A Case Study on Conflict Management
A Case Study on Conflict Management
Shirley and Abdul both work for a software development company. The manager of the new product division was originally the leader of the project team for which she interviewed and hired Abdul. Shirley, another project team member, also interviewed Abdul, but strongly opposed hiring him for the project because she thought he was not competent to do the job.
Seven months after Abdul was hired, the manager left the project to start her own company and recommended that Abdul and Shirley serve as joint project leaders. Shirley agreed reluctantly?with the stipulation that it be made clear she was not working for Abdul. The General Manager consented; Shirley and Abdul were to share the project leadership.
Within a month Shirley was angry because Abdul was representing himself to others as the leader of the entire project and giving the impression that Shirley was working for him. Now Shirley and Abdul are meeting with you to see if you can resolve the conflict between them.
Shirley says: "Right after the joint leadership arrangement was reached with the General Manager, Abdul called a meeting of the project team without even consulting me about the time or content. He just told me when it was being held and said I should be there. At the meeting, Abdul reviewed everyone's duties line by line, including mine, treating me as just another team member working for him. He sends out letters and signs himself as project director, which obviously implies to others that I am working for him."
Abdul says: "Shirley is all hung up with feelings of power and titles. Just because I sign myself as project director doesn't mean she is working for me. I don't see anything to get excited about. What difference does it make? She is too sensitive about everything. I call a meeting and right away she thinks I'm trying to run everything. Shirley has other things to do?other projects to run?so she doesn't pay too much attention to this one. She mostly lets things slide. But when I take the initiative to set up a meeting, she starts jumping up and down about how I am trying to make her work for me."
Question Regarding This Conflict
1. Abdul and Shirley seem to have several conflicts occurring simultaneously. Identify as many of these individual conflicts as possible.
2. What are the possible ways to deal with the conflict between Abdul and Shirley (not just the ones that you would recommend, but all of the options)?
3. Given all the benefits of retrospection, what could or should have been done to avoid this conflict in the first place?
In this case scenario there are several issues between Shirley and Abdul. First and foremost, Shirley feels that Abdul is incompetent, thus her perceptions of his capabilities are skewed and there is a lack of respect to begin with. Shirley also seems to have an issue with titles and placement of authority (as Abdul mentions in his summation of the conflict).
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What is Conflict?
We define conflict as a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns. It’s human nature to have conflicts and it arises for any number of reasons, including:
- Personality clashes
- Disagreements about the right way to approach a problem
During our daily lives, we are all involved in a number of conflicts. Sometimes, the conflicts may be small, for example, a person may ignore us while we are talking. Sometimes, the conflict may be more serious, for example, two persons behaving violently toward each other.
Whether big or small, conflict is not confined only to a person and the people around her/him. It can be between people one is not even associated with. A conflict can, for example, be between people and the prevailing laws. Conflict does not only occur at the personal level but also at the national, and even international level. Apart from external conflicts between individuals or groups, there can also be internal conflicts within an individual.
Stages of conflict
There is general agreement on four basic stages of conflict. These stages are not mutually exclusive and therefore, an individual may be involved in more than one at a time.
• Intrapersonal: conflict within the individual (for example, a person
who cannot make decisions).
• Interpersonal: conflict among two or more individuals (for example, an argument between a boyfriend and girlfriend, or between a student and her/his teacher, or child and parent, or between friends/colleagues).
• Intragroup: conflict within a group (for example, between members of the same work or football team).
• Intergroup: conflict between two or more groups (for example, between two different youth gangs, or between students and the school faculty).
Types of Conflict:
By evaluating a conflict according to the five categories below — relationship, data, interest, structural and value — we can begin to determine the causes of a conflict and design resolution strategies that will have a higher probability of success.
Relationship conflicts occur because of the presence of strong negative emotions, misperceptions or stereotypes, poor communication or miscommunication, or repetitive negative behaviors. Relationship problems often fuel disputes and lead to an unnecessary escalating spiral of destructive conflict. Supporting the safe and balanced expression of perspectives and emotions for acknowledgment (not agreement) is one effective approach to managing relational conflict.
