Conflict Resolution, Coursework Example

Milestone #1: First Level Conflict Resolution Practices

Instructions

This assignment affords students the opportunity to “design” a sample workplace conflict management toolkit by identifying best practices in four major categories of conflict management.

  • For each milestone sample you are submitting in this category, identify the sample strategy and complete your analysis of the sample.
  • Even if you submit multiple samples for each category, only one Sample Cover Sheet is required per category.
  • Attach the sample strategy or plan as a separate document in Word or PDF format. If you find your sample on a website, be sure to place it into a Word document rather than providing a link to the site.

Summary

First level conflict resolution includes four areas of progression to achieve a solution.  The sample strategy for first level conflict resolution is to implement the best practice framework of working through the issue using the following process.  This includes identifying the cause of the conflict, separating the people from the problem or issue, focusing on the solution to the issue and striving for a win-win outcome.  These four areas of focus become the framework for the best practice approach to conflict resolution on the manger level of the organization.

Support

There are many different circumstances when strategies need to be employed by managers to solve a situation or resolve a conflict between parties.  During the initial conflict it is important to assess the situation and take the necessary steps to mitigate the situation and provide a resolution to the conflict.  Conflicts in the workplace come in a variety of situations and degrees of severity.  There are best practice solutions to assess the conflict, provide guidance and support to the parties involved and come to a mutually beneficial agreement (Dana 2000).  The first level conflict resolution includes a variety of steps to build a workable situation.  These practices include understanding conflicts are part of working in groups, addressing the conflict as early as possible, increase the communication to understand the issues, remain in a neutral position, understand the cause of the conflict and ultimately work toward a win/win situation for both parties.

The initial strategy for the first level conflict resolution is to focus on four areas (Segal, Smith and Jaffe 2009).  The first is preparation for the conflict resolution session, next is separating the people from the problems, thirdly is focusing on the issues at hand and last but not least is seeking a win-win outcome for the parties involved.  These are the main focus areas for the management to resolve conflict in the workplace.

As a best practice it is important to follow specific, scalable and flexible methodology to provide the best possible outcome to workplace conflicts.  By following a common and tested framework resolution and conflict management can have expected results and provide the management with the tools necessary to do their jobs as well as provide for the best possible environment for their employees.  Conflicts arise for many different reasons and come from multiple sources.  Understanding the cause of a conflict can become almost as important as achieving the resolution (Sutton 2013).  Sources of conflict result from poor communication, differing values, opposite objectives, limited resources, personalities or poor performance by individuals or the unit in which they work.

The first area of concentration as a best practice strategy is working on preparation for the conflict resolution process.  This preparation falls in line with understanding the sources of the conflict.  Poor communication can cause conflict due to the fact that the information that the sender of the information is either not reaching the intended target or is being misinterpreted by the receiver.  Different values and objectives must also be understood so that the playing ground of conflict can be leveled and understood between each side of the conflict as well as the manger working on the resolution.  Varying objectives can be drive conflict by putting people into situations in which they are vying for oppositional stances or trying to obtain limited resources.  Once the manger gains a greater understanding of the source of the conflict they will be better suited to address the situation.

Separating the individuals from the issue will allow the manager to allocate the limited time and energy from the opposing sides to focusing on the resolution and not focus attacks on the individuals involved.  This allows the focus of the individuals to be placed in a more positive situation that promotes a solution as opposed to negating any forward movement toward a resolution.  Also by separating the individuals from the problem it allows for the people involved to remove some of the emotion from the situation and focus on a resolution to the root cause of the conflict.  A conflict can achieve a high state of instability if tempers and emotions fuel the distance between the solution and the problem.  Although not every conflict can be resolved by reallocating efforts toward a mutually engaging solution it is a best practice and should remain a priority for conflict resolution management.

