). In a position of conflict, there are both incompatible behaviour and conflicting interests.

Conflict situation occurs in this case because there are both incompatible behaviour and conflicting interests. The situation has brought people who share common and incompatible interests, and compatible or incompatible behaviours.

It is likely that John, Bob, student and Melanie Roberts share these aspects. For instance, Bob has incompatible behaviour and conflict of interest with regard to the bank’s policy and John’s belief in ethics. Bob’s proposition to a student has created conflict that affects his job, his subordinates, the CEO and the bank.

Deutsch model will enable us understand various positions people take in a context of conflict. In order to understand the situation as narrated by John, we must find the underlying issues causing conflicting situation or origin of conflicts through its players and their roles. Conflict among these key players occurs has a result of personality and interactional processes.

At the same time, conflict among these individuals may also result from convergence of different aspects resulting into a complex situation. According to Tillett and French, “main sources of conflict may include abrasive personalities, lack of or poor interpersonal skills, irritation between people, difference in interactional styles, and inequality or inequity in relationships, belief and ideological differences” (Tillett and French, 2006).

Players in the conflict, their roles and perspectives on the conflict

Emotions have consumed John due to Bob’s action with the student. This has resulted in conflict between the two workmates. We must note that John is experiencing emotions that prevent him from discussing the issue with any person. This emotional approach to conflict resolution may prevent John from approaching this issue logically. Just like Bob, John also has interests in his work.

Same interests may not result into conflict. However, personal interests between John and Bob create tension between the two. Whereas Bob looks into self, John main concern is getting his boss’s objectives implemented.

Interactional styles of Bob and John differ. Professional interactional styles require that individuals conduct themselves professionally. John maintains a professional interaction with students. This helps him stay away from trouble. On the other hand, Bob has poor interactional style with people. He buys drinks and makes proposition to a potential recruit. This behaviour creates tension between John, student, and the CEO.

Beliefs and values differ from people to people. John believes in doing the work and implementing the company’s objectives. Likewise, John’s values and beliefs do not allow him to interact inappropriately with potential hires. Differences in beliefs and values between John and Bob create interpersonal conflict. John does not approve of Bob’s actions and behaviour with the female student.

Power makes Bob engages in coercive behaviour. Bob uses his power to keep a female student waiting till late. He also makes the student believe that she is a potential recruit in the scheduled interview. However, Bob, as the HR Manager abuses his powers and creates conflict among his colleagues, student, senior management, and the bank. We may also note poor interactional style in Bob. Ethically, Bob should not make a proposition to potential recruits (Rubin and Kim, 1997).

The female student creates a major conflict resulting into lawsuit. This is most likely to scandalous the bank and damage its reputation. Subsequently, the entire team under Bob is at risk of losing jobs, reassigned and reputational damages.

The major issue of gender inequality also comes into scrutiny. Bob is using his position to ask for sexual favours from potential female recruits. The female student has ideological differences with Bob. She refuses those advances in exchange for an interview position. This is the main source of conflict in this case.

Melanie Roberts must make a firm decision regarding Bob’s behaviour. As the CEO of the bank, she must lead and use her powers to take action against Bob and his team. Based on the recommendations, the ultimate decision lies with the CEO of the bank, Melanie Roberts (Miner, 2005).

Major issues in the conflict and any special issues

There are difference in values and beliefs in this case. Factors such as upbringing and experience shape people’s values and beliefs. These factors differ considerably among people. Managers have beliefs and values that are most vital to them. Beliefs and values have deep roots in people and are not easy to change.

In order to avoid conflict, we must recognise and respect such values. In this case, Bob, John and female student have different values and beliefs. Bob believes that he will use his power as the manager to make a proposition to female hires. On the other hand, John shows concern for such behaviour in his boss. He believed that Bob would do the right thing. The student influences the scenario and decides to sue Bob and his team. Differences in values and belief are the main source of conflict in this case.

There is also a difference in interests. This conflict results from a difference in personal interest. This is not even on competition of an economic nature i.e. it adds no value to the bank. The differences between Bob and John have effects that are perceptual, emotional, and behavioural. Bob creates a perception that exacerbates his personal interest in a potential female hire.

Thus, the emotional relations to the other team members suffer and create a negative relation. The subsequent behavioural outcome is not pleasing to all parties in conflict. The major parties in this conflict feel that they are going to lose. This is particularly so in the case of Bob’s team members, and the bank. It is only the female student who sees some advantage by complaining about Bob’s behaviour. Sexual, power relations and gender issues are at the centre of this case.

Most appropriate Strategies for effective management of the conflict

In conflict resolution, no single approach is effective. However, people who approach satiations of conflict with positive moods are likely to handle conflict in a better way. This is because individuals in conflict are optimistic and have hope for a better resolution of conflict.