Data conflicts occur when people lack information necessary to make wise decisions, are misinformed, disagree on which data is relevant, interpret information differently, or have competing assessment procedures. Some data conflicts may be unnecessary since they are caused by poor communication between the people in conflict. Other data conflicts may be genuine incompatibilities associated with data collection, interpretation or communication. Most data conflicts will have “data solutions.”
Interest conflicts are caused by competition over perceived incompatible needs. Conflicts of interest result when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her needs, the needs and interests of an opponent must be sacrificed. Interest-based conflict will commonly be expressed in positional terms. A variety of interests and intentions underlie and motivate positions in negotiation and must be addressed for maximized resolution. Interest-based conflicts may occur over substantive issues (such as money, physical resources, time, etc.); procedural issues (the way the dispute is to be resolved); and psychological issues (perceptions of trust, fairness, desire for participation, respect, etc.). For an interest-based dispute to be resolved, parties must be assisted to define and express their individual interests so that all of these interests may be jointly addressed. Interest-based conflict is best resolved through the maximizing integration of the parties’ respective interests, positive intentions and desired experiential outcomes.
Structural conflicts are caused by forces external to the people in dispute. Limited physical resources or authority, geographic constraints (distance or proximity), time (too little or too much), organizational changes, and so forth can make structural conflict seem like a crisis. It can be helpful to assist parties in conflict to appreciate the external forces and constraints bearing upon them. Structural conflicts will often have structural solutions. Parties’ appreciation that a conflict has an external source can have the effect of them coming to jointly address the imposed difficulties.
Value conflicts are caused by perceived or actual incompatible belief systems. Values are beliefs that people use to give meaning to their lives. Values explain what is “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong,” “just” or “unjust.” Differing values need not cause conflict. People can live together in harmony with different value systems. Value disputes arise only when people attempt to force one set of values on others or lay claim to exclusive value systems that do not allow for divergent beliefs. It is of no use to try to change value and belief systems during relatively short and strategic mediation interventions. It can, however, be helpful to support each participant’s expression of their values and beliefs for acknowledgment by the other party.
Life cycle of conflict:
Why conflict Management is important?
Social conflicts begin with one party wanting something that another party resists doing or providing. Conflicts cover a myriad of different circumstances that range from mundane tests of wills between parents and children, to conflicts between legal adversaries, to negotiations between sales agents and customers. Conflict management can be used to achieve consensus among individuals and groups and it can increase your understanding of differing points of views. You can learn to identify positive and negative effects of conflict, which can help you optimize your actions and understand difficult situations. Below are some poten- tially positive and negative aspects of conflict and how they can affect you and others.
Who can use conflict Management Techniques?
Anyone in The Conservation Partnership is potentially capable of learning how to constructively deal with conflict. You have to keep in mind that conflict situations should not be taken lightly. Resolving conflict is not a mechanical process in which applying steps “A” through “Z” guarantees a happy ending. Conflicts that are based on personalities or value systems may never be resolved but they could be minimized using conflict management approach.
Conflict management Styles and their Consequences:
Conflict is often best understood by examining the consequences of various behaviors at moments in time. These behaviors are usefully categorized according to conflict styles. Each style is a way to meet one’s needs in a dispute but may impact other people in different ways.
- Competing is a style in which one’s own needs are advocated over the needs of others. It relies on an aggressive style of communication, low regard for future relationships, and the exercise of coercive power. Those using a competitive style tend to seek control over a discussion, in both substance and ground rules. They fear that loss of such control will result in solutions that fail to meet their needs. Competing tends to result in responses that increase the level of threat.
- Accommodating, also known as smoothing, is the opposite of competing. Persons using this style yield their needs to those of others, trying to be diplomatic. They tend to allow the needs of the group to overwhelm their own, which may not ever be stated, as preserving the relationship is seen as most important.