Separating the individuals from the issue is then followed by focusing on the issues at hand.  At this stage the underlying cause of the conflict has been identified and the individuals have been somewhat removed from the fight of the conflict which leaves a core issue that needs a resolution.  There are multiple outcomes that could result in the resolution but the objective is for the manager to facilitate the focus on the resolution.  For example, in the workplace there could be competing objectives that are trying to secure funding for the upcoming year but only a certain amount of funding is available.  This puts the business units looking to secure their projects for the coming year at an immediate conflict.  The conflict could be taken personally within each of the units in which the people become integrated into the issue and fuel a negative focus on resolving the core issues (Scott 2009).  As a best practice the leadership or management must focus on the core objectives of the business and set specific strategic intents throughout the business.  This provides the guidance each unit needs to understand to see how they fit into the overall plan for the operation.  The management could also provide a specific set of guidelines or budget allotments to the business units to mitigate the conflicts between opposing business units.  This removes the people from the problems and allows a more centralized focus on the issues as opposed as the conflict overall.

Lastly the objective of the manger is to try and find a win-win situation for both sides of the conflict.  While this may not always be possible it is a best practice to ensure an unbiased and favorable outcome is achieved on both sides.  By working as a team to achieve a goal or objective and soliciting buy-in from the conflicting parties the manager will have a greater degree of success achieving a resolution that everyone can agree upon.  Collaboration and searching for a win-win solution is optimal but there are also other varying degrees of success that includes compromising, accommodating, competing and avoiding for a resolution.  Collaboration results in the win-win scenario.  Compromising is a negotiated solution in which each party succeeds to a certain extent (Harper 2004).  Accommodating is a lose-win situation where one party gives in to the other party in order to resolve the conflict.  Competing is somewhat like accommodating in regard to the outcome but the process is different in that a competition for the resolution is initiated in which only one side can succeed.  Finally there is avoiding in which there are no winners and no losers in that the conflict is totally avoided and will ultimately result in a future conflict due to the fact that the issue was not successfully resolved.  As a best practice the manager strives for a win-win by utilizing the four areas of concentration including understanding the source of the conflict, separating the individuals from the issues, focusing on the root issue and striving for a win-win outcome.

Milestone #2: Arbitration/Resolution

Instructions

This assignment affords students the opportunity to “design” a sample workplace conflict management toolkit by identifying best practices in four major categories of conflict management.

  • For each milestone sample you are submitting in this category, identify the sample strategy and complete your analysis of the sample.
  • Even if you submit multiple samples for each category, only one Sample Cover Sheet is required per category.
  • Attach the sample strategy or plan as a separate document in Word or PDF format. If you find your sample on a website, be sure to place it into a Word document rather than providing a link to the site.

Summary

Arbitration and mediation include third parties to facilitate the resolution of issues.  Within the conflict resolution there are reasons for utilizing arbitration and mediation which include promoting a conflict resolution without drawing out litigation costs and time as well as keeping certain aspects of the conflict confidential (AAA 2009).  Mediation allows for a third party to provide neutral guidance on a solution and is used when issues arise that require an impartial bias to a solution.  The sample strategy is to determine if arbitration or mediation is the appropriate method of conflict resolution and follow through with the alternative resolution choice.

Support

Arbitration is a form of resolution that is needed when two parties cannot resolve a situation on their own or there is a need for a third party to facilitate a dispute.  This dispute is resolved by a third party who is neutral in the situation and can provide a certain level of adjudication to the process.  Arbitration is a legally binding agreement that is made outside of litigation in a court.  Mitigation is another form of dispute resolution.  This is more of a negotiation between two parties and a neutral third party.  While arbitration and mediation seem to be one in the same they are differing in form, fit and function.  The main objective of the arbitration and mediation is to find a common resolution to a conflict by using a third party as a facilitator to achieve an end state (UN 2012).  The best practice for arbitration and mediation include dispute resolution, negotiations or other areas that include conflicts.  In the workplace these conflicts can arise from terminations, discrimination, harassment or other grievances.  The best practice of using an arbitrator or a mediator can help resolve the situation fairly and equitably for both sides of the conflict.

