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Conflict Description (according to RT’s reports)
In November 2012, on retailer’s Black Friday, many Walmart employees went on nationwide strike, standing for better payment and working conditions.
“For the first time in Walmart’s 50-year history, workers at multiple stores walked off their jobs to go on strike. Walmart’s 1.4 million US employees are not protected by a labor union and have recently filed more than 20 charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB).” (RT 2012). So, when the retailer opened the stores on Black Friday to start sales at 8 p.m. on Thursday, a lot number of workers left their workplaces to go on strike. The protesters demanded a minimum $13 hourly pay, more of full-time work, with more affordable level of healthcare.
Some days before the Black Friday shopping events, the retailer refused to satisfy wishes of strikers, stating that few protesting people have not much impact on their sales. However, some of the protesters felt some injustice – Monique Velasquez, an employee who joined protesters before Black Friday sales, experienced cutting their weekly working hours from 30 to 8. As a single mother of 5 children, she was really unable even to pay bills with such salary.
Furthermore, according to RT, “Walmart’s human resources department violated the National Labor Relations Act by instructing store managers to threaten workers with termination and disciplinary actions if they participate in the strikes.” (RT 2012). These unfair actions caused increasing the level of protests all across the USA, - the strikes at Walmart were scheduled by the workers in WashingtonD.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee, Sacramento, San Francisco, California and Seattle, and protests started in Friday early morning.
The Key Issues of the Conflict
The key issues of this conflict are:
1. The reason of the conflict: Walmart’s workers were not satisfied with working conditions, payment for work and schedules.
2. The conflict started in the night, when a lot of sales were planned by a giant Walmart.
3. Walmart was not ready to give an ethically and legally correct response to its workers’ actions. Instead of fast negotiations, which were required at the initial stage of the conflict, some workers were punished for participation in strikers.
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4. Bad response from the side of Walmart, caused rising the strikes movement. Walmart rulers’ actions caused many negative commentaries in press, media and Internet, - it damaged the global company’s image.
Conflict Resolving Legally and Ethically Correct
According to various researchers, there are a lot of productive ways of resolving conflicts at the workplace. According to Coltri, they may be divided to cooperative and competitive (Deuthsch’s theory), constructive and destructive. (Coltri 2010). Every resolving of a conflict starts with understanding a problem. In Walmrt’s case, strikes started with workers’ dissatisfaction with their salary and working conditions, schedules. At the initial stage, the company’s chiefs had to find compromise by negotiations with their workers. Instead, they just waited until the strikes started, and after they punished workers who supported street strikes. Walmart’s chiefs really did nothing at all, in order to find compromise before strikes started, though they knew very well about workers’ dissatisfaction.
Walmart’s conflict could be resolved through such rules (MindTools 2013):
1. Setting the scene of a conflict.
In the process of setting the scene of a conflict, the Walmart’s chiefs had to listen first, clarifying the problems and needs of their workers. In no case using submissive and aggressive style was required. Thereafter, in talking reasonable approaches in speech were desirable.
2. Gathering Information.
At this stage, it had to be founded out, if strikes could affect the company’s image, customer’s satisfaction, atmosphere in markets, team work, decision-making process and more. Then chiefs had to listen with empathy to their workers, identifying the main problems they had to deal with. Personalities had to be left out of the discussion; working issues only are preferable in speech. Clarifying the feelings was desirable as well.
3. Agreeing the Problem.
Sometimes different people can have different perception of a problem. In Walmart’s case, chiefs had to agree problems, or at least understand the striker’s problem perceptions.
4. Brainstorm Possible Solutions.
Brainstorm possible solutions are unexpected extraordinary solutions. Both parties of the conflict had to be ready and opened for unique solutions, which could be applicable to their conflict situation.
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This final stage of the conflict resolving has a very significant impact on further conflict development or end. Both parties of the Walmart’s conflict had to find a compromise, better according to win-win negotiations theory, when every party of the conflict is satisfied with solution. In the process of negotiations, it is important not only to speak but also listen, being calm and patient, have mutual understanding, respect and trust. In Walmart’s case, it was lack of trust between chiefs and workers that caused more strikes development.
These rules of conflicts resolving can be used in many cases, and are applicable to different conflict situations. These rules help to act legally and ethically correct in any kind of disputable situation, so they can be called universal rules. All people are unique in their way of understanding the issues of conflicts, either in personal life or at the workplace. So, sometimes it is better to ask conflict resolution experts for help. They can find the better way of resolving the conflicts without any losses of time and reputation, in strict compliance to ethical and legal standards.
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