- Avoiding is a common response to the negative perception of conflict. “Perhaps if we don’t bring it up, it will blow over,” we say to ourselves. But, generally, all that happens is that feelings get pent up, views go unexpressed, and the conflict festers until it becomes too big to ignore. Like a cancer that may well have been cured if treated early, the conflict grows and spreads until it kills the relationship. Because needs and concerns go unexpressed, people are often confused, wondering what went wrong in a relationship.
- Compromising is an approach to conflict in which people gain and give in a series of tradeoffs. While satisfactory, compromise is generally not satisfying. We each remain shaped by our individual perceptions of our needs and don’t necessarily understand the other side very well. We often retain a lack of trust and avoid risk-taking involved in more collaborative behaviors.
- Collaborating is the pooling of individual needs and goals toward a common goal. Often called “win-win problem-solving,” collaboration requires assertive communication and cooperation in order to achieve a better solution than either individual could have achieved alone. It offers the chance for consensus, the integration of needs, and the potential to exceed the “budget of possibilities” that previously limited our views of the conflict. It brings new time, energy, and ideas to resolve the dispute meaningfully.
By understanding each style and its consequences, we may normalize the results of our behaviors in various situations. This is not to say, “Thou shalt collaborate” in a moralizing way, but to indicate the expected consequences of each approach: If we use a competing style, we might force the others to accept ‘our’ solution, but this acceptance may be accompanied by fear and resentment. If we accommodate, the relationship may proceed smoothly, but we may build up frustrations that our needs are going unmet. If we compromise, we may feel OK about the outcome, but still harbor resentments in the future. If we collaborate, we may not gain a better solution than a compromise might have yielded, but we are more likely to feel better about our chances for future understanding and goodwill. And if we avoid discussing the conflict at all, both parties may remain clueless about the real underlying issues and concerns, only to be dealing with them in the future.
Six Steps to Manage A Potential Conflict
Step 1 — Diagnose the situation. Determine the conflict’s content and history. Evaluate personalities and positions.
Step 2 — Involve all parties. Be a skillful questioner by asking open-ended questions. Use processes that solicit discussion, opinions, information, priorities, etc. from all people.
Step 3 — Collect all information. There are many ways to gather information; e.g., use facts, historical records, data, maps, ideas from around the table, unbiased experts, and interviews. Remember, people’s feelings are just as real to them as facts.
Step 4 — Reinforce agreements. People who disagree often share some common goals and common values. Discover these common concerns and reinforce agreements. Write these agreements so that everyone can see them.
Step 5 — Negotiate disagreements. Disagreements are not negotiated until everyone understands the facts and feelings that caused the conflict. Review steps 1 through 4; list important disagreements; have everyone rank order their disagreements; begin with the smallest issue and work toward the largest.
Step 6 – Solidify agreements. Identify agreed upon solutions and offer compromises for unresolved issues. If a compromise cannot be reached, table the issue and move to the next issue; review any proposed agreements carefully so you are sure that everyone understands them.
Problem solving model
various models have been developed to provide a framework within which conflict negotiation can take place. One such model is the “Mountain Model”, where conflict negotiation is described as a high mountain that has to be climbed.
In this model, the conflict negotiation process starts at the bottom of the mountain and reaches the top only after the conflict has been handled and a solution developed in an “inclusive” way (for example, by taking the views and needs of both people in conflict into consideration, to find a solution that everyone feels comfortable with). A lot of analysis, creative thinking, and imagination are needed throughout the mountain climb to achieve the goal.
To reach the mountain top, the conflict process requires three main steps.
Example of a conflict situations:
In RMG sector, there was happened a great conflict between garments labors’ and garments’ owners’ in August’2010. The main issue of that conflict was poor wages structure.
More than 100 garment factories halted production in August’2010 as workers continued riot for cancelling new wages, stoking concern about the industry’s future.
The labour trouble, which has continued to rock the country’s two apparel hubs outside the capital, left more than 50 people injured and police said workers smashed dozens of factories and several vehicles at Jamgora in Ashulia.
Owners said they were forced to suspend operations for the day after thousands of workers went on the rampage, vendalising plants, putting up barricades and damaged vehicles on the roads. In Fatullah, workers clashed with police, which led to the suspension of several factories in the area as owners feared further trouble.
