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The Purposes and Means of Conflict Management at Work

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“Every unaddressed conflict wastes about eight hours of company time in gossip and other unproductive activities, says Joseph Grenny, co-founder of VitalSmarts, a training and organizational development company in Provo, Utah” (Lytle, 2015). Conflict is never an ideal or easy situation to deal with. Some people avoid it altogether. Whether an individual likes conflict or not, it often occurs in the workplace on a regular basis. This paper will discuss one such conflict which occurred in the workplace, how it was handled, and what could have been done differently.

Sometimes in the work place, individuals do not like to show others their job functions. This is sometimes referred to as being territorial or ensuring their job security. This causes problems, however, when a particular employee is out sick and nobody else knows how to complete a particular vital function to operations. ABC Company, as this particular company will be referred to in this paper, runs operations at a very fast pace. An employee who has been with the company for a few years at one point did not like to cross train the other employees in her job duties, as she was the only individual to perform these duties weekly over the period of the past year. Other employees had inquired as to how she performed the weekly deposit numerous times, to which she would reply that nobody else needed to know besides her and the management staff.

One day she had an accident and needed to be out of work for a couple of weeks. Nobody was able to readily jump in and take over. This created a conflict in that everybody blamed someone else for operations not running smoothly with her gone. Gossip spread and alliances formed. Work was not completed as efficiently as it should have been because rather than solving the conflict, the majority of employees and management wanted to blame each other instead. I cannot say that I chose anybody’s side in the conflict. I was disappointed to see the after effects of something that should have been avoided altogether if management had stepped in to ensure all employees were cross trained in other employees’ duties. The underlying problem was clearly the lack of preparation and planning as well as the lack of rapid response to slowed operations and conflict among the employees.

Eventually the management team stepped in to fill the gap in the duties not being fulfilled, and trained the employee’s replacement to take over while she was on leave. Operations picked up again, but nothing was ever the same. The blaming that occurred as well as the hostility the resulted made this particular company more difficult to work for. The employees were never quite the same toward each other. The main response used in this situation was avoidance initially and then denial. Principled Negotiation was not utilized in this conflict, but would have been more effective and efficient in solving the issues at hand. If Principled Negotiation had been utilized, all the emotions of the individuals would not have complicated the issue further. The initial emotions or feelings of the individual that did not want to share her duties with others would not have been so important to stop operations altogether in her absence.

The BATNA would have been for all the employees to be cross trained to fill in for one another in each other’s absence. The lack of a training plan within the company was not beneficial either. Through principled negotiation, a manager would have been able to determine this need, thus alleviating the hostility among the various employees as well as increased productivity. There cannot be an agreement if the parties involved in the conflict refuse to admit or accept that there is a conflict. If I were in a management position, I would have identified the conflict, and implemented a plan immediately to grow and learn from it. There are conflicts in the workplace every day, and whether we realize it or not, we all want to reach the best alternative for all parties involved. This creates the most growth, progress, and productivity.

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