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Content Guidelines for Conflict Management Essay :
Presentations and papers should be structured around and contain the following topics:
1. Outline of the Conflict: Identify the issue that began the conflict, the players and their
roles within the conflict, the severity of the conflict, and your personal role in the conflict
at the initial stage.
2. Identification of the Conflict: Identify the type of conflict (value, structural, data,
relationship, or interest) and support the identification with evidence from the conflict.
3. Initial Management of the Conflict: Discuss the initial steps used to manage the
conflict and the form of management taken (accommodation, avoidance, competition,
compromise, collaboration, or a combination of these).
4. Escalation: Identify why the initial method of conflict management failed and why the
conflict escalated. Be sure to examine closely the roles that emotion, intimacy, and
relationships played at this stage.
5. Outcomes: Assess the potential outcomes of the conflict after it escalated. Describe a
possible outcome for each of the three scenarios: win-win, win-lose, and lose-lose.
6. Mediation: Discuss the necessity of having a mediator, assess what kind of mediator
could have been used in this conflict, and describe the possible benefits and drawbacks
of mediation for this case.
7. Resolution: Describe how the conflict was resolved and whether the resolution was
effective. Map out the actual or potential results of the resolution on a timeline.
Conflict Management Project
Outline of the Conflict
I was once an intern in a large and well established publishing company. During my time at the company, one of my colleagues was a young lady named Jane (pseudonym). She was working as a copy editor for a journal that was one of the productions of the company. Within the editing team Jane was working with were other eight members, including me and James, who was a senior editor. One evening, the team organized a happy-hour after work. All the members went for this mini and causal get-together. Jane had been in the company for a month by that time. Everybody enjoyed themselves to the brim and as would be expected, people had taken alcohol in significant amounts. Time came when we were to leave for home from the bar. James offered to share a ride with Jane in the same cab. This was less surprising since James had been secretly interested in Jane since she joined the organization. The offer was accepted by Jane. I had a good working relationship with Jane. She thus confided in me the following day that James had made an aggressive sexual advance on her while inside the cab. She told me that she had yelled at James and firmly asked him to get out of the vehicle, a request James obeyed albeit unwillingly.
Jane suffered from some apprehension the day following the incident. How was she going to deal with James? Would her job be affected by the cab incident? Would James try to have her sacked, though he was never her supervisor? Immediately, James went to Jane’s office and tendered his profound apologies and denounced his regrettable behavior towards her the previous evening. Jane felt somewhat relieved and once again sought for my opinion on the same. I advised her that if indeed she felt relieved by the apology, she should let the matter rest. She thus decided she would not use any formal channels to address the matter further. Together with her, we reasoned that there was no need of dwelling on the incident now that James had apologized. After all, she was still new in the company and was still using her time to prove her editing competency and learn politics of the office. She was thus not just about to create negative attention to herself and potentially make her time in the company tough and rocky.
Identification of the Conflict
The conflict between Jane and James was a relationship conflict. Specifically, it was an interpersonal relationship conflict. As pointed out by Wesley (2015), the personalities of the people within an organization are significant in the causation and resolution of conflicts within organizations. When entering the workplace, people find it hard to set aside their negative personalities and personal prejudices that may hinder the way they relate to their coworkers, just like it had happened to James in the conflict under analysis herein. However, it would be important for one to recognize their personality and personal prejudices and address them before they plunge them into conflicts at the workplace (Wesley, 2015). It is evident that James had failed in doing this. He had let his personal desire for an intimate relationship with Jane take the better of him and drive him into sexually harassing the lady, who happened to be her junior at the workplace. It is clear that had James had his way so that his advances would have been accepted by Jane, they would have initiated office romance between themselves from that time henceforth. This would have definitely affected their performance in the office and the way they treated each other.
This conflict is a relationship conflict in two ways. One, James viewed Jane as somebody with who he should have had not just a working relationship but an intimate one too. As a matter of fact, to him, the latter should have taken precedence so as to fulfill his personal desire. Two, Jane knew that James was purely a workmate and that the relationship between them was entirely pegged on office work and team participation. This view of Jane’s had just been dealt a thorough blow by James’s behavior. She no longer was sure how to handle James because after the incidence, she would never have known whether or not James would change this attitude in his inner self. It is also noteworthy that Jane was keen on not letting the matter be in the eyes of the public because this would potentially ruin her working relationship with her other workmates. She now had to manage the already strained relationship between her and James while maintaining her cordial working relationship with the other members of her editing team. On the same note, James faced the herculean task of suppressing his desires for an intimate relationship with Jane and ensuring that the good working relationship between them continued.