Workers of Pall-mall, Microfiber, Liberty, Mitsuwear and Cadtrex garment factories, all located in the city’s Katherpul area, started demonstrating inside their factories. They tried to come out of the factories, but the move was thwarted by armed police, deployed at factory gates. Most of the garment factories remained closed for the time being. Additional police forces were deployed in the area to avert any unwarranted situation. Personnel from the elite force Rapid Action Battalion were also patrolling in the areas. The workers also chanted slogans demanding immediate release of a union leader Manto Ghosh. The workers of Sonargaon’s Sinha and Opex factories also brought out demonstrations inside their factories. Jibon Kanti Sarker, chief of the Fatulla Model Police Station, said the police dispersed the agitators as they tried to obstruct the traffic on the highway. Hundreds of workers also staged demonstration at Mirpur in the capital but police cleared the street when workers assembled. President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Abdus Salam Murshedy said owners would be compelled to stay out of apparel business if the situation does not improve in the industrial belts. “We need security for our investment. Such vandalisms will shatter the image of the country and will force global retailers to change their destination,” he added. Meanwhile, two cases were filed against 10,000 workers with Ashulia police station last night on charges of vandalism and creating anarchy in the industrial hub. One filed by police and another one by general manager of Shed fashion The government Thursday announced news wages for the country’s three million apparel workers increasing their minimum monthly basic wages to 3,000 taka (43 dollars), up by 80.45 per cent from 1,662.50 (28 dollars). The union leaders and workers have rejected the salary-structure and demanded of 5,000 taka as minimum monthly wages with the effect from August 1 and warned of launching a nationwide shutdown unless their demand was met.
Analysis of this confliction:
- These confliction was a conflict that goes under the types of interest conflict. That means Conflicts of interest result when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her needs, the needs and interests of an opponent must be sacrificed. Interest-based conflict will commonly be expressed in positional terms. A variety of interests and intentions underlie and motivate positions in negotiation and must be addressed for maximized resolution. Interest-based conflicts may occur over substantive issues (such as money, physical resources, time, etc.); procedural issues (the way the dispute is to be resolved); and psychological issues (perceptions of trust, fairness, desire for participation, respect, etc.).
- This confliction stage or level was inter-group conflict. That means inter-group conflict occurs between two competing or distinct groups. Intergroup relations between two or more groups and their respective members are often necessary to complete the work required to operate a business. Many times, groups inter-relate to accomplish the organization’s goals and objectives, and conflict can occur. Some conflict, called functional conflict, is considered positive, because it enhances performance and identifies weaknesses. Dysfunctional conflict, however, is confrontation or interaction between groups that harms the organization or hinders attainment of goals or objectives.
Solutions to Intergroup Conflict
There are numerous choices available to circumvent conflict, to keep it from becoming damaging, and to resolve conflict that is more serious. These include simple avoidance where possible, problem solving, changing certain variables in the workplace, and in-house alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs. Any resolution method should depend on why the conflict occurred, the seriousness of the conflict, and the type. A face-to-face meeting, as in problem solving, can be very effective in conflicts of misunderstanding or language barriers. The groups can discuss issues and relevant information, with or without a facilitator, to reach resolution.
Where groups have differing goals, it may be prudent to establish some type of goal that can only be reached when the conflicting groups work together. A superordinate goal not only helps alleviate conflict, it focuses more on performance, which is what the organization needs to survive. A downside to this option is the identification of a common enemy of the conflicting groups, who must come together to prevail. Eventually, the solidarity crumbles and groups begin to again turn against each other.
Another stopgap solution to conflict is simply avoiding it. Although this does not resolve the problem, it can help get a group through a period of time, in which those involved may become more objective, or a greater, more immediate goal would have been met. Along those lines, another solution is smoothing the groups by focusing on common interests and de-emphasizing the differences between them. This approach is especially effective on relatively simple conflicts and is viewed as a short-term remedy.
