Conflict Resolution In The Workplace

2562 WORDS

Conflict Resolution In The Workplace
Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Conflict Defined

Look up the word conflict in the dictionary and you will see several negative responses.  Descriptions such as: to come into collision or disagreement; be at variance or in opposition; clash; to contend; do battle; controversy; quarrel; antagonism or opposition between interests or principles Random House (1975).  With the negative reputation associated with this word, no wonder people tend to shy away when they start to enter into the area of conflict.  D. Jordan (1996) suggests that there are two types of conflict: good, which is defined as cognitive conflict (C-type conflict) and, detrimental, defined as affective conflict (A-type conflict).  The C-type conflict allows for creativity, to pull together a group of people with different opinions or ideas, to combine and brain storm all thoughts to develop the best solution for the problem.  The A-type conflict is the negative form when you have animosity, hostility, un-resolveable differences, and egos to deal with.  The list citing negative conflicts could go on forever.  We will be investigating these types of conflicts, what managers can do to recognize conflict early, and what strategies they can use to resolve conflicts once they have advanced.

Recognizing conflict in the business environment

Recognizing and understanding what causes conflict in the business environment during its early stages, is the key to fast resolution of the issue.  There are many warning signs.  Lundine (1996) highlights five early detection signs.

· Romantic relationships between employees, i.e., perceptions of favoritism and morale problems can occur among employees, and there is a built-in potential for discrimination or harassment charges.
· Inconsistent performance levels, i.e., fluctuation of monthly sales levels or decrease in pace/speed of work output.
· Excessive time spent on non-work related duties, i.e., personal phone calls or appointments, Internet surfing or excessive breaks.
· Pattern of unhealthy social activity, i.e., excessive drinking, and drug abuse.
· Changes in normative personality traits, i.e., a typically outgoing person withdraws from socialization.

Some causes of conflict

Warning signs are always valuable aids in recognizing when conflict may be just around the corner.  Conflict can manifest itself when you mix a group people with different personal beliefs such as religion and politics.  Question an individuals personal beliefs or disagree with how they base their lives, and you are now dealing with an emotional response.  This can cause a defense barrier, which can be difficult to break down.  Individual goals can be included with needs and wants as another cause of conflict.  The animosity generated, when an individuals goals, wants and needs are not met, can be devastating to a group.  Some other nesting grounds for conflict are misunderstandings and lack of communication.  Weeks (1992) states “Diversity is a healthy aspect of human society, diversity can open up possibilities, challenge us to consider alternatives, and keeps us from allowing ourselves to stagnate”.  “Within our diversity as humans there are differences in perceptions, needs, values, power, desires, goals, opinions and many other components of human interaction.  These differences often lead to conflict” (p.33).

The importance of conflict resolution

There are many benefits to implementing dispute resolution processes in your workplace:
· Reducing conflict increases productivity.
· You are less likely to have wrongful dismissal claims of human rights or other complaints.
· Any complaints you do receive, can be resolved quicker and more effectively.
· You’re conflict-related absenteeism rate decreases.
· You demonstrate commitment to your employees and foster their trust and loyalty.
· You hold your staff accountable for their actions.  Morrow Bernardi (1999)

The organization I work for at MCI, has a large number of system engineers who are IBEW union members.  My experience with the IBEW and management in our group has been a positive one to say the least.  If any conflicts arise, and they are not easily resolved between the manager and the union employee, the IBEW union representatives have always stepped in to handle the matters with speed and fairness.  An environment like this has promoted good morale and a good working relationship with mutual respect between the union employees and management.  I believe that this is the perfect example of good conflict resolution in the workplace.  (A.R.)

“Destructive conflict often manifests [itself] as personal, vindictive, and it can be source of immense pain.”  Sreenivas, I. (1997)

In my place of employment it has been my

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