Arbitration and mediation can be fully utilized in a workplace environment when issues arise between management and the employee or employees that feel they have been wronged.  The best practice for the use of arbitration includes a time when a neutral third party is needed to hear both sides of an argument and must make a fair decision based on the information provided.  There is also the benefit of having the issue private and resolved in a fast and efficient manner.  These issues or conflicts can stem from terminations, perceived discrimination, harassment and grievances.  These conflicts can have extremely negative repercussions and can cause great harm not only to the individuals involved but to the operating unit and business as a whole.  For issues that need to have a resolution that is derived and implemented by a neutral party mediation and arbitration would be the best practice.  In these types of situations leadership within the company could not provide a neutral and unbiased representation due to the fact that they are representing on side of the conflict by default.

The best use of arbitration is when there is a common agreement regarding confidentiality and cost savings for all parties involved.  Saving time and money are important focus areas when utilizing arbitration as a tool for conflict resolution.  Arbitration ends in a result that the parties on both sides must live with and appealing these decisions is not always a readily available opportunity.  While not all conflicts which need a third party will require the level of legality provided by arbitration there is another opportunity for remediation.

Mediation can be used when there is a need for a constructive opportunity needed by the parties involved but a legally binding decision is not necessary for the conflict to be resolved(AAA 2009).  Examples of mediation include worker rights, fairness in the workplace, disagreements on performance, unresolved conflicts among peers or management or many other areas that may not require legal action but need an impartial party to resolve the issue.

The best practices for both arbitration and mediation include the use of a third party to facilitate a solution to a conflict.  Depending on the severity of the conflict and the parties involved in the conflict the type of mitigation tool would change.  Arbitration would allow a solution to be announced without the opportunity for appeal and mediation would allow an impartial third party to facilitate the two sides of the conflict to an amicable solution.

Milestone #3: Reaching Agreement

Instructions

This assignment affords students the opportunity to “design” a sample workplace conflict management toolkit by identifying best practices in four major categories of conflict management.

  • For each milestone sample you are submitting in this category, identify the sample strategy and complete your analysis of the sample.
  • Even if you submit multiple samples for each category, only one Sample Cover Sheet is required per category.
  • Attach the sample strategy or plan as a separate document in Word or PDF format. If you find your sample on a website, be sure to place it into a Word document rather than providing a link to the site.

Strategy

Workplace conflicts arise for multiple reasons and stem from multiple sources.  Conflict in the workplace is common and expected when it comes to performing tasks within a team.  The effectiveness of a conflict resolution can make the difference between a positive and successful outcome and a negative and damaging result.  The best practice strategy to reach agreements in workplace conflict revolves around increasing effective communication and understanding, addressing the issues at hand in a timely fashion, utilizing a collaborative environment to formulate a resolution and to drive toward a mutually beneficial outcome.

Support

There are multiple ways to resolve conflict in the workplace and the nucleus that binds the entire process together revolves around working together.  While working together may have initiated the conflict primarily it will also facilitate the resolution to the issue.  The framework for resolving conflicts in the workplace and ultimately reaching an agreement is based on working collaboratively to reach the agreement (FWO 2009).

If the manager needs to be involved in the process to reach the agreement it is imperative to talk with the parties involved.  If the individuals are trying to resolve the issue themselves and thus trying to achieve conflict resolution at the lowest possible hierarchical level they must also communicate with each other to initiate the process.  The communication process includes more than transferring information between parties and must include two way communication as well as provisions for feedback and confirmation of understanding.  The feedback and confirmation of understanding alleviates the potential for misunderstood or assumed communications and allows for a flow of information on the issues at hand.  While communicating, it is important to focus on the issues causing the conflict and not the actual parties involved with the conflict (Keyton 2002).  The redirection of focus on the individuals in the conflict will derail the resolution process and not facilitate the achievement of agreement between the parties.  Utilizing a third party or manager in the workplace resolution can help the communication process especially in instances where strong convictions or barriers have already been put in place between the parties.  With all communication the most important part would be the listening aspect.  This includes both parties actively listening to the concerns of the other party and allowing an assessment based on their concerns to be conducted.

