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Conflict Between Employee, Customer, and Manager

Conflicts are situations when parties in the conversation cannot understand each other. It is a frequent situation at work, where each has their own interests, which are sometimes contradictory. The situation with Elaine is an example of the conflict between the employee with the customer and the superior manager, David. At its core was the misunderstanding between Elaine and the irritated customer who had problems with her device. She was unable to solve this conflict, and thus, it escalated, leading to the customer’s dissatisfaction and Elaine’s emotional pain.

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The conflict had initiated when the customer started to talk in an irritated voice. As one can see from her interactions with the annoyed customer and David, Elaine is timid and somewhat emotionally closed. She is bad at understanding others’ emotions and managing her own, which is a crucial element of work communication (McShane & Glinow, 2018). At the same time, she is very sensitive and easy to falls into tears: it is understandable but not suitable for her work. Therefore, she had the wrong conflict management skills, and when the customer, being in a bad mood due to her non-working phone, started to show irritation, Elaine became distressed and confused. When the customer raised her voice for the first time, Elaine began to speak loudly, too, trying to outvoice her, which led to the further escalation of the conflict.

Elaine tried to push her statement that the phone was drowned in the water to manage the conflict with the customer. The communication occurs not with the first word in the conversation but when the other person understands those words (McShane & Glinow, 2018). Based on this main principle of effective communication, one can assess Elaine’s approach to the customer as unsuccessful. It was evident from the situation’s description that the customer was not ready to listen and understand such claims; thus, they only irritated her.

The conflict with David came from another source: no lack of empathy but courage and stiffness. Those qualities would help her react to all situations appropriately, confidently, and without harsh or destructive emotions. Elaine was not ready for his open and direct questions, becoming even more confusing than she was after the conflict with the customer. While David tried to focus solely on the problem, repeating it several times, Elaine felt it hurt her (McShane & Glinow, 2018). When David asked her about her performance, she started to murmur that she did not know and understand if she was really productive at work. When he began to question her productivity, Elaine fell into tears and completely lost the conversation’s sense.

As the conflict started from the misunderstanding between herself and the irritable customer, I would advise her to be more confident and empathetic. I think David was not right when she pressed on her, saying she was wrong and had many problems with customers. He was right in identifying her lack of empathy but taking pressure when she is already distressed after harsh communication was unethical. I would tell Elaine that, while her sensitivity is appreciated, the situation resulted from her lack of empathy and, thus, inappropriate words. Along with that, I would point out her specific actions, such as raising her voice at an inappropriate moment. The better move is to keep a calm and confident voice, explaining to the customer what happened with the phone and how she can solve this, and then politely proposing to her to be calm.

Thus, the problem of this situation was that Elaine could not manage conflicts: she was not confident and lacked empathy and emotional intelligence. At the same time, she is very sensitive; thus, she feels hurt when one harshly points out her flaws. She should learn to feel others’ emotions in her work process and be confident and polite when speaking with customers and managers. At the same time, David would better treat her with more understanding and empathy from his side, which is a more effective approach to her regarding her sensitivity.


McShane, S., & Glinow, V. M. (2018). Organizational behavior (8th ed.). McGraw Hill Education.

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