Conflicts in the workplace and personal relationships are inevitable. Whether the conflict involves a personal relationship with a neighbor that plays loud music or a problem between departments in the workplace, disputes arise and often require management to be successfully resolved. This paper will identify conflict management approaches used in my organization. In addition, it will compare the approach used in my workplace with my personal conflict management style. This discussion will demonstrate that my approach to conflict management is primarily based on maintaining happiness, while my workplace approaches conflict management from a business and productivity perspective. Both personal and organizational approaches have the ultimate goal of survival, in cases where extreme conflict management is required.
There are many approaches to conflict management in the workplace, including an open door policy, peer review, ombudsman, union-management model, employer-run dispute resolution procedures, mediation, and fact-finding. In my organization, a combination of tools is sometimes employed to manage informal conflicts, including an open door policy, fact-finding, and punitive measures. For example, supervisors are available to hear the complaints and recommendations of employees, but this is discouraged and viewed as unsatisfactory workplace behavior, by many supervisors.
Empowering the workforce can help minimize conflict as it makes people part of the solution when problems arise. As people become empowered, they begin to develop “an ownership attitude” in which they see conflict resolution as directly affecting their own bottom lines (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 223). Like teamwork, the process of empowerment closely ties to communication. As a result, companies that “share the secrets . . . what is really happening” take a critical step toward empowering people (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson 223).
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Casey and Casey suggest self-esteem training to aid in the process of conflict management. They also suggest the use of drama and role-play to engage learners in clarifying the issues. This helps in constructing solutions to conflict situations (Brown 1). Audience participation in conflict resolution is also used. “Other techniques include using posters to promote conflict resolution, detailing ways to handle anger, engaging in active listening, and practicing “win-win” strategies.”
A diverse workforce, characterized by organizational drivers of change, is drawing attention to interpersonal conflicts among workers. Teams do not always work effectively, and change may not accomplish everything intended. “According to a recent Accountemps survey, executives spend more than nine weeks each year resolving personality clashes between employees.”(Brown 1). Such clashes undermine morale. Competition and complex communication barriers create conditions that generate the need for new training and employee development. “Conflict management is the ability to manage every-day situations that involve personal interactions involving difference of opinion. It differs from conflict resolution, where successful resolution means that the issue is totally resolved and finished.” (Brown 1).
Aside from methods of arbitration or involvement of costly legal action, conflict mediation moves toward worker empowerment. This involves using the services of a mediator, such as, a human resource professional. Training for all employees that includes conflict resolution is available and popular today.
An organization's internal environment is comprised of its systems and its people. The structure of the organization's activities, interactions, and sentiments are always subject to what constitutes a change. In this regard, change is either an act or a process. Any change in activities, interactions, or sentiments will produce some change in the other two as well (Westbrook Stevens 3). There can be changes to an organization's external environment, which do not necessarily relate to a change of staff, management, or procedures. International and domestic events can produce cause and effect relationships to the drivers of change. Likewise, so can government restrictions and regulations. There are always driving and restraining forces in an evolving organization that relate to possibilities of change. These forces can clash and cause conflict.
Researchers have begun to study the correlation between conflicts in the workplace and employee well being. Some companies are looking to develop Stress Risk Assessments and Workplace Health Programs for their employees. The article, “Association of Chronic Work Stress, and Psychiatric Disorders,” published by a group of British doctors, explains the evaluation process. The first step in each of the programs is to administer a short questionnaire to employees. The questionnaire allows the management of the organization to learn more about their specific stress factors. After the completion of the questionnaires, researchers are able to analyze the data. This information allows them to identify individuals with high potential for stress related problems within their organization. Such questionnaires should include a process to measure employee perceptions of jobs, organizational commitment, and overall health. Once the data is collected, researchers can identify ways to improve stressful situations within the workplace. These methods have allowed some organizations to develop initiatives to address sources and symptoms of job stress (1).
Managers who respect their employees are more likely to gain the respect of their employees. Likewise, companies that claim respect as a corporate value will reinforce it through corporate practices. Anna Maravelas illustrates the critical role of respect in conflict resolution in the following scenario. Hours of constant dissension had left executives exhausted and disconnected (203). Then a mediator stepped in and asked them to share things they respected about one another. As they did so, positive energy replaced negativity, building a platform of conflict resolution that transcended “pettiness and irritability” (204-205).
It is important to manage conflict, especially in the workplace. Doctor Tony Fiore, a certified anger management trainer and licensed psychologist, said, “The effects of conflict in the workplace are widespread and costly. Its prevalence, as indicated in three serious studies, shows that 24-60% of management time and energy is spent dealing with anger. This leads to decreased productivity, increased stress among employees, hampered performance, high turnover rate, absenteeism at its worst, violence, and death” (Fiore).