Conflict Management Course Assessment

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Week 1

Conflict is an inherent part of employee management because individuals or groups of people often have competing interests. While some pieces of literature argue that conflicts are beneficial to organizations, few firms have profited from them (De Dreu, 2008). In my experience, conflict can be an insurmountable problem that could hinder organizational growth and still a powerful tool for developing interpersonal relationships in the workplace.

Most line managers in my organization react to conflict through competition. This is often the case because the outcomes associated with organizational processes are often too important for the concerned parties to leave to chance. Therefore, they are willing to maintain control at the expense of all other considerations. I do not believe that this approach to conflict management has merit because competition, in itself, is a noble exercise aimed at improving people’s competencies. Furthermore, I believe that competition is effective for industry growth because quick and effective decisions have to be made in my workplace because of the sensitivity and urgency of the products developed.

When dealing with conflict, I often use the avoidance technique because it is suited to the nature of issues that affect me. In my early days within my organization, I was immensely ambitious and wanted to change various aspects of operations to suit my competencies and skills. However, I learned that the cost of engaging the problem was too high. Particularly, I found that the issue I was trying to address was being caused by the activities associated with one company associated with a powerful family in my hometown. Addressing the issue would have required this family to be contacted but I was skeptical that authorities would be able to mitigate the issue, given the status of the family in the town. This hurdle meant that the cost of implementing my recommendations was too high. Therefore, I chose to pursue the avoidance conflict management style to cope with it. While this technique may generate positive outcomes for some organizations, I do not believe that it is applicable in all situations. Particularly, I find that organizations that produce, or are involved in the manufacturer of sensitive products, should not use this type of conflict management skills because it may affect the value chain process.

I believe that I should try the collaborative conflict management approach because, according to the lecture materials, the ideal conflict management style is a combination of nature (natural-born competencies of conflict management) and nurture (observed techniques of conflict management) attributes. Therefore, I believe that the avoidance technique that I have been applying is less effective in managing conflict based on the desired standard of the dispute resolution mechanism described above.

Week 2

Given the multiplicity of psychological factors defining the relationship between employers and employees, both parties can have many disagreements. Both parties have a psychological contract that can be transactional, ideological, or relational (Nadin and Williams, 2011). Based on these frameworks of contractual relationships governing employer-employee unions, much of the literature has been focused on highlighting employee rights and duties owed to them by their employers. This trend has created the impression that employers do not enjoy their unique rights under this kind of arrangement and has drawn attention to the need to understand the rights and obligations of employers and employees in contract law.

To safeguard workers’ interests, employers should create the right working conditions for their staff. This process involves contributing to their occupational development by providing them with opportunities for career growth, training, and such like progression ventures. Among others, employers also must observe the law, treat employees equally, safeguard their employees’ safety and occupational health as well as put in writing the employees’ terms and conditions of work.

To safeguard employment contracts employees also have to be honest with their employers and this responsibility is particularly important in events where some employees are accused of theft or misconduct. Those who engage in such practices are deemed not to respect this right and duty that they owe to their employers and may suffer consequences as a result. Among other responsibilities, employees are also expected to be reasonable, disclose wrongdoing, work with reasonable care and skill and take care of their employer’s property.

Although both employers and employees share different sets of rights and responsibilities, I believe that some of them are more important than others. This is because different industries and organizations have varied key performance indices that make certain duties and rights less relevant to the overall performance of the organization. I have witnessed the same disparities in my firm, at a departmental level, because certain units of operations require a stronger emphasis on certain virtues and responsibilities compared to others. For example, our Chief Financial Officer (CFO) prefers to work with honest people because of the large amounts of cash circulating in the department. However, the same attribute is not so valuable for employees working in a delivery company where they have to transport goods from one destination to another. Therefore, some expectations and obligations impacting the responsibility of employers and employees are more important than others.

Duties, rights, and obligations binding both employers and employees are largely transactional because there is a monetary payment associated with their relationship. In other words, the absence of payment could mean the nonexistence of such a relationship because a rational employee would not work for free. This feature is representative of this type of relationship because employer-employee unions are often limited in time and amount of money involved. In other words, their engagements are usually tangible. Based on the transactional nature of employment contracts, it would be unbecoming of either of the parties involved to contravene any aspect of the psychological contract – implied or otherwise.

If an employer contravenes aspects of my employment contract to my detriment, I would consider reporting the violation to the appropriate channels of dispute resolution which are often located within an organization’s internal management structures. For example, my company has an internal dispute resolution system where complaints could be reported anonymously and disciplinary action is taken. Additionally, the actions of one manager can be reported to their superiors and investigations commence. This internal dispute resolution system has worked well in maintaining harmony between employers and employees in my firm. Therefore, I would recommend using it when I notice that my employer has contravened my rights in the employment contract. Nonetheless, the contents of these internal dispute resolution systems may vary across organizations or even industries. Their differences may have implications on the outcomes of a contract violation investigation.

