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Situation 1: Sales Manager and Misuse of Company Resources

Below you will find 4 situations of conflict. Analyse each situation and come up with a solution. At the end of the description of each situation there are some additional questions or statements that provide you with some hints what you should address in your answer. In your answer refer to concepts (from the textbook) as appropriate and also critically reflect on the concept(s) you have utilised. Insert your answer right after the additional questions or statements by expanding the space.

You are a sales manager in the Northwestern division of a large clothing manufacturing company. Recently, you and some other managers in your division attended the yearly national sales meeting in Chicago. Just now one of the other managers who attended the conference has come into your office. He says, “While I was at the conference, I took out some friends of mine in Chicago to dinner at an expensive restaurant, and charged it to my expense account. I said they were potential clients. Now my boss is questioning that. He says he wants proof. Would you write him a note saying you were there and that they were really potential clients?” What will you do? How will you do it? Why?

Aspects that should be addressed / included in your answer:

Identification of personal stage of moral development, explanations of how stage is likely to influence behavior, identification of own interpersonal orientation, explanation of how orientation is likely to affect what one is likely to do.

You are working in a lower-level managerial position in a Boise firm. Your boss stops by to visit you one day, and says “I have got this problem with my boss. She is new to the firm, and seems to be taking pleasure in turning everything upside down. She has instituted new reporting procedures, new meeting schedules, new budgeting process, new everything! Now, I have been here far 15 years, and the old system makes sense to me. I have tried to be diplomatic by holding my peace, but I do not see any reason to change. If you ask me, I think she is one of those libbers, out to show her power.” What will you do? How will you do it? Why?

Aspects that should be addressed / included in your answer:

Identification of possible blocks to creativity, identification of a creative analogy, bringing back analogy to provide a creative solution or new viewpoint.

Your office neighbor talks very loudly on the phone. It is very hard for you not to be disturbed in your work. You have talked to her about it in the past but it keeps going on. You are sitting in your office. It is happening once more and you are quite irritated about it. You have decided to confront this person now. What will you do? How will you do it? Why?

Aspects that should be addressed / included in your answer:

Use of recognizable conflict resolution approach, explanation of why this approach is appropriate, identification and explanation of reasonable alternative

You are in charge of a large sausage manufacturing company.  Up until now, everything has been running smoothly, but you believe it is time for a change.  You have been reading about empowerment and teamwork, and you think that if you can reorganize the employees into self-directed teams, your sausage company has a chance of becoming the most profitable sausage company in the United States.  Your management philosophy is that any profits the company makes should be shared with the employees.  Employees are concerned however, because they think that any change may be accompanied by downsizing and layoffs. What will you do? How will you do it? Why?

Situation 1: Sales Manager and Misuse of Company Resources

Identification of the problem:

In the given scenario, I was approached by my colleague, who has taken his friends for a dinner at an expensive restaurant under the company’s expense, with the request to send an email to the supervisor, stating that his friends were potential clients. The colleague requested that I vouch for him, falsely claiming that I was there too in the dinner for the business deal. The supervisor or boss suspects that the dinner was for a personal meet and not related to the business and my colleagues wants to use my statement as a proof that the dinner meeting was strictly professional one and was related to the business conference.

The problem with the scenario is that the colleague of mine was misutilizing the resources of the company for personal use, which could set a bad precedent for others and can jeopardize the working and professional culture within the organization. However, since we worked in the same level, it was a difficult choice for me to reject his idea on his face. At the same time, I also felt I had the responsibility to discourage such act in the future (Coleman and Kugler 2014).

Traditional Theory

The conflict theory that I believe is applicable in the given context is the Traditional Theory. According to this theory, conflicts are often due to the actions of certain individuals (also called the trouble makers) and leads to bad situations. The theory also posits that situations of conflicts should be avoided or suppressed if possible in order to prevent their aggravation and further harm to the organizations processes. This theory supports the argument that there can be troublemakers in any environment and that their behavior needs to be managed to ensure a good working culture (Avruch 2018).

According to this theory of conflict management, potential conflicting situation can be mitigated to some extent through avoiding it. This theory supports that by not helping the individuals responsible for creating the conflict, it is possible to dissuade them from such actions, as well as help to mitigate conflicts. However, this theory is mostly applicable for trivial conflicts or conflicts that can be costly for the organization. The avoidance of the conflict situation implies low levels of assertiveness as well as low levels of cooperation. Thus it allows individuals to neither assist the individual to reach their objectives nor assert authority over them to rectify their mistakes (Zhang et al. 2015).

