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Management Models for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace

By Melissa McDowell, Kim Coleman, Amy Raines, Wayne Seay, and Steve Sullivan

(TNU 2007)

I. Introduction

II. Causes of Conflict in the Workplace

a. Different Work Methods

b. Different Goals

c. Personalities

d. Stress

e. Different Viewpoints or Perspectives

III. Effects of Conflict in the Workplace

IV. Theories on Conflict Management

a. The Circle of Conflict

b. Conflict Resolution Model

V. Why Conflict Management is Important

VI. How Big Corporations Deal with Conflict

a. Identify the Problem

b. Propose Several Possible Solutions

c. Evaluate Each Alternative

d. Determine the Best Solution

e. Implement the Alternative

f. Continually Evaluate the Solution

VII. Strategies for Minimizing Conflict

a. Respect Others

b. Communicate Expectations

c. Encourage Teamwork

d. Empower People

VIII. Conclusion

Introduction

Conflict, when properly managed, is a positive source of competitiveness and collaboration in a workplace. On the other hand, when unmanaged, conflict can create division, low morale, and chaos in the same environment. Executives and managers must learn to identify constructive conflict and manage it effectively. Conversely, leadership must identify negative conflict and deal with it decisively and completely.

For leaders to manage conflict effectively, they must understand all aspects of it. Identifying the causes and exploring the effects of conflict is critical. Fortunately, managers can adopt strategies for minimizing conflict and learn useful ways to arrive at solutions by observing conflict management practices in successful corporations. Understanding and identifying the sources of conflict as well as positive and negative aspects of conflict is the first step to good leadership.

Causes of Conflict in the Workplace

All managers and executives at some time have had to deal with conflict. The way that each one handles discord is a determining factor of success. Initially, he or she must communicate to gain a clear understanding of what is actually causing the conflict. Rebecca Hastings explains the need for communication in the workplace in “Conflict Management Contributes to Communication.” Hastings states that most conflicts stem from poor communication in which one party misinterprets the words or actions of another party. She notes that communication problems are particularly exaggerated when departments are competing for resources or when they have unique subcultures.

A critical step in solving conflict is for managers to understand that communication is one of its roots (Hastings). With that in mind, Hastings addresses some of the key issues that can trigger conflict.

Different work methods

Employees often have the same goal but different approaches for achieving it. Neither employee’s approach may be incorrect, nor may one approach be less productive than the other may. As Hastings notes, the ownership of the approach, or idea, is what gives each employee pride. When approaches collide, a simple step toward resolution is for managers to encourage employees to develop more fully their approaches. Next, managers should ask employees to propose their respective plans and review them as a group. According to Hastings, employees will find that often a combination of the approaches is actually the best solution.

Different goals

Often in organizations, separate business units may drive towards different goals. For example, the goal of a security controls department is to ensure the security of the corporation and its customers. This goal often affects performance and work output to other business units, such as one that focuses on generating revenue. As an executive or...
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