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Conflict Management:Poor Communication

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Question:

Discuss about the Conflict Management for Poor Communication.

 

Answer:

Introduction and Thesis

When different individuals are working together, conflict is likely to arise and is mainly caused by differences in the values and personalities of employees. A lot of people try to avoid conflicts at all costs whereas other people have the tendency of blaming something else or another person for causing the conflict. Such responses cannot resolve the conflict and might in fact worsen the situation (Whillas, 2010). It is of note that managers spend at least 25% of their time resolving conflicts within the place of work (Trudel & Reio, 2011). Conflict often stem from issues between managers and staff members and/or between different staffs working in the company (Brubaker et al., 2014). It arises whenever there is a perception of incompatible or contrary interests between various participants in the place of work (Rahim, 2016). A conflict could be very destructive if left unresolved. Dealing with conflict within the place of work in a timely fashion is of great importance in maintaining a healthy work environment. The manager should not believe that a conflict would just fade away. This would be an erroneous assumption to make considering that simple conflicts could actually grow into big problems if not handled in an appropriate way (Papenhausen & Parayitam, 2015). Thesis statement: This paper evaluates causes of conflict in the scenario described. In addition, the possible strategies for conflict resolution which could have been applied by Nick are discussed.

 

Evaluation of the Causes of Conflict

Poor Communication

Poor communication is a major cause of workplace conflicts in business organizations. Singleton et al. (2011) pointed out that dissimilar styles of communication could bring about misunderstandings between staff members or between a manager and an employee. Poor communication could lead to a difference in communication styles. It could also bring about failure to communicate. Lack of communication is a form of poor communication. Poor communication in the place of work does not does cause conflict, it also reduces employee morale and productivity (Runde & Flanagan, 2010).

Cases of poor communication are common in the scenario that resulted in conflict in the place of work. For example, owing to poor communication between Nick and the Senior Manager, Nick was not given adequate guidance by the Senior Manager regarding how he should do his duties. During Nick’s initial week at work upon joining the Central Community Agency as a Programme Coordinator, the Senior Manager gave him the duty roster. Additionally, the Senior Manager informed Nick of the days that he was to attend to counter as well as other events and committee meetings that he was supposed to attend. However, the Senior Manager did not give additional information regarding how Nick should perform his job duties. The Senior Manager told Nick if he had any questions, he should liaise with the organization’s Assistant Manager.

There was also lack of communication between Nick and the Assistant Manager. At his first Women’s Wing meeting, Nick was not sure of what to do and when he approached the Assistant Manager for help, the Assistant Manager did not help him but instead asked him to return later because the Assistant Manager was busy at the time. For the next 2 days, the Assistant Manager was away and therefore Nick could not find him for help. Nick then tried to approach the other employees in the organization for guidance on how to organize an event but this was not successful because they were all too busy with their own events to provide Nick with any appropriate guidance.

Conflicting Perceptions

The other notable cause of conflict in the scenario is conflicting or different perceptions between Nick and the Assistant Manager. For example, Nick wanted the Assistant Manager to help him in his task on several occasions when there were many customers but the Assistant Manager declined to assist him apparently because that was not his duty; it was Nick’s responsibility to attend to customers. It is worth mentioning that there were a number of occasions in which Nick was on duty with the Assistant Manager and when Nick was attending to an enquiry at the counter or was on the phone attending to an enquiry, the Assistant Manager would not step in to help him if there were other clients at the counter waiting. Even though Nick mentioned this issue to the organization’s Senior Manager, the Senior Manager just told him to learn to give and take, which infuriated Nick. This also made Nick dissatisfied with his work.

 

Misunderstandings

Conflicts in the place of work could be caused by misunderstandings regarding the objectives, aims and nature of a job; wages and work conditions; differing expectations with regard to how duties should be performed; differences in priorities, needs, beliefs and values; and the different responsibilities of staff members and the managers (Dillon, 2017; Brandt, 2011). Thanks to misunderstandings at the place of work, Nick did not recognize that he had to attend an event on his day off and not getting time-off in lieu because he is given an allowance. It is notable that to Nick’s understanding, the allowance that he was given by the organization was for counter duty and shift duty, not for attending an event on his day off. This was a major source of conflict that Nick faced in the organization.

