Conflict is all around us between individuals, groups, countries, co-workers, departments, families etc.; conflict exists and more often than not, people have a difficult time seeing how they contribute to a conflict (Kinicki & Fugate, 2018). In professional and academic settings, conflicts over work can escalate into personal conflict and a hostile environment even for third-party-observers. Once things become personal, it is easy for them to snowball into bullying and/or harassment (Kinicki & Fugate, 2018). While not all conflict is bad, as some conflict can be considered functional or constructive (Kinicki & Fugate, 2018) sustained conflict can lead to a decline in health and over-flow into non-work relationships (Kinicki & Fugate, 2018).
As a human resource coordinator, conflict-resolution is a regular part of the job. It is so common in fact, that it is difficult for me to come up with one specific “clean” example to site. Also, from a personal standpoint, conflict –work or personal—tends to create patterns and you can quickly see who is regularly caught in a matter of conflict. A “lighter” example is as follows. One of our managers (male) oversaw a team of seven engineers, six of whom were male. The manager “Bob” and his subordinate “Meg” could not communicate. One or the other way constantly in our office complaining about the other. Bob felt Meg didn’t do her work the way he wanted her to do it and in a timely fashion and Meg felt as though she was working very hard and being micromanaged and treated unfairly. When speaking to each individual, they were clearly frustrated and essentially did not want to work with one another. Each time, we would agree to communicate these grievances to the other employee and offer solutions to essentially understand than everyone is different. This when on for a few years and the two or three times that I sat down with them so that we could discuss the issue, both changed their tune and dialed back their frustrations, seemingly finding a resolution. After another month or so, one of them would be back in the office with the same complaints. Neither employee had committed any sort of punishable offense and separately, they were both respected and liked for the most part, but they simply could not understand one another’s differences nor communicate honestly and effectively. This profound lack of self-awareness and understanding for different thought-processes and work styles is very difficult to teach and the main component I have witnessed in employee conflict, work or personal. I have learned that the more blame a person attempts to put on another, the less in touch they seem to be with themselves. If we all the time to be careful in our actions and words, it would be easier to find harmony and happiness with one another and even with ourselves. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart” Proverbs 21:2 (“Bible Gateway passage: Proverbs 21 – English Standard Version”, 2018).
Decision making plays a huge part in the workplace. It is viable in every function of an organization. Currently, on my team, I notice that there is bad and/or ineffective decision making made by my manager. The manager on my team does not make any decisions that benefit the team regarding growth and/or increasing the team’s morale. He likes to avoid making difficult decisions. My manager adapts the Simon’s Normative Model for decision making. According to Kinicki and Fugate (2018), this process is lead by decision maker’s bounded rationality (p. 427). “Bounded rationality represents the notion that decision makers are “bounded” or restricted by a variety of constraints when making decisions” (Kinicki & Fugate, 2018, p. 427). In other words, I get the impression that the minimum is good enough for him, as he does the bare minimum for the team. If the team experiences any issues, he determines a solution at that current time just to reduce conflict, whether the conflict is negative or positive. Ceschi, Demerit, Sartori, and Weller (2017) stated that, “being reflective and gathering enough information before making decisions, relying on sense of self-determination when critically evaluating options and being mindful in relation to choice consequences, all these skills should be able to address toward long-term outcomes.” This further proves that the immediate since of decision making just to get rid of the issues is not a viable, long-term solution that will produce long term rewards.
Conflicts in the workplace can be very beneficial. When some people hear the word, conflict, they think negatively of the situation(s) at hand. However, conflict can be very useful. It provides a chance to learn and hear other people’s perspective of various issues. There are two types of conflicts, functional and dysfunctional. Dysfunctional conflict involves the disagreements that can endanger or weaken an organization’s interests (Kinicki & Fugate, 2018, p. 381). Effective management can determine whether the outcome of a conflict is good or bad. There are many causes of dysfunctional conflicts that involve communication and management. In my current workplace, communication and management are most definitely the main two causes on my team. My manager likes to avoid concerns that are valid, and by avoiding the concerns, it gives off the impression that he doesn’t care or provide adequate support for his team. The first stage of the conflict process touches on communication, structures, which is set up to discourage big picture thinking, and personal variables which refer to personality conflicts (“Power, Conflict” nd.). Therefore, in this instance, the conflicts normally escalate before it gets to the other stages of conflict. According to Kinicki and Fugate (2018), there are many ways to escalate conflicts which are, tactic changes, growth in the number issues, movement in issues from specific to general, growth in the number of parties, and the changing of goals (p. 381). All of these factors involve management and communication. Aside from dysfunctional conflict, functional conflict is very effective. As stated previously, there is a lot to gain from positive conflicts. It shows maturity and professionalism in the workplace. The respect for each individual in a conflict is very clear. However, it is understandable why people prefer to avoid conflict, due to possible anger, fear of rejection, fear of failure, and other reasons (Kinicki & Fugate, 2018, p. 382). With appropriate management, these reasons can be avoided and monitored throughout the discussion.
Everything must be done decent and in order. Every decision made in the workplace as well as every conflict held in the workplace should be handled with ethical practices, with the fairness of each employee involved in mind. God demanded fairness in his business affairs. According to the bible, “A just weight and balance are the LORD’s: all the weights of the bag are his work” (Proverbs 16:11, King James Version). This is stating that God worked in fairness and set his standard on how the business should be orchestrated. This should be the same behavior followed in the workplace. Although standards are in place in most organizations, they should be enforced. Managers and/or other decision makers should ponder whether they are being fair and logical during decision making as well as during the mediation of conflicts.