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Resolving Workplace Conflict: Challenges and Strategies


An organization requires a workforce working to achieve its goals. The early organization was based on the classical organization theories which failed to capture the “human” aspect of the employees in the organization. An organization’s productivity overrode the employee wellness; the employee was therefore treated mechanically, as a machine that had to be subjected to strict rules and supervision for better output.

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Child and Kieser (1981) say the evolving theories of organizations however, redefined this status. The employee came first and the organization followed. The experiments carried out by Mayo in the 1920s showed that paying attention to employees’ needs in a friendly manner had a positive impact on the output. With this, employers realized that in order to improve the organization output, they had to start paying attention to employee needs. All factors that affected the workers, at personal level and work had to be factored in, and effective mechanisms needed to be put in place to cater for these.

Resolving workplace conflict

From the case at hand, there is conflict between Susan and her co worker, Karishima because of her accent. Joy wants to intervene and help solve the conflict but fails to and chooses to leave instead. As Dan joins the two, there arises a conflict between him and molly, who does not wish to obey him as he is not her supervisor. He hopes to ask for Mr. Davis’ help in resolving the conflict.

Handling individual differences

Susan and molly seem to be having individual differences with Karishima. Susan says she dislikes her because of her accent and goes on to get personal attributes like dressing, which has nothing to do with work. The way Molly responds to Dan shows that the two could be having personal differences. She knows it is her duty to get back to work in time and relieve Dan. We can therefore say that Susan and Molly do not know how to handle their individual differences as she let them interfere with work relations.

Verbal and non verbal communication

From the scenario above, there are barriers to verbal and non verbal communication. Joy, however much she wants to talk to Susan and Molly and defend karishima, does not get to. She decides to go away instead. Dan misinterprets Joy’s grim look for stress instead of upset. The picnic failed due to lack of communication among the coordinators. The fact that they could not agree on the date, location and the food to have shows that. The company needs to put measures in place to ensure free communication among the employees. This will reduce conflict and misunderstanding among the employees.

Motivating employees

Davis is trying to look for ways to motivate the employees, whose performance levels have dwindled. Most of them seem to be stressed. Molly could be judging from her answer to Dan. Dan mistakes Joy’s grim look for job stress. This shows that the employees could not be well motivated and job pressure is mounting on them.

Cultural diversity

The company tries to promote cultural diversity by employing Karishima, who shares a different culture with the rest. This is an interaction scheme to bring together people of different backgrounds and share ideas with others. However, Susan and Molly down play this effort by discriminating against her accent and dressing.

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Promoting personal wellness

Susan seems to be struggling with herself because of her weight. She is not at peace with herself and this could be affecting her work relations with others. She talks ill of Karishima, trying to make belittle her. This could be a way of settling her personal scores. Personal wellness of employees is necessary so as to boost their personal esteem and confidence. It also enhances their concentration at work, hence productivity.

Promoting group decision making

The company’s group decision making is poor and needs to be improved. During the picnic, they could barely agree on a thing and this led to its failure. Davis is thinking of how to go about it successfully once again because it is important that the members know how to make decisions as a team.

Resolving the identified issues

Resolving work place conflict

The contingency theory views conflict as inevitable in an organization. It is manageable though and the management should always look for ways to peacefully resolve conflicts.

Conflicts are inevitable

DuBrin (2004) says that the first step in solving conflicts at work is realizing that conflicts are inevitable and must happen in the workplace. Whenever people are engaged in some activity and pursuing some goals, disagreements will always come up. A good work place is not one without conflicts but one that handles them constructively. The fact that you have a conflict does not mean that you are bad; it shows that you are free to express your opinion and differ with others constructively.

Inquire in time

As soon as you realize there is some conflict, ask the involved parties. Most conflicts arise not from what was said but what was not said. Some people will take it personal and not voice their objection to some decision or proposal. They will hope to let it slip and pass. With time, if nothing is done about the issue, it will grow and become unmanageable.

