Over the past few weeks, I have received a large amount of feedback from our employees who report a conflict situation in the workplace. According to numerous observations, the psychological climate and corporate morale in our company have recently been the primary concern of a considerable number of employees. The main reason for confrontations among staff is a dispute over the identification of responsibilities. Employees do not always have a clear idea of the distribution of business functions among them, which causes conflicts about who is supposed to perform a particular task. For example, line managers in specific departments cannot always correctly separate their functions from the functions of HR managers concerning team coordination. These tasks are overlapping, and their distribution requires collaborative communication among the employees.
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These challenges began to arise as our company adopted a policy of greater self-management and empowerment of employees. There are merits and drawbacks to a high degree of staff autonomy in carrying out several job functions and setting specific goals independently. These measures increase employees’ productivity and allow them to respond more flexibly to the business environment by making decisions themselves. Due to this approach, our employees’ key performance indicators demonstrated visible growth, and some of them came up with projects and proposals potentially beneficial to the company. At the same time, the increased autonomy made it necessary to independently manage the division of responsibilities and the resolution of conflicts arising from it.
Given the positive results, I do not believe it is reasonable to change this system and reduce the autonomy of employees. However, the staff needs an effective and accessible conflict resolution mechanism. From my point of view, the most appropriate solution, in this case, is not to reduce the self-management of employees, but to train them ineffective techniques and procedures of workplace conflict resolution. In cases where the management of the company resolves the employee dispute at its discretion, a compromising decision may not always satisfy the employees and have sufficient long-term consequences. Researchers state that disputants who experience satisfaction from the resolution of a conflict situation may change their minds if they find out that the agreement is less favorable than they expected (Kalter, Bollen, & Euwema, 2018). Such a situation is rather probable when the employees do not develop a solution themselves.
At the same time, training employees to use mediation techniques in conflict resolution can enable them to resolve disputes effectively. Kalter, Bollen, and Euwema (2018) state that mediation procedure is effective in the longer term, although its results depend on the subjective attitude of the conflicting parties to it. According to the authors, long-term mediation results directly depend on the conflicting parties’ level of trust in the agreement expressed immediately after the mediation procedure and their satisfaction with the actual consequences of conflict settlement (Kalter, Bollen, & Euwema, 2018). Thus, the most reliable and productive conflict settlement should involve active collaborative interaction between the conflicting parties. The company management’s primary objective is to hire professional mediation instructors who will be able to train employees with the required skills and provide the necessary knowledge. After appropriate training, it may take some time for the mediators to supervise the staff in order for them to learn how to use the mediation procedure in their daily working environment effectively.
Kalter, M., Bollen, K., & Euwema, M. (2018). The long‐term effectiveness of mediating workplace conflicts. Negotiation Journal, 34(3), 243-265.