Differing Values

Differing values are a significant cause of conflict in organizations. Any place of work comprises people who view the world in different ways. Conflicts arise when there is a lack of understanding and acceptance of these differences (McNary, 2012; Papenhausen & Parayitam, 2015). Differing values is a notable cause of conflict in the organization. In particular, Nick and the seniors in the agency had different values that resulted in conflict between them. At one particular time, Nick spent a number of hours of his own free time to create a proposal on overcoming some of the challenges that he was facing in the organization. He gave that proposal to the Senior Manager who then asked the Assistant Manager to look at it. However, when Nick approached the Assistant Manager, the Assistant Manager informed him that the proposal was not a priority. He also told Nick that the proposal was not part of the Key Performance Indicators and therefore he would only attend to that proposal if he had time. Put simply, while Nick considered his proposal important, the Assistant Manager did not consider it important and thus had no time for it. Consequently, Nick was not motivated to continue working in the agency and his job performance started to decline. 

 

Frustrations Because of Criticism and Lack of Support by the Assistant Manager

Whenever people become stressed or frustrated, they become more irritable and have a higher likelihood of creating conflicts than at other times (De Dreu et al., 2010). The main causes of work-related stress that caused Nick to create conflict in the agency were criticism and lack of support from the Assistant Manager, as well as tension between Nick and the Assistant Manager. During one particular incident between the Assistant Manager and Nick, the Assistant Manager was sitting at his desk and not giving a helping hand although there were 5 customers at the counter waiting. One of them criticized Nick for being slow. The Assistant Manager then told Nick that he has to be more efficient in his task and that he would record this on Nick’s performance review. The two then argued given that Nick was very frustrated and felt that the Assistant Manager did not have basis for making such as a remark. Nick was also frustrated because he felt that whatever was to be addressed by the Assistant Manager should have been done in private, not in front of customers.  

Evaluation of the Conflict Resolution Strategies

Compromise

There are several conflict resolution strategies that businesses often employ. They include collaboration, compromising, avoidance, accommodating and competing (McAllum, 2013). However, not all these approaches are suitable for the scenario described. For the situations in the case study, the appropriate conflict resolution strategies that can be utilized to resolve the conflict between Nick and the managers are compromise and collaboration. Through compromising, the compromiser would try to find ways of making a deal and meet halfway. It is worth mentioning that in this conflict resolution strategy, the needs of each party are met only partially (Lipsky, 2015). The conflicting parties find the middle ground in which a little is given and a little is gotten by each party. According to Lawless and Trif (2016), a compromiser exhibits skills of negotiation and moderation. An over-utilization of compromise signifies a lack of trust and a loss of the broader picture perspective. In addition, there might be needless confrontations and frequent power struggles if compromise is under-utilized (Doherty & Guyler, 2012).

Using the compromise strategy to resolve the conflict in the workplace at the agency, Nick and the Assistant Manager would both give up part of what they needed/wanted in order to resolve the problem and conflict between them. As a result of using this conflict resolution strategy, the Assistant Manager wins some and Nick also wins some since both of them were ready to give a little (Katz & Flynn, 2013). In essence, this conflict resolution strategy reduces the probability that one party in the conflict feels slighted by how the conflict was settled.

 

Collaboration

This strategy for resolving conflicts is also known as the ideal alternative. The goal of collaboration is essentially to find a creative solution that everyone would accept. Through this strategy, the conflicting parties work together to find a solution that is mutually beneficial (Brubaker et al., 2014). The collaborator using this strategy for conflict resolution exhibits reasonableness as well as a capacity to listen, empathize and understand. When there is no adequate collaboration, low empowerment and a lack of commitment could occur (Runde & Flanagan, 2010). Conversely, when collaboration is over-utilized, too much time might be spent on matters that are unimportant and additional work may be created consequently. It generally takes energy and time to execute collaboration in a correct manner (Trudel & Reio, 2011).

Using collaboration as a strategy to resolve the conflict in the agency as described in the scenario, Nick and the agency’s Assistant Manager would work together for the purpose of finding an agreeable solution to the conflict between them. When Nick and the Assistant Manager collaborate to find an agreeable solution, the result would be win-win for the two: Nick wins and the Assistant Manager also wins since the two of them are ready to work together.  