It would bother me if my violations are addressed and those of my colleagues are not. This is because we often work as a team and harmony between us can be only achieved when all team members are treated fairly and compensated similarly. Therefore, our productivity can be significantly impacted if some employees discover that the concerns of their colleagues are being addressed, while those of others are not. This aspect of team development forms the background for the evaluation of intergroup conflicts and how to avoid them.

Week 3

Intergroup conflicts have a significant impact on corporate performance. This is because teams are the building blocks of various organizational processes and dysfunctional ones could significantly hamper group outcomes. Team performance is mostly driven by organizational norms, which define how team members interact, communicate and collaborate. Indeed, as explained in the Forbes article authored by Bowring (2021), the success of a team is mostly underpinned by strong norms and habits. These norms are normally built on trust and positive intentions exhibited by team members over a fixed period. In this context of analysis, it is important to define team norms because it is the foundation for developing accountability among members and groups. Therefore, organizations that have been successful at solving intergroup conflicts are those that are deliberate about defining and understanding the norms that keep teams working together.

The important role that team norms play in influencing company performance makes it important to know whether these norms can be manipulated or managed for better performance. On one side of the debate, it could be argued that team norms are developed over a long time and it could be difficult manipulating them to lessen intergroup conflicts. On the other side of the argument, it could also be argued that norms are interpersonal and are products of a cost-benefit analysis of circumstances and variables that influence group dynamics. This argument is founded on the principle that cost and benefits can be varied to create different sets of norms that would yield new outcomes.

I support this idea because I have witnessed various instances where conventional norms of group operations have been set aside and a new criterion of decision-making adopted to inform current and future organizational processes. For example, in my organization, this strategy has been adopted through the use of automation techniques where group members have left decision-making duties to automated processes, thereby minimizing conflicts that would typically emerge when two teams disagree. Now, their decisions are guided by the outcomes of digitized processes. This example shows that norms can be set aside, varied, or replaced to impact intergroup performance.

This type of transition is also explained in the article authored by Tietze and Nadin (2011), which explores the transition from office work to home-based work and its effects on the psychological contract employers have with their employees. The article shares similarities with my example about the impact of automation on team norms because it mirrors the impact that technology has on corporate systems, norms, and processes that affect group behaviors (Tietze and Nadin, 2011). The failure to manage issues that underpin team development means that managers would be spending a lot of time and resources in addressing intergroup conflicts. This problem draws attention to another important area of managing team performance – conflict management.

Week 4

Conflict management is an important process in addressing unresolved issues among teams or group members. According to the lecture materials, different firms adopt varied techniques in conflict management and four major types of interventions are associated with this process: managing disciplinary procedures, mediation, compromise agreements, and employment tribunals. My organization prefers to use compromise agreements to solve most internal conflicts. This type of mediation technique occurs when warring factions adopt a “give and take” approach to address their disagreements. Although this technique has been useful in explaining most conflicts in the organization, I have observed that the nature and source of conflict also play a critical role in determining how problems are solved or the kind of techniques that need to be adopted to understand them.

Conflicts can occur in several ways but those involving employees are difficult to detect and solve. Particularly, disparities involving a determination of the boundaries of engagement between one employee and another could damage a team’s performance. Case studies 1 and 2, which were provided in the lecture materials, describe examples of how such conflicts emerge and the contexts in which they are created. In the first case study, a supervisor is unable to effectively carry out her task because she was disappointed by her colleagues who failed to support her in trying to protect the rights of an employee. She thought the aggrieved party did not have to report her to the line manager for an issue that could be solved if the employee approached her and expressed her concerns.

I have been involved in a similar predicament whereby I felt that one of my colleagues failed to support me in a disciplinary case where I breached one of the company’s procedures to accomplish a task within the timeframe specified by the customer. These types of conflicts are difficult to detect because I never mentioned the issue to my colleague or expressed my feelings regarding how I felt about the issue. Case study 2 highlighted in the lecture materials also highlights a similar situation where a new member of staff was having trouble integrating into a new work environment. The targeted employee claimed to be harassed for being told to dress appropriately and later quit after a short while.

Based on this case study, companies need to redesign their internal conflict management processes to recalibrate the threshold of issues that would significantly affect employer-employee relationships. Notably, it is important to evaluate job designs to prevent conflict because it would be better to define boundaries that need to be followed among employees or teams when completing tasks.

Firms can choose to employ a technique that best suits their circumstances but the use of the sociotechnical tool to carry out this function is more appropriate to my organizational context than any other technique available in the market. This is because it allows managers to design job tasks before the introduction of new technologies (Nadin, Waterson and Parker, 2001). Consequently, it is possible to anticipate conflict and mitigate its effects through simulated processes, which have high levels of accuracy. Therefore, the use of technological tools, infused with social cues to generate job designs emerges as a promising tool for addressing future conflicts in the workplace.