Situation 2: Lower-Level Manager and Resistance to Change

In my opinion, the conflict in this situation arises from the perspective of ethics, more specifically, work ethics. According to Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, an ethical principle is the last of seventh level of morals at the third level of morality (Post-Conventional). Reaching the Post-Conventional level, an individual develops understanding as well as responsibility towards the maintenance of ethical principles. This level fosters the development of a principled conscience, or a conscience that is developed on strong ethical and moral principles. Individuals with such sense of conscience would not partake in unethical work, and help to maintain the ethical values that are universally applicable (that is identifying what is wrong and what is right) (Krebs et al. 2014).

My own orientation is also to maintain my code of ethical principles, and not engage in any activities that I feel as not being ethical or being coerced into the same. I believe that in a large organization, a huge diversity exists among the mindsets of people, each having different level of morality and expectations which can lead to cultural, ethical or moral conflicts in the organization. Moreover I also believe that avoidance strategies can be used to some extent to mitigate small conflicts that arise in a conflict between individuals working at the same level of the organizational hierarchy (Hwang 2015).

In order to manage the conflict I would not send the email to misinform the supervisor/boss regarding the nature of the dinner meeting he had. I also would not report his activity as my colleague took me into confidence and also since the nature of the conflict was potentially limited. Instead I would have my colleague figure his own way around the problem to find a solution to it, with the hope that such a challenge would be enough to dissuade him to repeat such action. I would also clarify to my colleague that sending such misinforming email was against by professional ethics, and therefore the reason for me to avoid helping him to justify his erroneous work. I would instead suggest my colleague to admit his error to the supervisor and ensure that such action would not be repeated again (Van Nunspeet et al. 2015).

Identification of the problem:

The second scenario is regarding my boss who was complaining against her boss of using her power to make unnecessary changes in the organization’s operations. According to my boss, the old system was sufficient for the organization according to her 15 years of experience of working there. The new reporting procedures, meeting schedules and budgeting processes have only resulted in made things more difficult for everyone, and also that all the new systems implemented by her boss made no practical sense. My boss didn’t really feel that those new systems were needed and showed defiance to the new system.

Situation 3: Dealing with a Noisy Colleague

In my opinion, this conflict can result in blocks to creativity in the organization, as the new system can be overwhelming for the employees to cope up to. Additionally, creativity can also be adversely affected due to a mental block that is exhibited through the behavior of my boss, who feels confident that the old system worked just fine and there was no need for a change (Prati et al. 2016).

The relevant theory and conflict resolution style that can be applied in this scene are:

According to this theory, conflicts are unavoidable in any organization and can be triggered by a change. It also implies that conflicts needs to be managed at the soonest to avoid them becoming bigger and out of control, and de-escalate the situation as soon as possible. This theory is based on the idea that organizations often face conflicts of interests while implementing changes, where individuals can get stressed or disadvantaged when they are unable to adapt to the change and thus affecting their work performance. This creates resistance towards change and can also lead to resentment (Mac Ginty and Williams 2016; Burrell and Morgan 2017).

This style of negotiating conflict uses high levels of cooperation and assertiveness, where the conflicting partners can collaborate to develop a goal that addresses the concerns of either. This helps to develop a ‘win-win’ situation both the parties, and ensures that both their perspectives are taken into account while developing the new goal or objective. This style can help to both solve the conflict by designing a new system that can satisfy both the conflicting parties (Saeed et al. 2014).

My understanding of this scenario of conflict is based upon the idea of the contemporary theory of conflict. In the given scenario, the conflict was because of a new system that was implemented which my boss was facing trouble with, finding the change to be unjustified. I believe that the conflict was also because of a lack of proper communication between my boss and her boss, and that the new system was implemented without properly understanding the perspectives of the employees who would need to work on them. This led to a resistance towards change, as well as the development of a mental block regarding the new system (Wu et al. 2017).

In the given scenario, the mental block of my boss can be attributed towards her attitude on the new system, completely belittling the system to lack any sense of purpose, and being made on the whims of the upper management. However, I feel that there might be reasons why the new system was implemented and that by boss wasn’t fully aware of it. This attitude further made it difficult to work on the new system, increasing resistance and resentments against it. This can be better understood through the example of experiments on negative bias which shows that negative perceptions towards something can affect the ability of individuals to engage with it successfully. For example, elderly people often show negative bias against new technologies, due to which they are more reluctant to use it (Overall 2017).

