Informal Conflict Resolution:A Workplace Case Study

 

team conflict case study

Oct 17,  · How to deal with workplace conflicts - Develop your personality and business skills. - Duration: Skillopedia - Skills for the real world , views. Oct 20,  · Team Conflict: A Case Study. Conflict can manifest itself in a variety of forms and to varying degrees, but the causes often include differences between expectations, goals, values and personality styles. When conflict escalates to the point where a supervisor needs to get involved, the situation has often gotten to a critical stage. Workplace Conflict Case Study – The War Within Workplace Conflict – Resolving a corporate departments “warring factions” The Situation. The workplace conflict concerned a departmental team of 12 people. The relationship between the team leader and the department manager was so damaged they only spoke to each other through third parties.


Case Studies: Examples of Conflict Resolution


Conflict resolution practice has largely focused on conflict taking place in public, as if it was set on a theater stage with an audience watching the interactions unfold. In reality, conflict plays out behind the scenes, unobserved by the conflict analysts and system designers. Kolb and Bartunek, editors of Hidden Conflict in Organizationsbring to light the dynamics of informal conflict resolution.

In this context, informal conflict resolution is defined as resolution facilitated by organizational members through other means than the formal processes of grievances, investigations and litigation Kolb and Bartunek, These informal conflict resolvers make a significant impact upon organizations either by resolving the conflict or channeling it to a formal mechanism.

Informal conflict resolution often takes a nonrational approach Kolb and Bartunek,p. Kolb and Bartunek describe this approach as accenting "the unconscious or spontaneous aspects of disputing, ones that are driven by impulse and the feelings of participants and not simply their cognition"p.

Therefore, emotions are seen as a means of conflict management rather than a hindrance to conflict management Kolb and Bartunek, In essence, Kolb and Bartunek are attempting to reclaim emotion as a valid expression in conflict resolution, and that expressing emotion does not necessarily imply a loss of reason.

Furthermore, they imply that the formal methods of conflict resolution favor the rational over the emotional. Retrieving the power and validity of emotion that was tossed along the wayside during the Age of Reason, is needed to gain a holistic picture of conflict dynamics. But it also needs a caveat; team conflict case study intense emotion can cause reactivity that clouds team conflict case study way to resolution.

From a family systems perspective, "the problem that triggered the emotions is never addressed; emotions are merely generated and circuited and recircuited through the system Gilbert, In the context of family systems theory, emotions are neither bad nor good.

What matters is the level of intensity of emotion and the duration in which it occurs, team conflict case study. While the family systems approach may seem to conflict with Kolb and Bartunek's validation of emotion as a conflict resolution tool, the two ideas are actually complimentary.

The intense emotion, otherwise called anxiety, calls attention to the need for resolving a conflict that may not be expressed publicly. Once the cause of the anxiety is identified and emotions expressed, team conflict case study, people can think more clearly and be better equipped to solve the problem.

The following workplace conflict illustrates this continuum of emotion and its intersection with cognitive reasoning. It also highlights the important role an Ombudsman can play in uncovering and working through emotion, paving the way toward resolution. In a large publishing company in New York, a young woman, Laura, was hired as a copy editor for one team conflict case study the many journals produced by the company.

Seven other employees worked on this team editing this Journal, including a team conflict case study editor named Tim. Laura had worked there for about a month when she and her fellow co-workers went for happy-hour after team conflict case study. Everybody had a great time and had consumed a fair amount of alcohol.

When everybody was leaving the bar to head home, Tim, who had been secretly attracted to Laura since she started work at the journal, hailed a cab and offered to share the ride with Laura. Laura accepted the offer.

Once she was inside the cab, Tim then suddenly made an aggressive sexual advance toward her. Horrified, Laura pushed him away and told him to get out of the cab. Mortified, Tim slinked out of the cab.

The next day, Laura came to work with some apprehension. How would she deal with Tim? Would the cab incident affect her job? Although Tim did not supervise her, would he try to get team conflict case study fired? Tim immediately went to her office and apologized for his extremely inappropriate behavior in the cab.

Relieved at his apology, Laura decided not to pursue the matter through any formal channels in the office. She figured that since Tim apologized, there was no need to dwell on the incident. After all, Laura was a new employee, still in the process of learning the office politics and proving herself as being a competent editor. She did not want to rock the boat or bring negative attention to herself. Everything would have been okay if Tim had stopped at just one sincerely expressed apology.

However, whenever he found himself alone with Laura, Tim apologized again. And again. He said he was sorry about the incident at every opportunity he had for three months. This constant apology was awkward and annoying to Laura.

Ironically, by Tim apologizing continuously for his unwanted attention in the cab, he was foisting another form of unwanted attention upon Laura.

When he first started apologizing, Laura told him that "it was okay". After three months of many apologies, she reached a point where she asked him to stop apologizing, to no avail. Frustrated, team conflict case study, she confided in a few co-workers about her unusual dilemma. Consequently, these co-workers lost respect for Tim.

Although the cab incident was not common knowledge in the office, Tim sensed that others knew about it by the way they interacted with him, team conflict case study.

