Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Aslong as there are people with differing opinions, morals, values, and desires,among many other factors, there will be conflict. It exists everywhere; inpolitics, with countries waging war; in families, with people not talking toeach other for decades, even; in friendship circles, where petty arguments can escalateinto a broken relationship; and last but not least, at the workplace, which iswhere most people spend an average of 90,000 hours in their lifetimes (Pryce-Jones, 2011). According to the University ofAberdeen, workplace conflict can be categorised in two ways; substantive conflictand personality conflict. Substantive conflict basically refers to task-relatedconflict regarding decisions and ideas. Personality conflict has more to dowith emotions and the consequences of perceptions about someone’s ideas orvalues.
While there is nothing to be done that can permanently preventconflict, there are many ways people can deal with it. A survey conducted byCPP Global in 2008 claimed that employees in frontline roles experienced themost conflict. In the case study, Nick can be considered a frontline staff, ashe interacts with customers. This essay will evaluate and discuss the causes ofthe conflict he has faced, and what he could have done to make things betterfor himself.
From the case study, it is evident that Nick’sdecision to resign is due to a combination of both. There were many causes ofconflict that led to his decision, with unpredictable policies, subparperformance and interpersonal relationships (Joseph),in addition to unfair expectations (Beckwith, 2016),among many others; but most of them fall under the following root causes: poorcommunication, poor performance, and incompetent management (Joseph); and a lack of common understanding due todiffering values and goals. The conflict in the case study stems from twosources- interpersonal, which is a predominant reason for conflict in theworkplace; and organisational, which relates to things like hierarchy and powermanipulation (Donais, 2006). Poor communication is one of the main causesof conflict in the case study. It is a substantive organisational reason forconflict because it deals with the inability to properly communicate at theworkplace, which may affect tasks and interfere with goal attainment. Reasonsfor poor communication relevant to the case study include unclear goals andduties, disengaged employees, limited feedback, and lack of leadership (Brookins). In Nick’s case, it is mentioned that he wasnot provided with guidance on how to fulfil his duties.
His responsibilities werevague. He was also subjected to limited feedback from his supervisors, asevidenced from how he went to them for help but was not attended to properly,and this occurred multiple times. When he tried to improve things he was also disregarded.This continuous dismissal created uncertainty in Nick, which lowered his moraleand affected his identity goals and relationship goals as his initiative wasnot appreciated and his relationship with his colleagues deteriorated (Struzinki, 2016). Some effects of poor communicationinclude lower efficiency, demoralisation, and decreased innovation (Writing). The lack of proper communication impactedhis motivation and led to his frustration with his work, which resulted in himbeing disengaged. Disengagement lowers the likelihood of good customer service(Brookins), and this was obvious in the way hetreated his customers. The absence of appropriate leadership will be discussedmore in depth in the following paragraph, but it is also a reason for poorcommunication because of the inability of the leaders to aid Nick in hisstruggles at the workplace.
Nick had to deal with an incompetent managementteam, which is once again a substantive organisational reason for conflict. Incompetentmanagement can cause tension and conflict at the workplace (Root III). There was obvious power play andmanipulation (Beckwith, 2016) displayed in thecase study, regarding how the AM and SM treated Nick in a way that made himfeel insignificant.
The company in the case study appears to have adopted ahierarchical structure where the flow of information is downwards (Morgan, 2015), and this can be seen in how the SM, AM,and Nick interacted. The management style also seems to fall under theimpoverished category in the organisational development grid where there islittle concern for both production and people (Blakeand Mouton, 1964), considering how there was no regard for Nick’swellbeing and how there was no desire to listen to alternatives proposed by himto make things better. There is abuse of legitimate power by the AM in the wayhe took advantage of his higher position to avoid doing work or helping Nickout with customers. Unpredictable policies can lead to confusion because thestaff may wonder why the change has taken place (mindtools); in the scenario, Nick is baffledabout the ineffectiveness of the roster system. Even when Nick suggestedways to improve the system, his contributions were not taken intoconsideration, which is not how a good management system should operate. The third cause of conflict is poorperformance, which deals with personality and interpersonal relations. Poorperformance can be due to unclear responsibilities and weak interpersonal relationships(Sullivan), conflicting perceptions, styles, andneeds (Gatlin, Wysocki, Kepner, Farnsworth, &Clark, 2016) and/or supervisor vs employee dynamics (Joseph). Nick was constantly at odds with the AMbecause of the lack of help provided for him.
