Types and Sources of Work Conflict
The workplace remains in a constant state of conflict with the constant barrage of substantive values held by the organization and its personnel. As a result, there exist various types of conflict between organizations and their members as a result of these disparities in the goings-on in an organization. According to Cloke and Goldsmith (2011), these conflicts could either be of an interpersonal nature or chronic.
Interpersonal conflicts within the workplace are the person-centered grievances that present as a result of disparate opinions or wrong-doing to each other. These occur due to differences in regional, lingual, educational or cultural heritages that create different social, economic and political norms and vices for different people (Cloke & Goldsmith, 2011).
For instance, when an attending physician at a hospital I worked at verbally assaulted a nurse for forgetting to change a bedpan, the physician sparked an interpersonal conflict with the nurse that had to be addressed. This offensive assault was baseless given that the nurse had just gone off-duty and it was her fellow nurse’s turn to take on the role in question. Such an occurrence is a result of the culture of numerous hospitals’ hierarchical systems and non-interactive policies that are prejudiced against the lowly-placed but vital nurses.
Focusing on such types of conflict within an organization does not elucidate the real scope of a problem within an organization despite its substantive basis that seems manageable directly (that is, the nurse asking for damages for the assault or reaching a consensus on the nature of their relationship). As such, the mediation processes focused solely on interpersonal conflicts are at best short-term resolutions that fester to another far-reaching type of conflict.
The conflict between the physician and the nurse was reported immediately after the fact to the human resource department of the hospital. The intervention of this department in conflicts within the hospital is heavily reliant on the vigilance of the personnel in reporting disputes. Thereafter, the interpersonal conflict was taken on by the present human resource manager that escalated the issue to the involved parties to proceed with mediation. Without the active reporting of such an issue, it might have been ignored and its recurrence in the future might have been uninhibited and increasingly severe. Such a system is deficient in self-appraisal and correction with poor conflict detection schemes.
The resolution was mediated by a human resource manager that had intentions of resolving the conflict before it escalates to cause losses to the hospitals. The utility of both these employees to the organization is crucial, as such, for the apt and timely resolution of the conflict would result in the redirection of time and energy to the main focus of the organization (Cloke & Goldsmith, 2011).
The human resource manager utilized an integrative approach to steer the conflict towards resolution with a relational or transformative model of resolution. Using principles akin to Fisher and Urys’ (2011), the manager succeeded in getting consent for such a model of mediation with the negotiation instead of a competitive approach from the nurse (since she had the ability to punish) by letting her voice her complaint in its entirety and basing the resolution on her notable concerns.
The physician and the nurse had their subjective accounts of the conflicting situation and its surrounding circumstances heard. For the nurse, there were emotional and social damages that were realized as a result of this conflict. The physician related his actions to work-related stress. In the discussion, the demands of their respective jobs were both extensive, leading to absent-mindedness, exhaustion and mood swings. In light of these challenges, several outcomes were drawn, ranging from the mildly punitive education on workplace ethics in healthcare settings for the doctor, financial damages to outright dismissal. Zumeta (2000) notes that there is pressure to reach a resolution within such model of resolution. However, the nurse was evidently offended, and in a competitive model, would have had a better than fair agreement against the physician.
The pro-peace proceedings of the transformative model of conflict resolution resulted in the conscientious agreement by both parties for the doctor to go through practices on workplace relationships while on a probationary position in the organization. The surrounding circumstances of this conflict could have cost the company a competent physician or the reduced productivity of the nurse. As such, this interpersonal conflict was handled efficiently with the use of the various subjective scenarios and coalescing them to find out possible outcomes and their impact on each other and the organization. The culture of the healthcare system fosters prejudice against nurses; therefore, a holistic approach would have been an organization-wide refreshment on workplace relation through various programs.
