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Managing Workplace Conflict 4

MGMT803 Organizational Behavior and Management Short Report Format

Report Title: Managing Workplace Conflict

  1. Introduction

Conflicts are a common happening in society. They may emerge between individuals, companies or within individual firms, threatening the unity of purpose for those working on a common goal. Stakeholders are often prompted to seek viable solutions for conflicts, one of them being teambuilding. Teamwork is important for organizations seeking to foster a common course that allows for open discussions among stakeholders, captures diverse perspectives, and integrates them into the establishment. Teamwork helps to build mutual coexistence. This paper presents a report on conflicts at the workplace and how to manage such conflicts.

  1. Overview

2.1 Constructive conflict management

According to Tjosvold, Wong and Feng (2014), conflicts are inevitable in most organizations. When they happen, they may either have a constructive or destructive effect on the organization. They may also occur in varying forms and circumstances (Tjosvold, Wong and Feng 2014). These dynamisms prompted the development of theoretical frameworks for resolving conflicts such as the integrative negotiation theory. One observation made by Tjosvold, Wong, and Feng (2014) is that most established theoretical approaches for conflict resolution often overshadow actual empirical findings in case studies involving conflict resolution. This makes it difficult to harmonize the theoretical knowledge and practical aspects of conflict resolution. In view of this reality, Tjosvold, Wong and Feng (2014) propose some framework that can be followed to build a reliable conflict resolution model in organizations.

According to Tjosvold, Wong and Feng (2014), there is some conformity between contributors of constructive conflict. They argue that the model of negotiation pursued by an organization would determine the success levels of resolving constructive conflict. Tjosvold, Wong and Feng (2014) suggest that approaching conflicts with open-mindedness is the ideal option in pursuing conflict resolution. They indicate the need for parties involved in a conflict to be precise when pushing for their conflicting ideas and to consider the ideas and arguments of other parties in the conflict. Tjosvold, Wong and Feng (2014) present a research on workplace conflict and the findings indicate that skills and relationships are important in helping the employer and his/her employees to resolve sophisticated workplace conflicts in a constructive approach. For instance, the findings of the study indicate that training studies are viable tools that can be used to demonstrate how the model supported by the concept of mutual benefit can be applied in varied challenging conflict settings. According to Tjosvold, Wong and Feng (2014), managers should employ alternative ways of dealing with conflicts, each time considering the best approach for their particular situation.

Volkema and Fleck (2012) present the role of cultural effects and personality in determining an individual’s inclination to initiate discussion aimed at managing conflict. Volkema and Fleck (2012) conducted a survey study on the effect of assertiveness in determining one’s inclination to initiate discussion. Regression analysis was used to relate assertiveness and inclination to initiate conflict-resolving discussion in two different countries (USA and Brazil). The study aimed to determine the perceived aptness of the process of initiating a conflict resolution discussion, by measuring people’s personalities in the two countries through values such as risk propensity, locus of control, self-efficacy and Machiavellianism (Volkema and Fleck 2012). The findings of the study indicated that the three personalities (self-efficacy, risk propensity and Machiavellism) were most correlated with initiation assertiveness (Volkema and Fleck 2012). Additionally, the findings also indicated that there was some significant interaction effect that involved risk propensity and culture in both countries. Volkema and Fleck (2012) present the influence of culture and personality in the negotiation process, and how they can affect the ability of different individuals to initiate discussion aimed at conflict resolution.

2.2 Neutrality and impartiality in workplace conflict resolution

The type of conflicts at the workplace may range from formal to informal grievances. For instance, minor personality clashes may be considered as informal, while issues surrounding employee tribunal claims are formal conflicts. Managing conflict requires development of some consultative strategy that defines prevention of conflict by following of sound procedures, conflict circumstances that require outside help, and those that require intervention by a higher authority (Gramberg and Teicher 2006, p.199). The first step to do this is to pursue the matter informally by communicating with the parties in conflict at the workplace. This might go a step further to include informal investigation of the matter of conflict at the workplace. When conducting such an informal investigation, the arbiter should be clear on his role and intent in doing the investigation. Suppose an employee reports the matter of conflict to a manager, then it becomes formal. The manager would set out to use established internal procedures to handle the grievances (Gramberg and Teicher 2006, p.203).

Some strategies for preventing conflict include acquiring listening skills to improve interaction with employees, building teams, accepting different perspectives to issues of concern, respecting diversity and leading by example. All these can be achieved through some training on conflict management. It is important to get the perceptions that the conflicting parties have of each other so as to achieve meaningful mediation.

Interpersonal processes such as team development and problem solving pursued in the early negotiation stages are very significant in determining the subsequent steps in conflict resolution. They also greatly influence the final outcome. All key players right from the initiation of negotiations have a role to play to ensure successful conflict resolution in the end (Gramberg and Teicher 2006, p.207). It is important to comprehend the factors that tend to influence the process of initiating conflict-resolving discussion in order to improve the satisfaction levels of all involved parties. Conflicts would often emerge in organisations, making it important to adopt a constructive approach in resolving them. One best practice is to embrace teamwork as a basis for promoting acceptance and inclusion of diverse perspectives within an organization. This helps to build constructive mutual coexistence.

2.3 Workplace Conflict resolution approaches.

When an employment dispute gets formal, the first best option to resolve the conflict is to pursue conciliation. This is a dispute resolution process involving an impartial person helping conflicting parties to resolve their differences against the backdrop of a potential claim to labor tribunals. Such a process should be pursued independently, voluntarily, confidentially, and impartially (Bingham 2004, p.151).