Nick’s colleagues also appearedto be under compliance conformity since they did not speak up during meetingsdespite disagreeing with the establishment due to fear. The rejection of hisideas and isolation from his colleagues affected his belonging and esteem needsaccording to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (McLeod, 2017).This resulted in decreased motivation, which led to poor performance from Nick,but the poor performance is also from the AM and SM who, as mentioned in theabove paragraph, do not seem to possess good leadership abilities. It isimportant for the authority figures to ensure staff well-being and make suretheir voices are heard. The supervisor-employee dynamic can be linked to thenext point.
There was a lack of common understandingdue to a difference in values and goals in the case study. This has to do withpersonality and interpersonal relations once more. This situation can beexplained using the frustration-anger-aggression hypothesis, which is drawnfrom the frustration-aggression theory proposed by Dollard and Doob, et al (1939),and further developed by Miller (1948) and Berkowitz(1969). The basic idea of this theory is that people get frustrated whentheir goal attainment process is interrupted, and they try to take thatfrustration out on whoever they can hold accountable for that; if they cannot,they will take it out on someone else who is available (Folarin). This is evidenced in the case study when Nick gets ventshis frustration on his customers, when that frustration is probably a result ofthe treatment he has received from his management since starting at the company.Nick’s values and goals lie more in doing a good job; he seems to be more taskoriented, but the AM’s values and goals seem questionable as he appears to havesomething against Nick and refuses to help him. Nick’s conflict resolution style is amixture of compromising, accommodating and avoiding. According to the Thomas-Kilmannmodel, to compromise is to seek a middle ground solution; to accommodate is to havehigh concern for others to the point of neglecting themselves; and to avoid isto not deal with the conflict (Thomas and Kilmann, 1974).
Nick tried compromising when he took initiative to do something about thesystem he disagreed with instead of just complaining but not doing anythingabout it. He accommodated the AM and SM for a short period of time at first,when he did not say anything about the AM not helping him. By resigning, he isavoiding the conflict. His conflict resolution style could have changed to benefithimself more; he could have been more assertive in requesting guidance. Nick could have tried collaborating byfollowing the six steps of collaboration in sequence; preparing forinteraction, initiating the exchange, facilitating the relationship, understandingthe interests, examining the solution, and reaching a consensus (Bhushan). He could have made more of an effort to liaisonwith the SM and AM about his concerns. However, majority of the conflict roseas a result of Nick’s mistreatment at the office.
Thus, strategies such asnegotiation and collaboration may not have worked in his favour because themanagement may not have been open to his point of view. Nick could have also attempted to repairthe relationship between himself and his colleagues so that he would have hadmore support in dealing with his superiors. It is also important for him to havefocused on the problem and not the individual (Smith, 2017). The problem wasthe AM’s values and It can be said that the underlying cause ofconflict is interpersonal relations because of Nick’s relationship with the AMand SM. When relationship conflict is high, the people involved tend to be morestressed and anxious, which decreases productivity, satisfaction, and desire towork in the same group (Wayne, 2005). This wasall evident in the case study. Resolving interpersonal conflict can be morechallenging, because it really depends on the parties involved, how self-awarethey are, and how willing they are to resolve the conflict.
Therefore, perhapsNick could have taken the time to reflect on himself and his actions to gain adeeper understanding on how the issues could have been dealt with in otherways. To conclude, the reasons for Nick’sresignation from the company are not as easily categorised as they originallyseem. There are many in-depth issues with the leadership that led to conflict,and they can all be linked to one another due to the nature of the situation. Thatbeing said, there are a couple of strategies Nick could have utilised toimprove his experience; he could have also raised his concerns with the HRdepartment. However, since the conflict appears to have started with themanagement, seeing how that particular division has the highest attrition rate,and how Nick seems to be victimised in this situation, perhaps it is best forhim to have left the company to protect his mental and emotional health.
He shouldnot have to lose his job, but in the long run, it is not worth it for him towork in such a place where he feels unappreciated, and in a way his resignationis also a resolution to the conflict.