Conflicts and Resolutions Number Department Conflict refers to disputes/ disagreements/ squabbles/ disputes/ between two people or groups of persons. Resolution is the act of settling/ arriving at a solution during a conflict so that there is a restoration of order, tolerance and understanding. Conflicts are a ubiquitous phenomenon. They occur in our homes, in schools, in Church, at the workplace, and in the streets when we are walking. Conflicts, if left unresolved can have quite devastating effects more so in relationships. In the workplace, for example, conflicts can cause serious employee dissatisfaction and unrest which results in poor productivity (Doherty & Guyler, 2008, p.
24). Prompt and fair conflict resolution is important in the workplace since ignoring conflicts assuming that they will die down will only escalate into dire consequences. Conflicts left unresolved for ages cause time wastage in solving a much graver issue than when it had been tackled in the beginning as we will see in my example below. Workers also lose their productivity and time concerning themselves about the untenable job situation/ situation other than with the objectives of the organization.
In the same wavelength, absenteeism may become common place amongst employers who find the work environment intolerable. Such stressful environments can also cause health problems which lower worker productivity, wastes time and resources. In addition, unresolved conflicts can cause employees to withdraw emotionally and/ or become aggressive/ violent (Doherty & Guyler, 2008, p 78). Needless to say, the art of conflict resolution can be very important in an organizational set up (Lansford, 2008, p. 65). Good leaders need to understand the circumstances surrounding any given conflict, so that they are well guided in making fair and balanced decisions/ resolutions.
To effectively solve a conflict, a leader must understand the circumstances that created the conflict, how it escalated and evaluate whether the proposal or resolution is temporal or permanent. I had once witnessed a serious conflict of interest in an organization that I was working for at the time. In a conflict of interest, such as this, disagreements arise when the needs of one person (group) are overlooked and the other’s interests considered/ prioritized (Lansford, 2008, p. 89).
In this particular incident, the CSR (corporate social responsibility) department collided with the human resource (HR) department and other employees concerning the immediate interests of the company. The previous financial year had witnessed serious declines in profit levels and the departments were tasked with collaborating and coming up with a sound plan that would arrest this decline in the pending year. This was the latent stage of the conflict as the participants were not yet aware of the disagreements (Robbins & Coulter, 2005, p. 34). Each department then presented to the finance department their proposals so that the finance team would determine if manageable, pending final consent of the board before implementation.
The newly formed CSR department requested for funds to conduct their charity and philanthropy operations in the community, alongside other environmental conservation efforts. In addition, the CSR team proposed gradual replacement of current equipment that was emitting a ‘reduce-able’ level of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the environment. The department reckoned that such concern for the community would endear consumers to the brand of the company, fight off emerging competition, and so enhance profitability.
The HR department, on the other hand, proposed pay increases for the current employees to act as a strong motivator to improve productivity and sell the company image to their families, friends and the rest of the world, hence rake in more profits. After careful consideration, both the ideas were considered sound enough to actually turn the fortunes of the company around. However, only one could be implemented in the existing year, seeing as the company was in a bad place monetarily. The management, in the spirit of delegation, ordered that the choice be reached upon through fruitful deliberations between the two concerned departments and the finance office.
However, the talks were influenced by other employees who wanted the HR’s proposal to be adopted so that they could earn better salaries. The conflict thus ensued into the perceived stage with all the employees aware of the presence of a strategic stand off. The management at this juncture opted for continued mediation as a technique of conflict resolution in which the two sides would arrive at a solution on the lonesome. However, deliberations between the two teams failed to proceed as was expected with both sides assuming hard line stands, as emotion ran high throughout the entire workforce.
It was nearly political, as stress and anxiety crept in amidst all kinds of slanderous accusations, rumor mongering and name calling. The CSR department accused the HR team of dangling the pay-rise carrot to other emotional employees who turned against the CSR team and labeled them traitors. Some even promised not to participate in the planned CSR employee volunteerism should the CSR carry the day in stead of the welfare of the worker.
This was the third stage of the growing conflict, the felt stage (Myers, 2004, p. 51). In the fourth stage, the manifestation stage, where conflict becomes open and observable (Robbins & Coulter, 2005, p. 101), a group of disgruntled employees who felt that the CSR was winning the case, acted in rebellion and secretly vandalized vehicles belonging to key figures of the CSR department, alongside painting insulting graffiti on what remained of them. With the situation getting more menacing, the management decided to settle the matter once and for all through direct arbitrations.
A meeting was summoned in which all department leaders were to present the views of their members to the board of governors, chaired by the company chairman. Majority of the workers felt that the working conditions of the organization did not favor productivity. Moreover, the pay was insufficient and a rise would go a long way in ensuring the workers are well motivated. They maintained that it was not prudent to engage in philanthropy, as the CSR team was proposing, while the average worker languished in poor pay.
According to them, the ailment was internal and not external. The CSR team on the other hand presented credible reports and surveys collected from the general public which showed that the company was indeed suffering from a poor reputation from the fact that the local community saw it as an environmental threat producing a lot of harmful wastes. Unlike the HR, the CSR team argued that the problem was external and internal, and even observed that with increased profits from their ventures employees would definitely stand a good chance of getting pay increases without jeopardizing the position of the company financially. In the end, the overall management used coercive power and reward power to resolve the stand off.
Even though they felt that both the two arguments were sound and progressive, they rebuked the HR team for invoking the emotion of the average worker to get their goals, seeing as the workers had only just been awarded pay rise two years ago yet they had nothing to show for it.
In this light, the board decided that each employee would renew their contracts, as they were, or chose to down their tools. However, honest and diligent employees would always be considered for promotions, salary increments and bonuses. The CSR’s proposal was thus adopted, and the decision declared final. This was the aftermath, the fifth and final stage of the conflict where the conflict was resolved (Robbins & Coulter, 2005, p. 112). References Doherty, N., & Guyler, M., 2008, The essential guide to workplace mediation & conflict resolution rebuilding working relationships, London: Kogan Page; 24, 78. Lansford, T., 2008, Conflict resolution, Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 65, 89. Myers, D., 2004, Psychology (7th ed. ), New York: Worth; 51. Robbins, S., & Coulter, M., 2005, Management (8th ed. ), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall; 34, 101, 112.