Practical Application: Conflict Resolution Scenario

Instructor: Ashutosh Juneja

Ashutosh has over 18 yrs of exp. in managing business & IT teams. He holds a Bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Systems.

Are you dealing with workplace conflict? Are you frustrated with the lack of resolution? This activity provides insight into various workplace conflict scenarios and how to resolve those conflicts using leadership and communication skills.

Workplace Conflict

In any organization, conflicts can arise between co-workers, subordinates, managers or between employees and stakeholders. Conflicts result in poor productivity, attrition or even violence at a workplace. Resolving a conflict on a timely basis is the key management responsibility.

The following scenarios show three common workplace conflicts. For each, complete the Analysis activity after reading the scenario. Only then should you read the resolution examples.

Scenario 1: Interpersonal Conflict

Simon works as an engineer in a software firm and loves his job very much. He is hardworking and always on time at work. His co-worker Jimmy often comes late to work and tries to find loopholes, so he can do the least amount of work. Both work on the same project and report to the same supervisor. The company has a policy that if an employee comes late to work, he has to meet with his supervisor before starting work. One day Jimmy came in 40 minutes late to work. Out of concern, Simon reminded Jimmy about the company policy, stressing he should meet his supervisor. Jimmy got angry and told Simon that their supervisor will never know he was late. Jimmy continues to come late for the next few days. Upset with Jimmy's behavior, Simon decides not to talk to him. This is an interpersonal conflict between these co-workers.

Analysis

Let's analyze this situation. Obviously, Jimmy's behavior at work in unacceptable, but what about Simon's? Look at the following statements that summarize each of Simon's actions.

  • Simon did not confront Jimmy about using loopholes to get out of work.
  • Simon watched Jimmy be late often before he finally reminded him of the tardy policy at work.
  • Simon did eventually speak to Jimmy about the tardy policy.
  • Simon then watched Jimmy come in late for several days in a row, after this reminder. He said nothing else to Jimmy or a supervisor.
  • Simon refuses to speak to Jimmy anymore.

Do you think Simon did the right thing? For each action, state whether you agree with his decision or not. If you don't, what would you have done differently? What do you think would be the results? Respond to these questions before reading the following resolution.

Resolution Example

Interpersonal conflicts arise due to contrasting ethics, beliefs and values. At this stage, the difference in opinions must be discussed openly to come to a solution. In this case, Simon and Jimmy should sit together and share their thoughts and concerns. Simon is concerned about Jimmy's job and wants to ensure that he doesn't get fired for not following company's policy. Simon needs to allow Jimmy to share his reasons for coming late to work quite often. Both men should speak with respect and not out of anger. If a resolution is not possible between them, Simon should report Jimmy's behavior to their supervisor. He should include the tension between the two men and seek future actions to reduce it.

Scenario 2: Team-to-Team Conflict

Sana and Mike work in a cloud services firm. Sana is a part of development team and writes code for cloud applications. Mike's work is dependent on Sana's because he tests the applications, which puts him in a different department. Sana's performance is good, but most of the time she is unable to keep up with the timelines. This delay in her deliverables makes Mike work under pressure to finish his tasks on time. Due to this interdependence at the workplace, Mike gets upset with Sana when he doesn't receive the application code on time.

This is team-to-team conflict since it shows a failure in one's accountability towards another.

Analysis

Now let's analyze this scenario. Mike and Sana must work together, but how should he deal with Sana's faults? Write down your response to the following questions before reading the resolution.

  • Should Mike approach Sana directly before going to a manager? Why or why not?
  • How has a lack of communication made this situation worse?
  • How can Mike better use communication to resolve this issue? What should he say or not say?
  • At what point should Mike resort to going to a manager?

Resolution Example

Conflicts related to the interdependence of work often result if timelines are not followed by both the teams. This can be due to lack of communication between team members or by the manager(s) of each department. In such a scenario, it is required to listen to both the parties to understand the problem. Mike should first approach Sana directly to see if the issue can be resolved in a respective manner. If he is unsuccessful, then he needs to address the situation with his direct manager. Overall, this conflict could be due to lack of processes and acceptance criteria set by both teams or managers. Based on everyone's viewpoint, problem-solving options should be chosen to reach a fair agreement.

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