Monday, October 24, 2011

Case Study: Conflict Resolution in the Workplace


Having the position of manager in any field of work requires a deep understanding of responsibility and strong organizational communication skills.  You are in charge of leading a team of, at least, a handful of people, as well as making sure to always set a positive example.  That being said, conflict situations are almost always likely to occur, and it is your job as the department manager to alleviate these situations and take the necessary actions required.  In the case study provided, all of the skills mentioned previously must be utilized to ensure a positive outcome.  Throughout the following paper I will describe how I would approach the employee who the conflict pertains to, anticipate their response, and analyze which conflict resolution techniques I would use to reach the best outcome for all parties involved.

It is important to approach the employee in a non-hostile manner, as well as privately.  I would ask them to meet me in my office for a meeting, making sure that there are no other employees around when I do so.  This is done privately and quietly because I would not want other employees to know about the meeting.  Word in the office travels fast, and the last thing I would want to do is make the employee uncomfortable by being the topic of gossip for others.

The meeting itself would take place behind closed door in my office, ensuring the privacy of the conversation.  First, I would start the meeting by praising them for the good things that they have accomplished in their two years of service to the company and me.  Then, I would bring to their attention the numerous complaints made by customers and other employees.  This lets the employee know that I do not only have a negative opinion about them, as well as eases some of the tension that could arise from me only pointing out their faults.  Because this employee has displayed confrontational behavior before, I would use the STLC technique to resolve the conflict. This technique translates to stop, think, listen, and communicate. Stop and think are important steps because they allow me to gather my thoughts, and think about the conflict from both sides of the situation. The listening step is the point where I hear the employee’s side of the story. Last, would be the communication step. This is where I communicate to them what needs to be done, and how we can both find a positive resolution (Abigail & Cahn, 2011). Before I issue my ultimatum to them, I would ask them their thoughts and reasoning behind the recent complaints, substandard performance, and hostile outbursts.  Once I have listened to their side of the story, I can make a better judgment on how to communicate to them what needs to be done.  If the employee understands that I am trying to help them succeed and continue their career in the company, they will be more likely to comply.  My ultimatum to them would be to enroll in some training programs to further their expertise in our company’s services, and to work with me personally on how to best handle customers positively and professionally.  Doing this allows the employee to now only look at me as a superior, but as a “coach” as well. I would also have them apologize to those they have had personal conflict with in the office, and put what has happened behind them.  If improvement is not made within a certain time frame, then termination would have to be the next step.

Conflict resolution in the workplace can be challenging, but is a necessary role for anyone in a management position. It is important to let employees who are having problems with their work and coworkers to know that you are there to help them improve, but have expectations that need to met. A successful conflict resolution can lead to a better workplace environment, as well as more productivity for the company. Using the STLC technique can not only solve a conflict, but help employers and employees communicate easier in the future.

Cahn, D.D., & Abigail, R.A. (2007). Managing conflict through communication (4th ed.). Boston, MA.

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