Another option is to seek mediation. This happens where there is no potential of making a possible claim to labor tribunal. A mediator helps the conflicting parties to reach a solution acceptable by everyone without determining the final outcomes. The disputing parties may have to meet the mediator differently through workshops (Bingham 2004, p.156). These would help them to independently determine the common and conflicting concerns between the disputing parties. Mediators must strive to be seen as independent and impartial, with an attitude to protect ongoing relationships (Bingham 2004, p.162). They must create new ideas of resolving the conflict out, if their long-term experience in handling mediation cases. Mediation is not about one defending the legal rights of any of the conflicting parties. Neither is it about counseling any of the parties involved in a dispute (Bingham 2004, p.159). It is more about building a solution for a positive future for the conflicting parties without necessarily dwelling much on the history of the conflicting parties or the history of the dispute itself. A third option is arbitration. Both parties in a conflict may agree on one independent person who would examine the perspective of each of them and offer some decision that would be binding to both parties.

2.4 Summary of key points from literature

Problem-solving cycles are important practical tools for resolving conflicts within working groups. They use models that define successive steps to be followed, starting from the identification of the problem, fact-finding, problem analysis, proposals for solutions, action plan, and final conflict resolution. Other conflicts may not easily be addressed through simple consultation at the workplace. One would need to pursue dispute resolution procedures presented as written agreements deposited with established trade unions. Such procedures should clearly define the scope and circumstances under which a third party should be involved.

After achieving successful conflict resolution at the workplace, it is important to prevent any future conflicts by learning from the causes and circumstances that caused the previous conflicts. This can be done by creating formal procedures and putting systems in place that would ensure safe working, fair remuneration, open communication channels, and proper planning. The other important step is to develop relationships with employees in an organization by encouraging initiative, developing their skills, valuing employees, treating them fairly, and balancing their personal needs with the organization’s business needs. Employees should not feel that the established organizational policies discriminate against them, or that certain job roles are designed to harass them. Instead, jobs should be designed with a view to develop individuals and allow them to take initiative. Flexible working patterns may also be adopted by an organization to attain a work-life balance for its employees and to make the business effective.

Decisions reached after arbitration and individual conciliation are legally binding and can be relied on in case the conflict escalates to court of law. It is also worth noting that individual conciliation and medication often end up in mutually agreed solutions.

Tjosvold, Wong and Feng (2014) broadly explore the dynamism that may surround the process of seeking constructive solutions to conflicts in organizations. The protagonist should be allowed to freely express their ideas, and also take time to listen and understand divergent opinions that bring the conflict. Such an approach would be helpful in promoting constructive conflict resolution. Getting the opposing views are important antecedents in building open-minded discussion.

  1. Practical implications for managers

To manage conflict well, a manager may start off well enough by striving to improve their ability to communicate with employees effectively. This can be achieved by pursuing timely, concise and relevant communication in the organization. Consultation with the employees is also important in ensuring that policies pursued by an organization are compliant with the law. A manager should also think of using dispute resolution procedures to deal with emerging conflict in an organization. There is also need to promote joint decision-making in cases where the decision has a direct implication on the performance of different divisions within an organization.

Another helpful step is to create representative structures within an organization. The representatives would be the vital sounding boards that connect a manager with the opinion held by his/her employees within an organization. They help in addressing issues of conflict such as redundancies and employee pay within an organization. Representative systems at the workplace include collective bargaining used for negotiating conditions and terms of employment, consultative committees and staff councils meant to address issues like staff training and staffing levels, and working groups for addressing absenteeism in the workplace and the merits of introducing new production technology.

  1. Reflection on learning about this topic from articles and lectures

This topic has enlightened me on better approaches of conflict management at the workplace. Working together ensures that trust is built between the management of an organization and the employee representatives. This adds value to the organization by reducing the potential of wanton conflicts and allowing the organization to respond to change in a positive manner.

  1. Conclusion

In conclusion, conflict is an inevitable aspect of the work environment. This means that management teams need to look at ways of dealing with it rather than avoiding it. Conflicts need to be managed properly, as poor handling may cause low morale, reduced business productivity, and operational ineffectiveness. However, if conflict is managed well through appropriate procedures and expertise, it may serve to improve employee relations, resolve challenges at the workplace, and create opportunity for innovation. The most common underlying aspect to attain successful conflict resolution is to undertake formal training on how to handle conflict situations. Countries like US and Brazil are known for heightened training on conflict management training, with accompanied positive outcomes from conflicts. Such training should be pursued alongside concurrent effort to understand employee personality and the use of psychometric instruments.


Afzalur Rahim, M., 2002. Toward a theory of managing organizational conflict. International journal of conflict management13(3), pp.206-235.

Bingham, L.B., 2004. Employment dispute resolution: The case for mediation. Conflict Resolution Quarterly22(1‐2), pp.145-174.

Gramberg, B. and Teicher, J., 2006. Managing neutrality and impartiality in workplace conflict resolution: The dilemma of the HR manager. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources44(2), pp.197-210.

Tjosvold, D., Wong, A.S. and Feng Chen, N.Y., 2014. Constructively managing conflicts in organizations. Annu. Rev. Organ. Psychol. Organ. Behav.1(1), pp.545-568.

Volkema, R.J. and Fleck, D., 2012. Understanding propensity to initiate negotiations: An examination of the effects of culture and personality.International Journal of Conflict Management23(3), pp.266-289.