Once the communication method is established and running it is important as a best practice to focus on the issue and search out the root cause of the problem.  Through the conflict resolution process the areas of agreement and disagreement can be documented (BIS 2013).  This allows a precise focus on the areas of disagreement while not spending time and resources on the areas that have already been agreed upon.  In a workplace environment, a common area of conflict can occur based on people’s perception of what is happening and the potential negative impact on them and their work.  For example, if a co-worker is perceived as working fewer hours or receiving preferential treatment, other co-workers could harbor negative feelings toward the other co-worker. While the perception is the other worker is not pulling their own weight in the workplace the preconceived notions are damaging the relationship and potentially harming the work effectiveness.  Through communication and addressing the issues at hand the focus of the group can move from the emotions and feelings toward the co-worker to the fact that each employee may need to adjust their work schedules based on work-life balance needs (Keyton 2002).  The underlying issue is that each employee needs to work with their manager to fit their specific needs based on the flexibility of the workplace and not focus their attention on the employee that appears to have differing work hours.

This example also points out that there may be areas of conflict that do not necessarily need a resolution or that is prioritized at a lower level than other more concerning or impactful issues.  Reaching an agreement in a workplace conflict can be achieved by understanding and preparing for the conflict resolution (Tubbs 2001).  This is achieved by understanding the issue at hand and communicating with the parties involved.  Next is separating the people from the issues as to remove the emotion from the issue allowing focus on the root cause.  Thirdly is focus on a resolution and agreement to the conflict and lastly trying to impart a win-win agreement for those involved.

Milestone #4: Post-Agreement Co-operation

Instructions

This assignment affords students the opportunity to “design” a sample workplace conflict management toolkit by identifying best practices in four major categories of conflict management.

  • For each milestone sample you are submitting in this category, identify the sample strategy and complete your analysis of the sample.
  • Even if you submit multiple samples for each category, only one Sample Cover Sheet is required per category.
  • Attach the sample strategy or plan as a separate document in Word or PDF format. If you find your sample on a website, be sure to place it into a Word document rather than providing a link to the site.

Strategy

Post-agreement cooperation is imperative to the completion of the conflict resolution process.  Creating a productive work environment requires the best practice framework of following up after the conflict has been resolved and creating an accountability program to fortify the solutions and validate the agreement is being followed and working.  The strategy for implementing a post-agreement cooperation plan is to follow up with the parties involved, ensure accountability actions are taken and address the issues if they are not followed and maintained.

Support

The entire best practices process has been followed and there is still more work to be done.  The framework for conflict resolution included building an understanding of the problem by preparing for the conflict resolution process (Dana 2000).  Whether it is a manager or team member that is seeking the resolution to a conflict it is important to establish a base of knowledge of the conflict.  Once this is established the problem must be isolated from the people involved in the issue.  This allows the emotion and conflicting biases to be semi-removed from the situation allowing the core issue to be illuminated.  After this stage in the resolution process the core or root cause to the conflict can be prioritized and focused upon by the team.  The refocus on the core issue aligns the goals and objectives of the conflict resolution team with the energy and time of each member to facilitate an agreement (Segal, Smith and Jaffe 2009).  This focus on the resolution leads to the actual agreement.  While the best practice is to focus on a win-win solution there may be a mix of compromise and adjustments that may be needed by some or all parties involved.  In a win-win solution there may be less of a focus on after action sustainment but with any agreement if there is not a way to enforce the solution it has the potential of reverting back to the core conflict.