Conclusion

In sum, there are five main causes of conflict in the scenario. The first one is poor communication between Nick and the managers at the agency. For instance, as a result of poor communication between Nick and the Senior Manager, Nick was not given sufficient guidance by the Senior Manager with regard to how he should carry out his duties. The second cause is different perceptions between Nick and the agency’s Assistant Manager. Nick, for instance, wanted the Assistant Manager to assist him in his task on many occasions in which there were a lot clients but the Assistant Manager refused to help him because apparently that was Nick’s duty, not his. The third cause is misunderstandings in the place of work. The fourth cause is differing values between Nick and the managers. Nick and the seniors in the agency had different values that resulted in conflict between them. For instance, while Nick considered his proposal important, the seniors in the agency did not see it as a priority. The final cause of the conflict is frustrations due to criticism and lack of support by the Assistant Manager. Collaboration and compromising are the conflict resolution strategies appropriate for the scenario. Through collaboration, the conflicting parties, who in this case include Nick and the senior managers at the agency, work together to find a solution that is mutually beneficial. On the other hand, through compromising, conflicting parties find the middle ground in which a little is given and a little is gotten by each party. Financial thought on the topic is that in any place of work, conflict is a normal occurrence and it could occur amongst staff members and between managers and staffs. Any conflict in the place of work should be resolved as quickly as possible before it grows into a bigger conflict. A conflict could be very destructive if it is not resolved.

 

References

Brandt, M. A. (2011). How to make conflict work for you. Nursing Management, 32(11), 32.

Brubaker, D., Noble, C., Fincher, R., Park, S. K., & Press, S. (2014). Conflict Resolution in the Workplace: What Will the Future Bring?. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 31(4), 357-386. doi:10.1002/crq.21104

De Dreu, C. W., Evers, A., Beersma, B., Kluwer, E. S., & Nauta, A. (2010). A theory-based measure of conflict management strategies in the workplace. Journal Of Organizational Behavior, 22(6), 645-668. doi:10. 1002/job. 107

Dillon, K. (2017). Managing conflict constructively. Rotman Management, 52-57.

Doherty, N., & Guyler, M. (2012). The Essential Guide to Workplace Mediation and Conflict Resolution : Rebuilding Working Relationships. London: Kogan Page.

Katz, N. H., & Flynn, L. T. (2013). Understanding Conflict Management Systems and Strategies in the Workplace: A Pilot Study. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 30(4), 393-410. doi:10.1002/crq.21070

Lawless, J., & Trif, A. (2016). Managing interpersonal conflicts at work by line managers. Irish Journal Of Management, 35(1), 74-87. doi:10.1515/ijm-2016-0005

Lipsky, D. B. (2015). The Future of Conflict Management Systems. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 33S27-S34. doi:10.1002/crq.21133

McAllum, K. (2013). Workplace Conflict: Three Paths to Peace. IESE Insight, (18), 48-55.

McNary, L. D. (2012). The Term "Win-Win" in Conflict Management: A Classic Case of Misuse and Overuse. Journal Of Business Communication, 40(2), 144-159.

Papenhausen, C., & Parayitam, S. (2015). Conflict Management Strategies as Moderators in the Antecedents to Affective Conflict and its Influence on Team Effectiveness. Journal Of Business & Management, 21(1), 101-119.

Rahim, M. A. (2016). Reducing job burnout through effective conflict management strategy. Current Topics In Management, 18201-212.

Runde, C. E., & Flanagan, T. A. (2010). Developing Your Conflict Competence : A Hands-On Guide for Leaders, Managers, Facilitators, and Teams. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Singleton, R., Toombs, L. A., Taneja, S., Larkin, C., & Pryor, M. G. (2011). Workplace conflict: A strategic leadership imperative. International Journal Of Business & Public Administration, 8(1), 149-163.

Trudel, J., & Reio, T. G. (2011). Managing workplace incivility: The role of conflict management styles-antecedent or antidote?. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 22(4), 395-423. doi:10.1002/hrdq.20081

Whillas, S. (2010). No better time to manage conflict. MHD Supply Chain Solutions, 40(4), 79.

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