Situation 4: Sausage Company Manager and Implementing Change

In order to mitigate this problem, I would use a collaborated approach, involving both my boss and her boss to engage in an open communication. This can allow either of the parties to understand and explain each other’s point of view. From the perspective of the upper management, the reason for implementing the new technology can be clarified, while from the perspective of my boss, her concerns against the new system can also be discussed. This can help to understand the problems faced by the employees with the new system and thus can help to find a solution that can address the need of either party (that is improvement of the existing system and making the new system easier for the employees to understand). Collaboration and communication can also help to overcome mental blocks to creativity, as it can support a both sided sharing of information that can help to develop a better system for everyone (Lee and Kim 2017).

Identification of the problem:

The given scenario of conflict involves my office neighbor who has the habit of speaking very loudly over the phone. This habit has resulted in me being distracted, thereby affecting my work. I have already tried to talk to her about it, but the problem still continues as he keeps talking on the phone loudly every now and then.

The conflict is mainly due to the lack of behavioral regulation of my office neighbor as well as a lack of cooperation and understanding of the challenged faced by others. I believe that the behavior of my office neighbor is potentially impacting the working environment of the office, leading to disruptions to other’s work. Additionally, since the individual did not take heed of my previous approach to explain how the behavior was disrupting my work, it shows his lack of cooperation (Mischel et al. 2014).

The theories and concepts that can be associated with this scenario are:

As discussed above this theory posits that conflicts can be caused by specific individuals tagged a trouble makers, who can potentially disrupt the work environment through their behaviors and attitudes. Talking lordly over the phone, with no regard to others who are working nearby is an appropriate example of such a behavior, which can be termed as disruptive (Sarker et al. 2018).

This style of conflict resolution implies a ‘win or lose’ approach, in which the opposing parties in a conflict compete to address their own perspectives or agendas. This can be a complicated process of conflict negotiation as it results in one of the conflicting party to give up their point of view, with the other party winning over the situation. This approach however helps to reduce the waste of time, as one only needs to uphold one of the party’s views while rejecting the others. Competing style therefore involves a very low level of cooperation between the competing parties and a high level of assertiveness, as both the parties would try to assert their perspectives or positions in the conflict (Canaan Messarra et al. 2016).

Relevant Conflict Management Theories and Concepts

This is the direct approach to resolve the issue, where one of the conflicting parties can confront the other with assertion, making the person understand the reason for the conflict. This can be useful to support modification of the disruptive behavior shown by the individual to resolve the problem (Kinsara et al. 2015).

The given scenario aptly fits the traditional view of conflict that conflicts are caused by trouble makers. My work colleague’s behavior exhibits the attributes of a disruptive behavior, in which an individual or trouble maker is the source of the conflict. My office neighbor with his habit of talking loudly, showing no consideration to the fact that such a behavior is disrupting other’s work serves as a good example. The conflict is caused due to the opposing ideologies help be me and my work neighbor. My perspective is to maintain a professional work environment that helps others to perform well and give their maximum potential, while my work colleague has a more ego-centric approach, unable to take into consideration, the views of others (Radford et al. 2016). It is impossible in such a scenario to use a collaborative, avoiding or accommodating style of conflict resolution, as the disruptive behavior needs to be addressed and mitigated. Thus a high level of assertiveness and a low level of cooperation need to be shown against the individual, making clear the consequences of maintaining such actions. This can be done through a direct approach to confront the individual (Sarker et al. 2018; Kinsara et al. 2015)

In order to resolve the conflict, I would confront the person up-front with an assertive attitude, clearly mentioning that his behavior is causing disruption in my work and is adversely affecting the work environment. I would also ensure that I mention the consequences of maintaining the disruptive behavior, through the involvement of the office supervisors or managers. I believe that in order to mitigate this conflict, the source of the conflict (that is the disruptive behavior) needs to be prohibited, and there is no scope for avoiding the conflict (thereby increasing the scope for the problem getting aggravated continuing to affect me and others), accommodating the problem (which also would maintain the disruptive behavior to continue) or collaboration (since the individual is unable to consider the perspectives of others to change his behavior)( Sarker et al. 2018). I believe due to such considerations, the approach of a competing strategy and a direct approach is suitable to address the situation. Another alternative strategy that might be used to address the problem is through the designing and implementation of policies on code of conduct in the work environment that everyone needs to follow. This will provide a level background for addressing the conflict and resolution can be sought based on the behavior that best fits the policy (Radford et al. 2016).