Week 5

Workplace conflicts are often caused by several issues and bullying is one of them. In the organizational context, bullying refers to the intimidation or coercion of junior workers by their superiors to complete tasks or perform them according to a set standard. Aspects of strong management could elicit these types of emotions among employees because they are associated with the use of strong-arm tactics to improve employee productivity as well.

Managers should help create workplace environments where bullying does not exist. This strategy involves empowering employees to report such cases and making examples out of those found culpable to show other employees that such actions have consequences. The law of contract, among other legal statutes, has been developed to prevent bullying in the workplace. They stipulate the expectations, requirements, duties, and conduct of both parties in the employment contract. They may also outline penalties or consequences associated with a breach of these contractual terms. However, broadly, there are specific legislations that offer legal protection to workers against bullying and they include the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Equality Act 2010, just to mention a few that have been highlighted in the class materials. Furthermore, the law of tort has been used to impose responsibility on employers for the actions of their employees, thereby providing a further deterrent to bullying in the workplace.

The above-mentioned pieces of legislation play a pivotal role in safeguarding the operations and performance of a business because bullying has a significant cost to those affected. For example, according to the case study provided in Week 5 lecture materials, bullying is associated with negative publicity, which similarly impacts profitability and performance. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2020) also points out that many companies lose up to 350 management days addressing issues relating to bullying and workplace conflict. Some of these grievances often reach the employment tribunal level, thereby increasing the cost of litigation and dispute settlement.

There are several examples of labor disputes and cases involving bullying or variations of it. For example, the University Lecture strike that happened in 2018 was pit against the union representing the educators and their employers who felt that the latter was imposing rules unilaterally, thereby affecting their working conditions. More recently, there has been an increased number of cases involving railway workers against their employers due to fears of COVID-19 spread. The employees feel that management is not paying close attention to their health and safety needs. I have witnessed similar concerns emerging in my organization but I have seen that such sentiments are more concentrated among lower cadre workers compared to managers and supervisors. However, I believe that these concerns could be temporary and workers will be able to work normally again after populations have been vaccinated.

Week 6

If I had friends or colleagues visiting me in the UK, I would tell them about basic pleasantries that they should be aware of when interacting with the British because there are unique differences between western and Asian cultures. Particularly, I would draw the attention of my colleagues to how the British shake hands because they have a firm handshake but back at home our handshakes are softer. Although being nice is common in my home country, as well as the UK, I would inform my friends that a smile could be helpful when creating rapport with a stranger or business partner in Britain.

Regarding workplace norms, I would point out the importance of keeping time because I find that the Asian culture is less strict on time-keeping compared to the British. I would also recommend solving problems with British people over a cup of tea or a drink at a pub for less informal business relationships. I find that these social contexts are more appropriate for solving issues among partners because of their relaxed nature.

My first experience in the UK was a culture shock because I was not aware of the extent of differences between my home culture and those of the British. Therefore, I find it plausible to prepare a person coming from overseas to be acclimated to the new culture system. In my case, I joined an online group of international students from my home country that helped me to navigate some of the challenges I encountered in my early days living in the UK. Notably, I was surprised by how much the British were sticklers of rules. Comparatively, in my home country, I was accustomed to negotiating about problems or issues collaboratively, but there is little chance of success employing this strategy in the UK.

Based on the differences that exist between varying cultures, it is important to recognize the unconscious biases that people have when they encounter somebody from a new social order. Unconscious bias training would help to identify these biases and prevent them from influencing their decision-making processes (Baska, 2020). The effectiveness of this approach may vary across organizations or industries but it should be introduced as a company policy in the manner ageism or sexism is addressed. However, the effectiveness of these training programs may be limited to people’s varying attitudes. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to intrinsic and extrinsic factors impacting how employees assimilate knowledge.

Reference List

Baska, M. (2020) Is unconscious bias training fit for purpose? Web.

Bowring, A. (2021) Successful teams have powerful norms underpinned by strong habits. Web.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. (2020) Managing conflict at work: a guide for line managers. Web.

De Dreu, C. K. (2008) ‘The virtue and vice of workplace conflict: food for (pessimistic) thought’, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29(1), pp. 5–18.

Nadin, S. J., Waterson, P. E. and Parker, S. K. (2001) ‘Participation in job redesign: an evaluation of the use of a sociotechnical tool and its impact’, Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing, 11(1), pp. 53–69.

Nadin, S. J. and Williams, C. C. (2011) ‘Psychological contract violation beyond an employees’ perspective: the perspective of employers’, Employee Relations, 34(2), pp.110–125.

Tietze, S. and Nadin, S. (2011) ‘The psychological contract and the transition from office-based to home-based work’, Human Resource Management Journal, 21(3), pp. 318–334.

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