The incident became the office "elephant" that the employees "in the know" saw, but didn't explicitly acknowledge. Meanwhile, Laura was tired of hearing Tim apologize and her feelings of discomfort team conflict case study. So when another editor position opened up in another journal division of the company, she applied for the job and was transferred to the other team conflict case study. In her new position, she didn't have Tim bothering her anymore.

But she was unhappy with her new job. The journal material was very boring. She didn't work as well with her co-workers as she did in the previous journal excepting Tim. She realized that she really enjoyed her old job. She began to regret her decision to avoid the conflict with Tim by moving to the new job. In an effort to seek advice as to how to solve her problem, Laura decided to consult with the company ombudsman.

The initial cause of the conflict, the sexual advance in the cab, occurred in a private enclosed setting. Sexual overtures are inherently private, but the consequences were played out in the public context of the office.

And, as Bartunek at al. Informal, team conflict case study, private conflict handling is generally manifested through nonrational expression, such as gossip, strong emotion, and passive-aggressive behavior Bartunek et al. As seen in the conflict between Laura and Tim, in the privacy of their instances of being alone together, "nonrational discourse dominates" and "members find ways to express their disagreements with each other" ; consequently, "these means have substantial - though hidden - impacts on the course of public conflict" Bartunek et.

Tim's apologies became a non-rational expression conveyed privately to Laura. In kind, Laura responded through informal, private means. And the private interactions had a detrimental impact upon the office environment. In fact, the primary reason Laura came to the Ombudsman for advice was that the conflict was private, and she wanted team conflict case study share her problem in confidence.

The Ombudsman's role is well suited to informal conflict handling, team conflict case study. Unlike formal complaint resolution process, the Ombudsman maintains confidentiality of the problem unless given express permission to do otherwise.

Hence, the Ombudsman can exercise more informal dispute resolution options, such as listening, providing and receiving information, reframing issues and developing options, role-playing and shuttle diplomacy Rowe, M. In doing so, an Ombudsman can be a calming influence that enables people to think through their problem. Particularly with situations where people feel harassed, the Ombudsman can offer more options than the formal grievance process. Consequently, these people need employers "to provide many different access people and different options open to the choice of complainants, including the option of learning on a confidential basis how to deal directly with harassers" p, team conflict case study.

The issue of power in the case of Laura and Tim is a large underlying factor, which has influenced the turn of events. Laura certainly felt powerless. Tim's aggressive sexuality displayed in the cab, as well as his underlying assumption that his sexual advance would be welcomed by Laura, reveals the inequities placed upon women in our male-dominated society.

A woman in Western society is sexualized as an object; whereas, a man is rarely treated in such a way Team conflict case study, Hence, Laura was confronted with Tim's narcissistic assumption that she would be happy to receive his attentions, along with the male ideology of claiming women as objects of desire.

This power imbalance was then carried into the sexual politics of the workplace. Connell states that "power may be a balance of advantage or an inequality of resources in a workplace, a household, or a larger institution"p. While Laura certainly felt indignant at Tim's behavior, her main concern the next day was preserving her reputation and team conflict case study her job. Laura was worried about maintaining a neutralized sexuality in the office environment, fearing a reputation of being sexually "easy".

Such a label would effectively overshadow any power that she could assert through knowledge or skill, team conflict case study. Consequently, Laura chose not to risk placing herself in a position to be unfairly labeled by the office power structure even though Tim's offensive and boorish behavior invaded her sense of security and confidence.

She resisted reporting Tim's inappropriate behavior because she didn't want to be perceived as complicitous. In analyzing this scenario, Laura and Tim are subtly negotiating for power.

Following the cab incident, Laura and Tim were implicitly negotiating for maintaining their own credibility in the workplace. Laura and Tim's interactions imply a testing of what each of them value. Both value their reputation in the office.

Otherwise, Tim wouldn't feel compelled to apologize in an effort to "check" on Laura's feelings about him to gauge her inclination to blab about him in the office. If Laura wasn't concerned about her reputation and standing within the office, she may have told the director about the cab incident.

Both are testing the waters of their professional standing. Both wanted others to view them with respect. The predominant value claimer is Tim.

Not only did he try to "claim" Laura in the cab, but through his repeated apologies, claimed the value of a non-anxious work environment and Laura's peace of mind. His apologies were a form of the power of persistence, which caused Laura to question his motives. Furthermore, Tim's persistent apologies impinged upon Laura's personal boundary and made her feel that he was asking for more than forgiveness.

Tim's apologies could be seen as a way to manipulate Laura into not informing the director or other co-workers about the cab incident.

 

Case Study: Resolving Serious Conflict between Team Members - Gina Abudi

 

team conflict case study

 

Case Study: Departmental Conflict in a Corporate Environment distributed and re-signed by all staff, a commitment to conduct monthly one-on-one feedback sessions with staff, and finally, a review and formalization of the team leader and department manager responsibilities with performance measures defined. The Result. Workplace Conflict Case Study – The War Within Workplace Conflict – Resolving a corporate departments “warring factions” The Situation. The workplace conflict concerned a departmental team of 12 people. The relationship between the team leader and the department manager was so damaged they only spoke to each other through third parties. This case study talks about how to resolve conflicts with project team members to get the project back on track and ensure the team works together well going forward.