Inquiring why someone does something the way they do that creates conflict will help in clearing any misunderstanding. It could be that the person does not really intend to create the conflict and may not even know that his actions are creating conflict. Asking will iron out this bad faith and resolve the conflict (Devoe, 1999).

Individual differences

Max Weber expanded on Taylor’s scientific management theory, stressing the need to reduce diversity and ambiguity in the organization. There was to be established clear lines of authority, with tight control over the employees. This was to reduce personal diversity and individual differences were not to be allowed to dominate work relaxations.

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People who work together have different personalities and ways of doing things. One is however, expected to cope with these people well and work with them efficiently.

Maturity and objectiveness

One needs to see the other person’s point of view and compromise their stand for the greater benefit of the organization. He needs to voice his views openly and clearly and allow criticism. Do not take opposition of your views personally. Whenever one realizes some conflict, he should confront the opponent and ask what the problem could be. The sooner this happens, the better.

Encircle the differences

Keep the differences among the involved parties and do not involve outsiders, unless they are to arbitrate in the conflict. This will avoid gossip and antagonizing the other party. Try to solve the differences among the involved parties and only involve another party, usually the line supervisor, when really necessary. If these fail, then one can involve the legal process.

Effective communication

The systems theory states that, all the components of an organization are interrelated, continually interacting with each other and their environment. Workers in an organization therefore, need an effective mode of communication that will enhance the workability and understanding among them. This will reduce conflict in the organization

Effective communication, both verbal and non verbal, helps us understand people better, resolve our differences, build trust and create environments where ideas will flourish and solving problems will become easier a task. Effective communication involves not only exchanging information but also understanding the emotions and non expressed cues behind the information.


Good listening means good understanding of the information and assessing how the speaker feels about the information. Effective listening cultivates respect between the speaker and listener and makes the two parties comfortable knowing that their ideas are well understood and saves misinterpretations by enhancing clarity.

Understanding non verbal messages

Non verbal cues carry a large percentage of the message than what is actually spoken. The ability to understand and use non verbal cues can help one express what they really mean, connect with others and build better relations at work.

Understanding non verbal cues requires practice. One should practice observing people in public, on television and in plays. One needs to be aware of individual differences and how various cues are interpreted differently among various cultures.

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Motivating employees

The scientific management theory by Taylor has among the four basic principles of effective organization the use of reward and punishment of the workers as a form of motivation.

The success of any organization can be traced to how motivated its employees are. There is no exact formula on how to do this, for what motivates one employee may not motivate the other. The most ideal way to go about this is finding out what your employees needs and how to enable them have them.

Non-cash incentives

Incentives such as rewards of holidays, picnics, leave and shopping vouchers are but a few examples of things that can motivate employees. Other incentives that can boost the morale of the employees involve activities that affect the personality of the employee. These include health clubs in the work place, provisions that favor nursing matters and medical check ups.

Cash incentives

Money can be among the best incentives to employees. Cash rewards, compensation and promises of pay increase for good work can increase the employee productivity. These have to be instituted with great care including openness and fairness to avoid emerging conflict. Favoritism should not be seen to emerge from these measures.

Cultural diversity

The neo classical theory shows genuine concern for human needs and their relevance in an organization’s productivity. Acceptance and fair treatment are key aspects of human needs in any organization, while discrimination on cultural differences is detrimental to this development.

Deborah (1999) says that the increasing globalization can no longer allow people to work in an insular market place; they are part of a global economy. Managing diversity in the workplace remains a challenge to many organizations.

Learn the benefits of diversity

The managers and rest of the staff must learn to accept and treat with dignity people from different cultures. This will not only increase productivity of the organization but also increase marketing opportunities, recruitment, creativity and the business image.

Fair treatment

The managers should create a work environment that includes everyone and represents their needs fairly. Discrimination, cultural biases and prejudices should be avoided and not used as basis for work opportunities, promotion or assignments. Fair treatment will come as a result of appreciation that every member has a significant role to play in promoting the organization’s goals.