Initial Management of the Conflict
The conflict was managed in an informal manner. James realized that he was on the wrong and that his actions did not ogre well for his working relationship with Jane. He thus went straight to Jane’s office and heartily apologized in the presence of only the two of them. Jane felt some relief with regard to the cab incident following the apology. Though she strongly thought about and considered not taking the matter further through formal organizational means, she was not sure about it. She thus sought the advice of a colleague (me) on the matter and whether her decision was the right one to take. Before offering his advice, this colleague of hers needed to ensure that she was indeed satisfied with James’s apology. He needed to confirm that she was indeed convinced that James was remorseful and regretted his behavior to an extent that he would not possibly repeat it on her again in the future. After Jane confirmed that she was satisfied, the colleague advised her that she had taken the right decision because by letting the matter rest at that level, she was avoiding it from blowing up in the entire organization. Since she was still only a month old in the organization, negative attention is the least thing Jane wanted for herself.
This initial management of the conflict had taken a combination of collaboration and compromise forms of conflict management. In managing conflicts, collaboration works in the sense that those involved in the conflict work together in creating a solution that is acceptable to all (Raines, 2012). It can be argued that Jane and James collaborated in arriving at this initial solution. By James going to Jane’s office, he showed that he was ready to collaborate with her in order for them to solve the matter between themselves without taking it further or inviting other people. In essence, he was the initiator of the process of collaboration in this conflict. On the other hand, Jane collaborated by first letting James into her office and then agreeing to listen to what he had to say and eventually deciding not to pursue the matter further. According to Raines (2012), compromise involves reaching an agreeable solution by both sides in a conflict giving up elements of their position. James compromised by giving up her interest in Jane while Jane compromised by choosing not to take the matter to another level by for instance informing senior management about James’s behavior.
The initial method of conflict management failed because James continued apologizing to Jane whenever he found himself alone with her. Things would have just faded away had he stopped apologizing after he had made that one sincere apology, the one he had done at Jane’s office. It was unfortunate that he continued apologizing again and again whenever he had the opportunity. For three and a half months, he said sorry to Jane, with reference to the cab incident, at any opportune moment. Jane became tired of this constant apology as she found it both annoying and awkward. Ironically, as he continued to apologize, James was creating yet another attention on Jane, an attention that was in every sense unwanted. Jane had told James it was ok when he first apologized. She however asked that he stops making the apologies when, after three and a half months, he was still showing no signs of stopping. Jane grew frustrated and broke her dilemma to a few colleagues who thereby lost the respect they had for James. James learnt that other people had known about the issue from how they started interacting with him. Though not explicitly acknowledged, the issue had become the “elephant” in the office.
As per Halperin & Schwartz (2010), “Emotions are flexible response sequences that transform a substantive event into a motivation to respond to it in a particular manner.” The constant apologies by James provoked frustrations and anger in Jane and she thus chose to respond by confiding in more co-workers. She had suppressed the emotions for well over three months and she could do it no more. According to Scott (2014), engagement in intimate conversation helps in maintaining intimacy and that intimacy forms a significant part of romantic relationships. By continuing to apologize, James must have been trying to evoke an intimate conversation with Jane that would possibly culminate into them initiating a romantic relationship. Though Jane did not have any intimate feelings towards James, James must have continued suffering from feelings of connectedness and closeness towards Jane. He thus continued exploiting the fact that he had a working relationship with Jane to try and convince the junior editor into having a romantic affair with him. Unfortunately, this worked against him as it only served to blow the issue out of proportion and make it an “office-wide” issue. He had escalated the issue by misusing the working relationship he shared with Jane.
There might not be a win-win scenario after the conflict had escalated. A win-win situation implies that after a conflict or a negotiation, both the parties involved emerge as winners or as being better off than they were before the conflict or negotiation (Lewin et al., 2016). Given the nature of the conflict under analysis (sexual harassment) and that one of the parties involved was clearly on the wrong, there is no possibility that a win-win situation could emerge, especially after the matter had escalated. While Jane could possibly gain from the escalation of the conflict, there was absolutely no way James was going to gain. It has to be noted here that for James, a win would only be if his sexual advances would be accepted by Jane.
There would potentially be a win-lose situation after the escalation. As stipulated by Lewin et al. (2016), a win-lose situation emerges if after a conflict or negotiation, one of the conflicting parties perceives the outcomes as being favorable to them while the other party does not achieve their target. The escalation of the conflict in the case herein might see Jane win. The matter might finally get to the top management and this would see James being summoned and potentially punished by the management. Jane would thereafter have what she wanted in that James would no longer continue apologizing to her or reminding her of the cab incident. On the other hand, on top of a potential punishment by the management, James would lose in that his chances of having Jane agree to her sexual advances would forever be gone.
