According to Abeysekera (2007), conflicts between people are natural and human. In fact, it is inconceivable to have a situation that is free from conflicts. Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat (2011) defined conflict as an expressed struggle between interdependent people with apparent incompatible objectives or scarce resources in the presence of interference of one person by another. Individuals with no common objective or interaction rarely experience a conflicting situation. The ultimate cause of conflict might not be easily certain. Past bad encounters might build up to an extent that a trivial incident triggers off a major conflict. The response might not be relative to the alleged cause of the conflict. According to Bragger, Srednicki, Kutcher, Indovino, & Rosner (2005), negative conduct overdraws the emotional reserves making people vulnerable to conflict even over small matters. In this regard, this paper discusses the causes of conflicts. It achieves these objectives in two distinct parts. In the first part, the paper discusses conflict identification, ways of overcoming conflicts within organizations and the benefits of managing conflicts. The second part discusses the factors that need to be included in the creation of a framework for high performance working, and how these factors can be implemented in order to improve the performance of ABC limited.
Conflict Causes and Identification
It is extremely important to ensure that employees are getting along in order to guarantee that the goals of a project or a business are accomplished in time. Unluckily, sometimes, certain employees seem not to build a good rapport with each other. Consequently, it will be the responsibility of the manager or the team leader to identify the main causes of the conflict and try to come up with an effective solution before the entire business or project fails. It is the job of the manager or team leader to identify the conflict and find the possible solution. Being capable to detect the certain types of conflicts requires constant improvement on the part of a manager. There are various indications exhibited at the workplace that justify the presence of a conflict.
The first indication is that employees in conflicting environment display different objectives. According to Rau & Hyland (2002), employees that get along with each other have a clear objective because each of them works towards the same common goal. From the case study, it is evident that different employees pursue different objectives. For instance, the business in China seems to be running independently of the UK business. In addition, the Directors of Operations, Finance and Sales have their own traditional approach to management and have secluded themselves from other employees. Employees working towards achieving two different goals will often have a problem communicating amongst themselves because each of them will believe that they are right
The presence of an unhealthy level of competition at the workplace is also an indication that there is a conflict (Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat, 2011). Competition can be a significant motivator, but not if competing employees take each other seriously, argue over information and suddenly become unproductive. Unhealthy competition usually results in conflicts.
Lack of clear definition of role will also show that employees are conflicting amongst themselves (Rau & Hyland, 2002). It is important for the manager to ensure that every employee or team member comprehends his or her tasks and knows how he or she is supposed to contribute to the overall achievement of the goal. According to Rau & Hyland (2002), failure to clearly define the roles of employees will make them develop a feeling that other employees or team members are not contributing to the overall outcome. This might also cause employees to perceive others as being excessively critical of the tasks they perform.
Workflow disruptions can show and be a cause of workplace conflicts (Abeysekera, 2007). There are times when one part of job cannot be accomplished without another part being accomplished first. This occurs when the parts of the job are dependent. For example, if the group accomplishing the first task is late or turns in a poor work, the second group will experience delays. This will always result in disgruntlement, resentment and uncomfortable workplace.
Communication breakdowns also show that employees are conflicting (Abeysekera, 2007). Conflicting employees will always relay pieces of information incorrectly. In some instances, employees might hold back certain pieces of information to sabotage other employees purposefully. Communication errors are a significant cause of workplace conflict. As such, it is prudent for the manager to ensure that all information is conveyed as effectively as possible. This will ensure that employees do not rely on others for crucial data. At ABC limited, minimal discussion and consultations on changes are some of the evidences of poor communications that cause conflicts.
Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) can be a significant approach in overcoming conflicts at the ABC (Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat, 2011). This instrument evaluates the behavior of employees in conflicting situations. Conflict situations, in this case, are situations in which the concerns of two employees seem not to be compatible. According to this instrument, the behavior of employees at ABC can be described according to two distinct dimensions: assertiveness and cooperativeness. Assertiveness refers to the level to which an ABC employee tries to satisfy his or her own concerns. On the other hand, cooperativeness refers to the extent to which ABC employees attempt to satisfy the concerns of others (Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat, 2011). These dimensions define the five basic mechanisms of overcoming conflicts at the workplace: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating. The scheme below shows the five basic mechanisms of overcoming conflicts and the two dimensions (Abeysekera, 2007).
Competing is an assertive, uncooperative and power-oriented mechanism of overcoming conflicts at the workplace. When using competing, employees pursue their own concerns at each other’s expense by deploying any source of power that seems appropriate. In this context, healthy competition implies that employees stand up for their rights and defend the position, which they believe is correct. Unhealthy competition causes conflicts whereas healthy competition alleviates competition (Bragger, Srednicki, Kutcher, Indovino, & Rosner, 2005).
The second mechanism proposed by TKI is collaborating. This mechanism is assertive and cooperative (Bragger, Srednicki, Kutcher, Indovino, & Rosner, 2005). Employees attempt to work with each other in finding a solution, which fully satisfies the concerns of both sides. Collaborating involves digging into the cause of a conflict in order to identify the fundamental concerns of the conflicting parties. It also involves finding alternatives, which fulfill the concerns of the conflicting parties. Collaborating mechanism might take the form of exploring a conflict to learn from the insights of each resolving some conditions that might, otherwise, have them competing for resources or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.
The third mechanism suggested by the TKI is compromising (Rau & Hyland, 2002). This mechanism is midway in both cooperativeness and assertiveness. When using compromising mechanism, employees have the objective of finding a mutually acceptable and expedient solution that partially fulfills the concerns of the conflicting parties. According to Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat (2011), this mechanism falls in the midway between accommodating and competing mechanisms. However, it gives up more competition than accommodation. Similarly, the mechanism deals with conflicts more straightforwardly than avoiding though it does not explore the conflict in as much depth as the mechanism of collaboration. Bragger, Srednicki, Kutcher, Indovino, & Rosner (2005) cited that compromising might imply separating the differences, seeking a quick middle-ground position or exchanging concessions.