Promoting personal wellness

The neo classical theory tended to move away from the principle of organization first, people second and adopted the vice versa. This was a tough authoritarian structure that merely put the worker’s needs into consideration. Paying attention to the needs of the employees will at the end increase the organization’s output. Employee wellness is one of these needs and if the employee feels important within the organization, it will motivate him to work harder.

Employee wellness is linked to overall productivity of the organization. It will reduce incidents of absenteeism, health costs and psychological comfort. Wellness programs are aimed at reducing health-related costs of the employee and his/her family.

Promote preventive care

Encourage and implement vaccination campaigns in the workplace to prevent diseases like flu. Encourage the staff to avoid harmful habits that can lead to diseases like excessive alcohol and tobacco use, drunken driving, poor eating habits and poor physical activity. These are not harmful in the immediate sense, but with time, can lead to health complications.


Use all possible opportunities to educate the workers on healthy habits. Sessions of healthy cookery classes, stress management skills and having yoga or aerobics should be introduced at work and incentives offered to those who attend. Wellness speakers can be invited for seminars to coach the employees.

Mental health

Davoe (1999) observes that stress can lead to diseases which in turn lead to low work productivity. Diseases like hypertension and lack of sleep result from mental instability and generally affect the health of the employee. The organization should devise programs to assist employee problems that may cause these conditions. Programs like financial assistance, breaks and devotions can go a long way in solving the crisis.

Promoting group decision making

Mathieu and Rapp (2009) lay the foundation for successful team performance. The systems theory states that organizations’ work is interrelated; one’s actions are likely to affect the entire operations of the organization. Groups therefore, should make decisions in sync with all the members to create harmony and reduce conflict within the organization. This will also help keep the group intact and their actions will complement each other.

Team charters

This lays out plans for how the team will carry out team work activities. The plan will guide the team through the process. It will clarify the roles and expectations of the team members, identify opportunities that can help in achieving the team’s goals, specify how the team will make decisions and putting in place effective communications channels.

Performance strategies

These define what the team intends to do and how to do it in order to achieve its goals. It should prioritize goals, from the most important to the least, the short term and long term. The specific tactics that will be used to achieve the goals and alternative strategies as back up to the first ones should also be stated.

The cultural diversity issues involved

Karishima comes from a different culture, so that her accent and dressing style are different from those of other workers. Susan and molly discriminate her on this basis. They do not like her and talk ill of her. According to Black Enterprise (2001), diversity includes dimensions which influence people’s identity and perceptions like profession, education status and geographical location. In this case, Susan and Molly consider Karishima to be inferior in her education because of her accent. This could also be because of the part of the world that she comes from, that they could consider inferior and so feel that she may not be qualified for the profession.


These strategies are all geared towards improving the conditions of the employee in the work place and generally, improving the productivity of the organization. All the above mentioned issues are inevitable in the work place. Conflicts will always arise, not only in the workplace but also at our homes. These, if not well resolved, can create enmity and divisions at work derailing the work process. This is achieved through effective communication, with information flowing both vertically and horizontally and reducing office grapevine.

These measures well implemented, will create a friendly environment at work. Workers will be at harmony, supporting each other and cooperating on every aspect of achieving the work goals. The employees will be well motivated; performing their duties diligently with appreciation of the organization for the good it does them. Many employees will be healthy to perform efficiently, with no sick leaves for themselves and their family members.

More productive hours will be put into productivity of the organization. The overall impact of implementing these strategies will be high productivity levels for the company, achieving its goals and realizing its vision and mission.

Reference List

Black Enterprise. (2011). Managing a Multiracial Workforce. US: Black Enterprise Magazine.

Child, J., and Kieser, A. (1981). Development of Organizations over Time: An Handbook of Organizational Design. New Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Devoe, D. (1999). Managing a Diverse Workforce. San Mateo, CA: InfoWorld Media Group.

DuBrin, A. (2004). Applying Psychology: Individual and Organizational Effectiveness. Upper Saddle River: Pearson / Prentice Hall.

Mathieu, J. E., and Rapp, T. L. (2009). Laying The Foundation for Successful Team Performance Trajectories: The Roles of Team Charters and Performance Strategies. Journal of Applied Psychology.

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