The other type of conflict within the workplace, chronic conflict, is borne out of the incessancy of interpersonal conflicts without permanent resolutions due to holistic organizational misconceptions and mistakes in conflict resolution. The non-systematic analysis of conflicts within an organization fails to notice the common features of interpersonal conflicts that infer the holistic change in systems, process, and cultures. In this case, conflict resolution is not adequately used as learning opportunities to avoid future recurrence and promote workplace development.
The healthcare system within third-world countries, Kenya, for example, have resulted in chronic conflicts (Peralta, 2017). Continued accruing of the grievances of the inadequate rewarding system of healthcare professionals brimmed such that the entire workforce stopped working for over three months. Further, the negotiating sought to intimidate the striking workers with prison terms, termination and other non-restorative approaches. As such, there is a cancer of conflict that cannot be managed due to lack of corrective policy and vindication and counterstrikes against reasonable resolution. The conflict of the doctors striking within Kenya was noted by the representatives of their union, the Kenya Medical Practitioners’ Board. The consensus that there was a chronic conflict was arrived upon with the signing of petitions that demanded that their similar grievances be addressed promptly to avoid an organization-wide default in working leading to a systemic failure. The detection of such grievances is usually prompt; however, the preexisting systems, processes, and cultures cannot inculcate corrective measures.
The clergy within the country decided to intervene to mediate the exacerbating conditions presented with the strike with the facilitative model after the failure of the previous mediators. Their expertise was in no way relevant or applicable to the situation. Nevertheless, the desperation of the situation called for the emergence of a more trusted disparate party to mediate. The indifference of the stakeholders to negotiate resulted in the suffering of the public that relied on the health system. Therefore, the clergy had the incentive to reconcile the opposing parties to avoid the collapse of the entire system.
The basis of the conflict was established with the voicing of complaints and issues by both parties. The issue of underpayment with the underlying causality of corruption was echoed through the negotiation by the healthcare professionals while the remunerations board claimed to have insufficient budgetary allocations for the enactment of the proposed rewarding packages. The clergy noted that there is a standard for the rewarding of such professionals and the urgent resumption of healthcare services that both parties were concerned about. These were points of consensus among all parties that facilitated the reaching of workable terms.
A little over three months of negotiation with different models of conflict resolution, facilitative mediation landed the healthcare professionals a temporally-spread benefits plan that got them back to work. However, the failure of such mediation is imminent with the repeated failure of adherence of the remuneration board to the agreement and the difficulty of follow-up. Zumelta (2000) notes that such mediation has detrimentally-long proceedings that result in further damages to the participants and their affiliates. Cloke and Goldsmith (2011) might see this resolution as myopic due to its ignorance of the core issue that results in the widespread occurrence of the conflict; corruption.
In conclusion, there are two types of conflict at the conflict, interpersonal and chronic, the latter sparking from the unregulated festering of the prior. The causes of interpersonal conflict center around relational problems surrounding social, economic and political factors. The focus on resolving interpersonal conflicts has to involve the generalized view of the organizational structure to prevent their recurrence. Unfettered progression of interpersonal conflicts and their underlying causes result in the manifestation of systemic problems in the form of chronic conflicts. These require holistic overhauls of organizational systems, processes, and cultures to eliminate completely. For resolution, an integrative approach presents better chances of organizational survival in the case of a conflict. An interpersonal conflict among healthcare professionals to a nationwide strike by healthcare professionals is a conflict that requires integrative approaches to return the entire system back to operability. Facilitative and transformative means of conflict resolution provide the required results at the expense of time along which the integrity of the entire organization is threatened.
Cloke, K., & Goldsmith, J. (2011). Resolving conflicts at work: Ten strategies for everyone on the job (3rd ed.). San Fransico, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Fisher, R., Ury, W. L., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin.
Peralta, E. (2017, January 5). The doctors aren’t in at Kenya’s public hospitals. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/01/05/508369378/the-doctors-arent-in-at-kenyas-public-hospitals.
Zumeta, Z. (2000). Styles of mediation: Facilitative, evaluative, and transformative mediation. Retrieved January, 10, 2006.
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