These same individuals should be forgiving of others and should use creativity in seeking a solution. Positive approach to conflict resolution triggers accurate perception of arguments that both parties may present. This also reduces defensive barriers and parties are likely to listen attentively.

Collaborative approach is the best in resolving conflict of interpersonal relations. In fact, most managers use it as their default approach, unless there is another reason to adopt a different approach in resolving conflict. It is quite natural to think of collaborating with someone with a different point of view regarding a conflict.

Conversely, it is unlikely that individuals will use a collaborative approach when people are challenging their behaviour, complaining about their lack of sensitivity, or accusing them of using their position and powers to make a proposition. Most people will avoid, accommodate, or fight back in their attempts to resolve the conflict.

Collaborative approach is hard to implement, but it works in people-issue resolutions. Kipnis and Schmidt established that most managers preferred using a collaborative approach but would abandon it, and revert to directive approach when things were not going their way (Whetten and Kim, 2011).

When using a collaborative approach, managers must realise that resolving conflict using a collaborative approach is taxing and complicated process. However, we shall use collaborative strategy to resolve interpersonal conflict among the parties in this case.

Implementation of strategies

First, all parties must focus on what they share in common in fostering a climate of collaboration i.e. they must establish main goals. Focusing on shared goals improve relations among the parties in conflict, and sensitise the parties about the merits of resolving their differences in order to avoid jeopardizing their mutual goals. They must establish common goals to provide context for their discussions. This is particularly useful among Bob, John, the female student and Melanie Roberts (Moore, 1986).

Second, the parties must separate people from the problem. Once, the parties have established common interest among them, and the need to resolving conflict, it is useful to focus their attention on a real issue at hand. This is solving a problem. John should not use avoidance as an approach to solving relation problem between him and Bob.

Interpersonal conflicts are likely to result in mutual satisfaction if the parties remove people from their disagreement by suppressing their personal desires for revenge or one-upmanship. Parties must not look at each other as rival, but rather as the advocate of a point of view. John should focus on seeing unreasonable position rather than unreasonable person (Bush and Folger, 2005).

Third, the parties must focus on interests, and not positions. Positions create demands or assertions, whereas interests constitute the reasons behind the demands. It is easy to create agreement on interests because interests are broad and multifaceted. The parties must redefine and broaden the problem to make it tractable.

Therefore, varieties of issues must be examined to enable parties understand each other’s point of view and put their own forward. For instance, Melanie Roberts may ask the female student that, Help me understand why you advocate your position.

Fourth, the parties must create options for mutual gains. Parties must generate unusual and creative solutions to the conflict. All parties must focus on brainstorming alternatives and mutually agreeable solutions.

Consequently, interpersonal dynamics naturally shift from a competitive to a collaborative approach. Several options will create several chances of finding a common ground for all. For instance, the mediator may tell the parties that “we understand each other’s underlying concerns and objectives, let us now brainstorm ways of satisfying all our needs”.

Fifth, the parties must use objective criteria in evaluating alternatives. Even collaborative process has some elements of incompatible behaviour and interests. Therefore, the parties should use this opportunity to determine what is fair for them.

However, the parties must remain cautious on how they must judge fairness. For instance, the female student may shift her position from getting what she wants to making sense through fostering open, reasonable attitude. This approach encourages parties to drop their initial adamant positions. Parties must ask what is a fair way to evaluating the merits of the arguments.

Sixth, parties must define success in terms of real gains, and not imagine their losses. For instance, Bob may accept demotion instead of losing his job, and the rest of the team gets transfers to other areas. Bob’s first interpretation must focus on his gain rather than his loss. Satisfaction with an outcome varies depending on standards we set to judge them.

Mediators must recognise that a collaborative approach facilitates resolution by evaluating the value of proposed solutions against reasonable standards. Therefore, the parties’ perspective must reflect an outcome that constitutes a meaningful improvement over the current situations.

Reference List

Bush, A. B. and Folger, J. P., 2005. The Promise of Mediation: The Transformative Approach to Conflict. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Condliffe, P., 2002. Conflict management: a practical guide. Sydney: Nexis Butterworths.

Miner, J. B., 2005. Organizational behavior I: Essential theories of motivation and leadership. New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Moore, C., 1986. The mediation process: practical strategies for resolving conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rubin, Z. P. and Kim, S., 1997. Social conflict: escalation, stalemate and settlement. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thomson, R., 2002. Managing People. 3rd ed. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Tillett, G. and French, B., 2006. Resolving conflict: a practical approach. 3rd ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Whetten, D. A. and Kim, S. C., 2011. Developing management skills. 8th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

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