Yet another quick fix is the authoritative command, where groups, who cannot satisfactorily resolve their conflict, are commanded by management. This response does not usually deal with the underlying cause of the conflict, which is likely to surface again in some way. This would probably be a choice of last resort in this era of individual independence and self-determination.
Although it is not always possible to change a person’s behavior, by focusing on the cause of the conflict and the attitudes of those involved, it will lead to a more permanent resolution. It is also possible to change the structural variables involving the conflicting groups, such as changing jobs or rearranging reporting responsibilities. This approach is much more effective when the groups themselves participate in structural change decisions. Without meaningful input, this resolution method resembles avoidance or forcing and is not likely to succeed, further frustrating all involved.
Any method or response to conflict, lost productivity, miscommunication, or unhealthy work environment can be reconstituted in many forms of ADR. Alternative dispute resolution should also be appropriate to the needs of those involved. It is crucial that the organization determines the needs of its stakeholders, the types of conflict that occur, and the conflict culture (how conflict is dealt with) within the organization before initiating an ADR program. Any program must allow for creativity, approachability, and flexibility if people are asked to utilize it. All employees should be aware or involved in the establishment of an ADR program, if it is to work properly. Without full involvement or input, needs assessment is hit or miss, and assumptions lead to actions, which lead to the same place you were before. This assumicide behavior by an organization’s leadership would not be tolerated in marketing a new product or acquiring a capital asset, so why are people less important?
Any collaborative process intended to address and manage intergroup conflict should have objectives to encourage it. In this major commitment of time and resources, success is its best reward, but to ensure an ADR approach suitable for you, it is important to:
- Build trust
- Clearly define participants’ roles and authorities
- Establish ground rules
- Promote leadership
- Bring a collaborative attitude to the table
- Maintain participant continuity
- Recognize time and resource constraints
- Address cultural differences and power imbalances
- Build accountability and organizational commitment
- Make this a consensus process
- Produce early measurable results
- Link decision making and implementation
- Promote good communication and listening skills
When an organization is creating a dispute resolution process, there are key factors to success:
- A critical mass of individuals who are committed to the process;
- A leadership group who perceive it in their best interest and the best interests of the people they serve;
- Strategic cooperation among historical enemies;
- Realistic and satisfactory outcomes;
- A moratorium on hostilities or conflict-seeking behavior.
There also are barriers to success:
- Fear of losing power;
- Unwillingness to negotiate;
- No perceived benefit;
- Corporate philosophy;
- Top leadership reluctance;
- Lack of knowledge about ADR;
- Lack of success stories.
Responsible measures to reduce barriers and encourage a true paradigm shift are training, incentives, marketing, periodic review, case studies, and top management support and participation. Facilitators trained in mediation and other forms of ADR are a necessary resource from outside or within the organization. The workplace of the new millennium will have in-house mediation or other conflict management programs to reduce formal claims and act as a risk management business practice.
Throughout the research, researchers had identified the consequences and the factors of intergroup conflict. From the literature review, researchers had found that those sources of conflict are also supported by other research done by other researchers. Besides that, researchers had identified the possible outcome of consequences of intergroup conflict which is positive consequences of intergroup conflict and negative consequences of intergroup conflict.
The understanding of the factors of intergroup of conflict and their relationship to organization performance is vital in the business world especially in Bangladesh. CEOs, managers and companies use to ignore or overlook the intergroup conflict that occurred. By understanding the factors of the intergroup conflict towards their organization performance, organization may be able to understand the importance of the management of the intergroup conflict.
Researchers found that power and status is the factor when two or more groups are perceived to differ in or compete for status and power, it may lead to feeling of threat and negative feelings. In addition, goal is another influential factor to the consequences of intergroup conflict. Goal incompatibility exists which the goals of two or more groups are in direct opposition that is one group accomplishes its goals at the direct expense of another group’s achieving its goals. The other factors like psychological distance, communication openness and leadership style also contribute to the negative consequences of intergroup conflict.
As a conclusion, the future studies of this field can add in more factors of conflict and others consequences of intergroup conflict. Groups can reduce the conflict when more factors and consequences been identified.
Article written by : Asad Saimon