A lose-lose situation is also possible in this scenario. In such a situation, all the parties involved in a conflict become worse off than they were before the conflict (Lewin et al., 2016). Both Jane and James might lose after the escalation of the conflict. Since they were only the two of them in the cab, James might decide to twist the story and say that it was Jane who started making intimate relationship advances towards him. Not knowing whose side of the story to believe, the management of the company might decide to mete out punishment to both the parties for allowing their emotions affect their workplace ethics. Here, Jane loses because James would likely continue asking her for forgiveness for the cab incident while James loses because he would continue annoying Jane who would continue refusing to give in to his advances.
A mediator would be necessary for this conflict as he or she would facilitate the resolution of the conflict by the two parties. The mediator would only serve as the “manager” of the talk between the two and would take no part in determining the outcome of the mediation. As such, he or she would remain as impartial as possible. He would not impose a solution or be a judge for the parties. However, he or she would be necessary for ensuring that the parties talk extensively and arrive at amicable solution that would be satisfying to both of them (Scott, 2014). The kind of mediator who could have been used in this conflict is an organizational ombudsman. This is because in an organization, it is the role of an ombudsman to resolve disputes impartially and neutrally using informal means (Scott, 2014). An ombudsman would provide Jane and James informal, confidential, impartial, and independent assistance concerning their conflict. In addition, an ombudsman usually has no conflicts of interest in handling their organizational conflict resolution duties. Had Jane approached the organization’s ombudsman in good time, the conflict could not have escalated and could have remained confidential. Additionally, it could have highly likely solved her problem of having to hear “I’m sorry” messages from James on a daily basis.
One of the possible benefits of mediation for this case would be that James would see the need to stop constantly saying “sorry’ to Jane against her wish. Similarly, Jane would understand and sincerely forgive James for his untoward behavior in the cab. Therefore, mediation could have possibly put the matter to rest and prevented it from escalating. Mediation would also help James to start seeing Jane just as her workmate and not a potential soul-mate or intimate partner. Mediation therefore could have restored the cordial working relationship the two shared before the occurrence of the incident. On the other hand, mediation could have been disadvantageous in that it could have been a good opportunity for James to lie that he had stopped his annoying habit only to continue with it afterwards. Mediation would also not reveal whether Jane would have sincerely forgiven James. It is thus possible that even after the mediation process; Jane would still find it hard working alongside James. In addition, one or both the parties could have possibly felt less satisfied with the solution reached and hence the conflict could have remained partially unresolved.
The conflict was resolved by Jane having to move to another journal thereby ditching the team in which James was working. After she had become so tired of the apologies from James that she could take them no more, she grew increasingly uncomfortable. Another journal division of the company announced the opening up of another editor position within it just in time for Jane’s situation. She earned a transfer to the journal after successfully applying for the position. With respect to the specific conflict Jane was facing, this resolution had worked perfectly well. This is because her new position ensured that she no longer had James bothering her. However, the resolution did not work out in terms of giving happiness to Jane while at work. She grew unhappy at her new position. First, she had to contend with editing a very boring journal material. Second, she did not find her new co-workers as exciting to work with as her co-workers in the previous journal, of course with the exception of James. It dawned on her that her old position was really enjoyable. She began wishing that she had not taken the drastic step of shifting positions just to avoid James and his never ending apologies. She again started planning on how to move to another position if one would arise or even move back to her old position.
At the beginning when Jane earned herself the transfer, she was very happy that she had evaded the conflict she had with James. James stopped bothering her forthwith given that the new position did not make it possible. As time started moving by, she learnt that the new position was boring and that the new workmates were less exciting to work with. She grew unhappier and lonelier by each passing day. She thereafter began regretting her decision to apply for and eventually assume this new position. She thus started planning how to get into a new position that would be potentially as enjoyable as her old position or get back her old position. Below is a timeline showing the actual results of the resolution (assumption of a new position by Jane).
|February||Jane is very happy at her new position|
|February||James stops bothering Jane|
|March||Jane learns that her new position is boring|
|April||Jane grows unhappier and lonelier|
|May||Jane starts regretting her decision to shift positions|
|June||Jane starts planning how to get a new position or how to go back to her old position|
Halperin, E., & Schwartz, D. (2010). Emotions in Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Reconciliation. The International Notebooks of Social Psychology, 87(3), 423-442.
Lewin, D., Gollan, P. J., Lipsky, D. B., Avgar, A. C., & Lamare, J. R. (2016).
Managing and Resolving Workplace Conflict. Bingley, West Yorkshire, England: Emerald Group Publishing.
Raines, S. S. (2012). Conflict Management for Managers: Resolving Workplace, Client, and Policy Disputes. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Scott, V. (2014). Workplace Conflict Resolution Essentials for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Wesley, D. (2015). Conflict Resolution in the Workplace: How to Handle and Resolve Conflict at Work ~ an Essential Guide to Resolving Conflict in the Workplace. South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.