Applying Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development to Conflict Management

Identification of the problem:

The conflict scenario involves the implementation or organizational change in the company in order to promote organizational growth and increasing the profits. The plan is to reorganize the employees into self directed teams and also sharing the profits of the organization with the employees to support their best performance and reward them for their hard work. However, there is a growing fear among the employees that such a change can also lead to many employees being laid off due to a possible downsizing of the organization and streamlining the workforce.  Many of the employees who are unable to perform would therefore be at risk of lose their jobs.

The problem that can be associated in the given context is related to the development and maintenance of a positive attitude in the workforce, developing a readiness for change of the employees or overcoming the resistance towards change and sharing the overall objective of the organizational change and how it can benefit both the organization as well as the employees. Resistance towards the change can also be caused due to a communication barrier between the employees and managers, a fear about the new business strategies, a climate of mistrust and a fear towards failure (Stouten et al. 2018; Krantz 2018)).

The main theories that can be implied in this context are:

This theory implies that organizations should take strategies to ensure a smooth implementation of organizational change. This involves the managers to carefully plan the organizational change, making the process as transparent as possible, being truthful and honest about the aims of the change process, involving effective communication strategies to inform everyone about the need to change, developing a roadmap towards the process of change, providing training for all employees to maintain the change, involve participation from the employees in the change implementation process, avoiding the change to be implemented in a hurry (not rushing in), monitoring and measuring the results and implementing leadership in management (Hornstein 2015; Burke 2017).

This theory implies that the management should act as leaders, leading other by their examples and show everyone how the change can be beneficial to them. Effective leaders can motivate the employees and orient them towards organizational goals. Moreover the leadership can help to develop more participation from the employees in the process change, and overcome resistance against it or increase readiness for change (Dinh et al. 2014).

The Traditional Theory of Conflict Management

As discussed before, this theory supports that conflicts are a normal aspect in any organization but however needs to be resolved. Thus the managers should not take up the conflict as just a hurdle in their path, but a scope to learn about the perspectives of the employees or to analyze the conflict situation, thereby increasing their own knowledge and understanding (Ritzer and Stepnisky 2017).

This style would allow a better collaboration between the conflicting parties, support better coordination and communication and this help to implement the organizational change management strategy in a more appropriate manner (Nesterkin et al. 2016; A. Way et al. 2014).

The resistance of the employees towards the change can be caused due to several factors such as improper communication between the management and the employees due to which they are unaware why the change is being implemented and how the change can benefit the organization as well as the employees (such as sharing of the company’s profits). The lack of communication can also increase in the growth of fear among the employees of being laid off, which can create mistrust on the management (Ritzer and Stepnisky 2017). A lack of transparency can occur when the employees are not completely aware about how the change can affect them and how the organization would implement the change. Lack of an organizational plan can cause confusions regarding the implementation process further increasing apprehensions about it. This situation gives a classic example of the contemporary conflict theory (that conflicts are normal) and collaborated style of conflict management (that involves the collaboration of either conflicting parties to collaborate and come up with a neutral solution) (Nesterkin et al. 2016).

The best approach to resolve this conflict is to involve both the employees and the management in planning the change in the organization, ensuring transparency in the planning and preventing any ambiguity, developing effective communication strategies that can be used to develop a two sided communication between the employees and the management, training and educating the employees about the new change as well as supporting employee participation in the change process (Dinh et al. 2014). The management can also take leadership roles to show the employees that the change can be beneficial for them. Conferences, meetings, handouts and training can improve readiness towards change, while effective communication can clarify any doubts that the employees might have towards the change. I would also recommend that the advantages the employees would have through the change to be clearly outlined and the fear of the employees to lose their jobs be addressed as soon as possible (Burke 2017).

The Collaborative Style of Conflict Resolution

References:

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Avruch, K., 2018. Towards the Fourth Wave of Conflict Resolution Practice. In Cultural Encounters and Emergent Practices in Conflict Resolution Capacity-Building (pp. 387-401). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Burke, W.W., 2017. Organization change: Theory and practice. Sage Publications.

Burrell, G. and Morgan, G., 2017. Sociological paradigms and organisational analysis: Elements of the sociology of corporate life. Routledge.

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Coleman, P.T. and Kugler, K.G., 2014. Tracking managerial conflict adaptivity: Introducing a dynamic measure of adaptive conflict management in organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 35(7), pp.945-968.

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