Conflict Resolution in the Workplace Term Paper

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¶ … managers spend approximately 25% of their time dealing with workplace conflict. Conflict can have an adverse impact on the workplace spreading to other employees and resulting not only in discontent amongst workers but also in expense to company and at worst in bankruptcy and negative reputation. Research shows that 60-80% of all difficulties in organizations originate from strained relationships between employees rather than from deficits in skill or motivation (Morrey, 2011). It is essential therefore that conflict be handled effectively before it spirals out of control.

In the following essay, the manager is recommended to adopt a win-win (collaborative) solution where he listens to the concerns of each party, focuses on the underlying issues, unearths the emotion, seeks to understand and satisfy all parties, and involves both in the decision-making. This is the most effective solution and, done in a dignified and respectful manner, can prevent conflicts from re-occurring and escalating.

Workplace Conflict-Resolution

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Conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between people. The etymology of the term is from the Latin, conflictus, meaning a striking together. In practical terms, it mea ns a striking (or conflict) of will or ideas. Conflict is feared as a negative circumstance; the person (or both parties) fear inadequacy of managing the process or have a fear of loss about the potential outcome, but conflict may not necessarily be negative. It can be a positive harbinger of change in the workplace stimulating thought and innovation and signaling the end to a stultified system as well as the beginning of a new one. It is an intrinsic part of any team problem-solving and conflict can be the vehicle for broadening perspectives, discovering alternatives, stimulating creative interaction among others.

Term Paper on Conflict Resolution in the Workplace Assignment

Actually, it is the way that one deals with conflict that determines the result. Conflict, dealt with in an effective way, produces effective and optimistic results. This is so because, constructive consequences of conflict produce unity of purpose and collaboration, improved decision making and positive change amongst various other positive outcomes

Conflict that is suppressed, however, can only result in negative consequences that include stress, loss of productivity, non-cooperation or competition amongst workers, sabotage or back stabbing, and chronic complaining (Galaxy Global Communications Inc.). Other expensive results to the organization include absenteeism, grievances and litigation, employee turnover, injury and accidents, sickness, and conflict that can extend to worker's various families -- so workplace conflicts have repercussions that are both internal and external. At the worst, workplace conflict can lead to bankruptcy since it may seep out to shareholders and affect the reputation of the company. (CCR Int.). Need statistics to show the effect of workplace conflict? It has been estimated that productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually, whilst turnover, a result of conflict, may cost an employee as much as 150% of the departing employee's annual salary ( The cost of turnover also includes the manager's time training new employees. Workplace stress causes approximately one million U.S. employees to miss work each day (American Institute of Stress). Finally, it has been estimated that managers spend at least 25% of their time dealing with conflict. It is best; therefore, that conflicts be dealt with effectively at the start so that they not spiral into reiterated arguments.

Common causes of conflict.

The four major causes of conflict are the following:

Argument regarding the specific characterization or essence of a particular thing or situation

Disagreement regarding how a certain activity / procedure should be performed

Concerns regarding which activities should be performed or which solution should be adopted in regards to a certain problematic situation

Conflict regarding ethical issues (Galaxy Global Communications Inc.)

The personal issues that crawl into conflict include ego, personal needs and wants, conflicting ethical values, differing goals of parties, differing perception of parties, divergent assumptions, the various levels of knowledge that each party keeps hidden from the other and may be pertinent to the issue, and conflicting expectations. These qualities may be (and often are) aggravated by poor communication, personality clashes, poor performance of one or more of the workers, and scarce resources when each of the parties are battling over possession of particular resource.

The manager can deal with the conflict in one of five ways:

Avoidance: 'hiding his head in the sand', hoping the conflict will go away.

Collaboration: working together to find a mutually beneficial solution.

Compromise: finding the middle ground where each party receives a little as well as loses a little

Competing: - where one party attempts to win

Accommodation: where one party surrenders his own needs and wishes to please the other.

The most effective and enduring strategy is the collaborative technique which resembles the win-sin situation, or working together to find a mutually beneficial solution. This integrates compromise.

Five step process of dealing with conflict

It takes skill and patience to deal with conflict constructively. The fallout of being unable to do so includes massive amount of energy drain, reduction of morale, polarization of individuals and groups, increased aggressive and irresponsible behavior, decreased productively, and increased suspicion amongst workers.

Essentially the conflict-dealing situation should be seen as a win-win situation where each party has an equal chance of winning and where the situation is seen not as a contest for one particular victor to triumph but rather as a transformation where each party can voice their concerns, be better understood, and view each other (and the situation) in a more positive light. In this way, the situation becomes transformed. Transformation equals cooperation and growth

The theorem for effective conflict resolution can be reduced to five steps:

1. Seek First to Understand

Appraise the situation honestly. Do you understand the other's position in an objective and detached manner? What are the benefits of handling the conflict? What are your priorities? You can acknowledge that there are differing perspectives on the problem, whilst clearly stating why you want the problem resolved and how you want it resolved.

2. Dealing with People and Relationships

Identify the players. Talk to -- not about -- the person. What is her emotional state regarding the situation? Is the time right? Has she had adequate time to cool down if necessary? Is there a balance of power? If you are in the supervisory role, are you trying to use your power to an unfair advantage?

3. Dealing with Issues

Identify the underlying issue -- the one -- deep down that is prompting the conflict. Use facts to describe the situation. Elicit the other parties' point-of-view; ask him for his feedback on your articulation and perspective of the problem. Listen to him -- to what he is really saying or attempting to say; to the issue beneath his words. Focus on both verbal and non-verbal gestures. Seek to understand before being understood and restate what you heard the person saying in your own words

4. Stick to Business

Review the facts and restyle the issue in alternative phraseology before soliciting the other person's feedback regarding your review of the issue. Ascertain that it is not just you doing the talking

5. Try to Find Commonalities

Try to find a solution that both will agree on, and all parties should be involved in formulating this solution. (Galaxy Global Communications Inc.)

Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations

Workplace conflict is a common occurrence and can have positive results if dealt with in an effective manner. Ability to handle conflict effectively demonstrates a sense of maturity, but is not always easy to do. The technique is seeking to understand and satisfy the other without losing out. Conflict-resolution, in other words, consists of a win-win situation rather than a win-lose situation where each party's position is understood, acknowledge, and met.

Specific recommendation include that "I" instead of "you" messages be used (with no punctilio of guilt used); Specificity about behavior (and other facts) be employed; and the person dealing with the conflict should take responsibility for his actions. Focus, too, should be placed on present concerns not past events, and extra emphasis should be practiced throughout on active listening and attempting to understand the other. It is preferable to address the conflict face-to-face rather than through e-mails or other non-verbal medium. Certainly, another should not be made "conveyor of peace." If the issue becomes too stormy, time out can be implemented. (Univ. Of Colarado.)

Very important, as Jameson et al. (2010) showed, is focus on the feelings and emotions of the party. Emotion is after all, the basis of the conflict, but all too often it becomes swept away with focus on the cognition. However, if the underlying emotion is not credited and addressed, the problem can linger and may resurface at a later time. Jameson et al. (2010) recommended that expert mediation involves five emotion-eliciting strategies which are: legitimizing the emotion, encouraging emotion identification (e.g. With question like "how do you feel about this /… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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