Conflict resolution without follow-up is like a tire without tread.  While it is still a tire it will not have any traction.  The agreement without a binding or accountable force ensuring compliance will lead to the potential loss of all the benefits of the resolution (Moore 2011).  Accountability will need to live at all levels of the resolution.  In conflict resolution the accountability must not be interpreted as blame.  In the framework of a best practice, accountability is a tool used to keep the resolution intact and functioning and provides a way to keep the conflict from festering and becoming a problem again.

Post-agreement cooperation is enhanced by pushing the accountability on to the parties on both sides of the conflict.  This accountability will ensure that each side is maintaining their side of the agreement and provides a system of checks and balances between management to hold the responsibility of maintenance and sustainment at the lowest level of the organization.  Creating a productive work environment is accomplished by allowing each level of the organization know their roles and responsibilities in the strategy of the company as well as their roles and responsibilities in the sustainment of policies and conflict resolution agreements (Weeks 1994).

The main strategy for post-agreement cooperation includes documenting the solution to the conflict and if applicable making the appropriate adjustments to the policies and procedures that are impacted by the agreement (Cooper, Grey, Raymond and Walker 2005).  While some conflicts reside at the employee to employee level there may be other instances where greater change in the organization is needed.  At the lowest level, accountability is maintained by the manager enforcing the changes and holding each employee accountable for their actions.  At the higher levels of impact, re-authored policies or strategic goals may need to be implemented through the organization.  At this level the best practice is to have senior leadership hold the accountability and support the changes in the organization.  The best practice of infusing accountability to all post-agreement plans will result in a successful conflict resolution life cycle.

References

American Arbitration Association (AAA). (2009). What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?  Retrieved: http://www.aaamediation.com/FAQ_MediationServices.pdf

Bank of International Settlements (BIS). (2013). Social accountability at the workplace-requirements. Retrieved: http://www.bis.org.in/other/IS16001brief.pdf

Cooper, D. F., Grey, S., Raymond, G., & Walker, P. (2005). Project risk management guidelines, managing risk in large projects and complex procurements. John Wiley & Sons.

Dana, D. (2000). Conflict resolution. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill

Danish Centre for Conflict Resolution. (2006). Conflict resolution, working with conflicts. Retrieved: http://konfliktweb.dk/files/ConflictResolution.pdf

Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). (2009). Best practice guide-improving workplace productivity in bargaining. Retrieved: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/BestPracticeGuides/11-Improving-workplace-productivity-in-bargaining.pdf

Harper, G. (2004). The joy of conflict resolution: transforming victims, villains and heroes in the workplace and at home. Canada. New Society Publishers.

Keyton, J. (2002). Communicating in groups: Building relationships for effective decision making (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Moore, B. (2011). Accountability and responsibility-based workplace. Retrieved: http://talentmanagementinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Accountability-and-a-Responsibility%E2%80%93based-Workplace-PPT-HO.pdf

Segal, J., Smith, M., and Jaffe, J. (2009). Conflict resolution skills. Retrieved: http://www.edcc.edu/counseling/documents/Conflict.pdf

Scott, V. (2009). Conflict resolution at work for dummies. Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons.

Sutton, R. (2013). Conflict Resolution. Retrieved: http://www.ncsu.edu/grad/preparing-future-leaders/docs/conflict-resolution.pdf

Tubbs, S. L. (2001). A systems approach to small group interaction (7th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Weeks, D. (1994). The eight essential steps to conflict resolution. Los Angeles, CA. Penguin Putnam Inc.

Wholistic Stress Control Institute, Inc. (2013). Ten strategies for conflict resolution. Retrieved: http://www.kdheks.gov/hcf/healthquest/download/resource_downloads/conflictresolution.pdf

United Nations (UN). (2012). Guidance for effective mediation. Retrieved: http://www.un.org/wcm/webdav/site/undpa/shared/undpa/pdf/UN%20Guidance%20for%20Effective%20Mediation.pdf

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