Avoiding the method of overcoming conflicts is uncooperative and unassertive (Rau & Hyland, 2002). When using the avoiding mechanism, conflicting employees do not immediately pursue their own concerns or those of other employees. Employees do not deal with the conflict, but they avoid conflicting situations. Avoiding may take the form of postponing an issue until the best time, diplomatically sidestepping an issue or simply withdrawing from a conflicting situation.
The last method of regulating conflicts that Mike Jones should deploy is accommodating (Abeysekera, 2007). This method is unassertive and cooperative. According to Abeysekera (2007), it is actually the opposite of competing. When using this mechanism, Mike Jones should encourage conflicting employees to leave their own concerns and try to satisfy the concerns of others in order to prevent conflicting situations from happening. In this method, Employees of ABC Limited should self-sacrifice. Accommodating mechanism might take the form of charity, obeying another person’s order or yielding the point of view of another person.
The Benefits of Managing Conflicts to ABC Limited
The first benefit associated to conflict management is the building of stronger relationships among employees (Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat, 2011). Conflicts managed poorly frequently result in friction between employees, which possibly interfere with the working relationship. Mike Jones experiences difficulty in controlling meetings because of poor management of conflicts practiced by the company. This implies that he should deploy professional and respectful way of solving conflicts, which frequently strengthens the relationships between employees. Good conflict management will enables ABC employees to work in unison because they know how to deal with disagreements. Rather than insulting, fighting or ignoring one another, as depicted in the case study, employees who understand conflict management will always collaborate. The Directors of Finance, Operation and sales can collaborate and establish very strong relationships. Through collaborations, employees can establish strong working relationships at the workplace.
Good conflict management tends to improve problem-solving skills at the workplace (Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat, 2011). Conflict resolution skills among employees of ABC will enable them not only to resolve their own social and cultural problems but also workplace problems. This results in continuous workflow without a prolonged disruption, which goes unresolved. Staff that knows how to deal with conflicts are less likely to seek managerial help to solve each disagreement arising. Every employee has the ability to work efficiently because of the good conflict management skills.
The third benefit of good conflict management is the reduced tension among employees (Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat, 2011). Conflict can result in tension between employees of ABC if not addressed immediately. A conflict that goes unresolved results in tension and frequently spreads to other employees who were not initially involved. According to Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat (2011), if the conflicting parties refuse to listen to each other, they might find themselves against each other. They might drag other employees to choose sides. The tension as a cause of unresolved issues reduces the morale at the workplace and can interfere with workflow. By training employees, they can deal with conflicts on their own, and the overall tension declines resulting in a good working environment.
Factors to Consider When Creating a Framework for High Performance
The various factors that ABC limited should consider when creating a framework include the work environment, co-worker issues, personal issues, and job description skills. A poor work environment might be too hot, too cold, poorly ventilated, too dirty or too dark for employees to perform highly. Poor working conditions reduce the performance of employees. ABC limited should create or improve the working environment by installing air conditioners or maintaining proper hygiene. Constantly breaking down equipment or computers and software that are outdated interferes with the productivity of employees. The working environment at ABC limited, especially old computers, reduces the performance of the employees. The recent deployment of computers in some departments implied that the employees have been experiencing problems related to inefficiency. Employees in other departments cannot finish their tasks on time, which might result in conflicts, especially in business operations that highly depend on the condition of the equipment. In addition, the installation of computers in some of the departments might have caused other employees in other departments to feel undervalued. Consequently, they might not perform to their full potential.
Co-worker issues can determine the performance of employees. At ABC co-worker issues seem to be rampant, since the directors and other employees have distanced themselves. As such, ABC’s framework should put it into consideration. According to Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat (2011), the collaboration and social environment at work determines the performance. A working environment, which promotes teamwork, trust, collaboration and sharing of resources, is most likely to promote high performance. From the case study, it clear that the working environment does not promote teamwork. The businesses in China and UK related but seem to work separately. In addition, directors at ABC do not work as a team. Working environment in which employees are extremely competitive and suspicious of each other hinder high performance. For instance, the framework that ABC should minimize lost time, which employees might use to gossip each other. Gossip at the workplace is inherent; in fact, it is not realistic to have a gossip-free workplace environment. Such co-worker issues create a negative working condition that reduces working environment. The framework should foster friendship among employees, which can increase employees’ performance.
Personal issues are another factor that the framework adopted by ABC limited should put into consideration (Aslam, Shumaila, Azhar, & Sadaqat, 2011). As much as many managers anticipate their employees to abandon their personal life when coming to work, most of them carry their personal life to the workplace. Outside issues like family and marital matters, illnesses or financial struggle can significantly affect the performance of employees. Indeed, according to statistical sources, depression accounts for about 11 billion dollars in lost of productivity every year. The bottom line is that the time employees spend on personal issues is much more than the time spent on productive work.
The ultimate cause of conflict might be easily certain. Past bad encounters might build up to an extent that a trivial incident triggers off a major conflict. The ultimate cause of conflict might not be easily certain. It is extremely important to ensure that employees are getting along in order to guarantee that the goals of a project or a business are accomplished in time. The presence of an unhealthy level of competition at the workplace is also an indication that there a conflict. It is important for the manager to ensure that every employee or team member comprehends his or her tasks and how he or she is supposed to contribute to the overall achievement of the goal. Conflict management is significant when it comes to improving problem-solving skills, reducing tension at the workplace, and creating stronger working relationships. The various factors that ABC limited should consider when creating a framework include the work environment, co-worker issues, personal issues, and job description skills.