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Dealing with conflicts in the workplace is a skill that requires a higher understanding of the relevant factors. It is important to understand that most conflicts are only a result of different factions trying to do their jobs in the best possible manner (Fisher, 2016). Consequently, conflict management is an all-involving process as indicated by the example below. In this scenario, the overall manager of Bass Marketers has to deal with a conflict involving two factions within the same marketing team. Last month, Bass acquired its biggest marketing contract as of yet. The company’s management decided to merge two of its most prolific teams to collaborate on this mega project.
Mark, a long-serving employee in the company, leads one of these factions while Ann, who is arguably the hardest-working employee in the company, leads the other group. Joining the two teams was meant to give the new client the best value for his money. However, just two weeks after these two teams started working together, conflict emerged. On one hand, Mark believes the project’s high budget and the expected results can only be achieved through a TV campaign. On the other hand, Ann believes internet advertising is a natural option for this project. The two factions have five team members each, and they are all loyal to the resolutions of their respective leaders. The manager has decided to start the conflict resolution process by writing a letter to each of these teams. Eventually, the manager will also bring the two groups together through a series of five important questions.
Letter to Mark’s Group
From: Overall Personnel Manager
Re: Ongoing Marketing Team Disagreement/Standoff
CC: Mark’s group (commonly known as 9th Floor Group)
This letter is concerned with the current stalemate in regards to the Mini Cola marketing campaign.
It is my understanding that the recent merger between two of the company’s best teams is not working out. The information I have as of now is that both your team and that of Miss Ann have reached an impasse. Consequently, no tangible progress has been made regarding the Mini Cola project in the course of the last ten days. The report that I have indicates that the main issue in regards to this standoff is that your team wants the project to progress as a TV campaign, while your colleagues are adamant that it is better to use the internet as the main tool of advertising. One of the main sources who are privy to this conflict revealed that Ann feels that you have assumed seniority over the project and this is why you have failed to entertain any of her ideas. Up to this point, none of you has tried to reach out to the other’s group to move forward, hence my involvement in this issue.
As the overall Personnel Manager at Bass Marketers, I am sure you understand my involvement in this issue. My main concern is that this conflict can end up jeopardizing the biggest marketing campaign that our company has ever received. One of the conditions for this contract was that the company was going to dedicate some of its best employees to the project. Consequently, it is in the best interest of both the company and our client that you continue working together. I cannot help but think that this problem is a result of a form of ‘sibling rivalry’ between you and Ann. Merging your team with that of Ann is a strategic decision that requires your support and it cannot be undermined by clashing personalities and ideologies.
As the person in charge of the workers, I am aware of the strains of joining two unfamiliar teams together. I urge you to do a cost/benefit analysis of the situation, whereby you prioritize the importance of the Mini Cola project’s success. You should be aware that the success of this project is vital to the future of our company. My intention regarding this conflict is to bring both teams together in a roundtable meeting where all members of the Cola project iron out all their differences. In the meanwhile, I hope you will start thinking about the contents of this letter and the possible solutions to this conflict.
I send my sincere regards to you in your efforts and contributions towards resolving this conflict. I look forward to a fruitful meeting with the entire team.
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Letter to Ann’s Team
From: Overall Personnel Manager
Re: Ongoing Marketing Team Disagreement/Standoff
CC: Ann’s group (commonly known as 7th Floor Group)
I have recently been made aware of the current standoff between your team and that of Mark in the course of the Mini Cola project. The information reaching my office is that you have failed to agree on the best course of action regarding the project. On one hand, you feel that internet marketing is perfectly suited for a project of this nature. I am also privy to the fact that Mark is adamant that a TV campaign is likely to produce the best results in this case. The success of this project is solely dependent on the ability of both the 7th and 9th Floor teams to work together. The most important goal for the personnel department at the moment is to find a common ground.
If the client becomes aware of the current standoff, he is likely to lose confidence in our company’s ability to deliver the expected results. I would like to point out that, matters of seniority or otherwise are not expected to be manifested in this project. Consequently, both groups need to cooperate with only one goal in mind. The input of your team is greatly valued because it is currently the most progressive units in the company. On the other hand, Mark’s team was drafted into this project because he has the most experience in this company. Therefore, the resolution should be about combining strengths.
I am aware that there has been some competition between these two teams in the past. However, this standoff requires eliminating any forms of competition and control between the two groups. As of now, I intend to bring both of your teams to a common ground. This can only be possible if both teams are willing to evaluate their stands to ensure all stakeholders walk away as winners.
I send my sincere regards to you in your efforts and contributions towards resolving this conflict, whereas I also look forward to a fruitful meeting with the entire team.
Questions in Regards to Conflict Resolution
Which assumptions and beliefs are fuelling this conflict?
Most conflicts are fuelled by external factors, which are often based on individual/group beliefs and assumptions. In this case, the underlying conflict has been associated with Mark’s position as a long-serving star employee of Bass Marketers. On the other hand, Ann and members of her team believe that their contributions to the company have earned them enough credibility. It will be important for both teams to express their beliefs and assumptions openly (Njoku, 2017). Consequently, both sides of this conflict can examine the validity of these beliefs. For example, both Mark and Ann likely acknowledge the importance of each other’s contributions but this fact continues to be undermined by beliefs and assumptions.
What does each group believe?
The most glaring differences in regards to what each group believes have to do with the decision to favor either TV or internet advertising. Therefore, the key to resolving this conflict lies in understanding what each group believes. On the other hand, these beliefs are the main impediment to progress if their holders are not willing to examine them. For example, Mark believes TV advertising will work because it has always worked for him. On the other hand, Ann believes the internet is the current trend while TV is a past convenience.
What does each group value?
Each of these two groups values several factors and they are all important when it comes to understanding the current standoff. None of the groups would be willing to fight for a position if it does not compromise each of the values (Wallensteen, 2015). It is also vital for the manager to find the common values between the two groups and focus on them. For example, these are high performing teams and it is likely that they both value performance and results. Therefore, the conflict resolution process can rely on this factor to bring the two groups together.
What information are both groups using as a basis for these beliefs?
These two groups have not worked together in the past. Consequently, the information that each of these groups is using as the basis for its beliefs is most likely erroneous. The manager needs to trace the information that both of these groups are relying on to form their beliefs. For example, the conflict reveals that each of the group leaders thinks he/she is better than the other is. This belief can only make sense to the conflict resolution process if it became clear what information is used to form this belief. The credibility of such information should also be clear to all team members. This will eliminate the probability of either of the teams basing its beliefs on unsubstantiated information.
What is each group’s method/process of decision-making?
Previously, the two groups existed autonomously and their processes of decision-making are expected to be different. For example, one of the groups is likely democratic whereas the other one is autocratic. Therefore, it would be difficult for both groups to make any progress if their decision-making methods do not match (Moore, 2014). It is the manager’s priority to make sure that both groups agree on a decision-making process before moving forward. Essentially, no major decision can be made during this process if the decision-making process is not agreed upon in advance.
Fisher, R. J. (2016). A North American pioneer in interactive conflict resolution. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing
Moore, C. W. (2014). The mediation process: Practical strategies for resolving conflict. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Njoku, I. A. (2017). The role of communication in conflict resolution. International Journal of Communication, 5(1), 6-11.
Wallensteen, P. (2015). Understanding conflict resolution. New York, NY: Sage.