Workplace Conflict Case Study – The War Within
Workplace Conflict – Resolving a corporate departments “warring factions”
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.
The group was split into two warring factions – one group behind the team leader, the other siding with the department manager with a few members remaining neutral. There was a perceived favouritism with respect to approval of leave, training and allowances. There had been no performance appraisals for two years, and two staff members had been on stress leave for five weeks.
Problems had been investigated, discussed and not solved to anyone’s satisfaction by senior management for two years.
ProActive Resolutions Response
ProActive Resolutions was brought in to help address and remedy the situation with the goal of creating a long term, sustainable solution that was accepted by everyone involved in the workplace conflict.
ProActive Resolutions conducted a TJA conference – essentially a facilitated conversation among a community of people affected by a given situation – to try and get to the root of what was causing the workplace conflict, develop an workplace conflict resolution action plan and to oversee the implementation of the plan.
Prior to the TJA conference, ProActive conducted voluntary interviews with each of the 12 team members. These interviews revealed the key underlying issues and the nature of the conflicts between various team members. The interviews revealed that all 12 team members had been involved with the workplace conflict to some extent.
During the conference, it became evident that the root cause of the workplace conflict could be traced back to leave approval procedures (where one member of the team had been given significantly more leave than others), the department managers style of interacting with department members and malicious gossip and emails.
By the end of the conference a detailed agreement (signed by every team member) was reached. It included the following commitments:
- Provide individual staff with needs analysis, training and coaching
- workplace policies would be re-distributed and re-signed by staff
- conduct monthly one-on-one feedback sessions with staff
- review and formalisation of the team leader and department manager responsibilities with performance measures defined.
After everyone agreed on the workplace conflict action plan, every step was carried out by the team within six month. The impact was immediate:
- There were no stress leaves taken in the first six months
- Overall staff turnover was reduced resulting in an annual savings of $160,000 for the organization
- Days and weeks spent managing workplace conflict were reduced to two hours a week reviewing team performance and providing constructive feedback to the team manager
Read more details about this case study in National Safety Magazine
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A Case Study on Conflict Management
A Case Study on Conflict Management
Shirley and Abdul both work for a software development company. The manager of the new product division was originally the leader of the project team for which she interviewed and hired Abdul. Shirley, another project team member, also interviewed Abdul, but strongly opposed hiring him for the project because she thought he was not competent to do the job.
Seven months after Abdul was hired, the manager left the project to start her own company and recommended that Abdul and Shirley serve as joint project leaders. Shirley agreed reluctantly?with the stipulation that it be made clear she was not working for Abdul. The General Manager consented; Shirley and Abdul were to share the project leadership.
Within a month Shirley was angry because Abdul was representing himself to others as the leader of the entire project and giving the impression that Shirley was working for him. Now Shirley and Abdul are meeting with you to see if you can resolve the conflict between them.
Shirley says: "Right after the joint leadership arrangement was reached with the General Manager, Abdul called a meeting of the project team without even consulting me about the time or content. He just told me when it was being held and said I should be there. At the meeting, Abdul reviewed everyone's duties line by line, including mine, treating me as just another team member working for him. He sends out letters and signs himself as project director, which obviously implies to others that I am working for him."
Abdul says: "Shirley is all hung up with feelings of power and titles. Just because I sign myself as project director doesn't mean she is working for me. I don't see anything to get excited about. What difference does it make? She is too sensitive about everything. I call a meeting and right away she thinks I'm trying to run everything. Shirley has other things to do?other projects to run?so she doesn't pay too much attention to this one. She mostly lets things slide. But when I take the initiative to set up a meeting, she starts jumping up and down about how I am trying to make her work for me."
Question Regarding This Conflict
1. Abdul and Shirley seem to have several conflicts occurring simultaneously. Identify as many of these individual conflicts as possible.
2. What are the possible ways to deal with the conflict between Abdul and Shirley (not just the ones that you would recommend, but all of the options)?
3. Given all the benefits of retrospection, what could or should have been done to avoid this conflict in the first place?
In this case scenario there are several issues between Shirley and Abdul. First and foremost, Shirley feels that Abdul is incompetent, thus her perceptions of his capabilities are skewed and there is a lack of respect to begin with. Shirley also seems to have an issue with titles and placement of authority (as Abdul mentions in his summation of the conflict).
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