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Conflict Resolution in Work Teams

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Conflict Resolution in Work Teams

Conflict Resolution in Work Teams

When you think of conflict in a work group, do you have the image of a bickering group or of people getting nowhere fast? Are you the type of person that would do almost anything to avoid being disagreeable with others? Maybe you view conflict as a constructive part of problem solving. If you agree with the last statement, then you might be encouraged to know that most experts agree that conflict in a work team can bring great benefits if the conflict is managed correctly. “Leaders who handle problems constructively can improve productivity, generate new ideas and personally develop team members.” (Swales, 2002, para. 2). Conflict can cause a work group to expand their views and find options or solutions that they might otherwise not have discovered. Conflict can be a great motivator to problem solving, but can conflict always bring about positive changes and can the solution please everyone on the team?

Conflict Resolution in Teams

*****, a member of the learning team involved with writing this paper, has presented us with a true-life problem in her own work group. ***** has worked for the same employer for 27 years. For those 27 years, her employer has followed tradition and granted vacation time based on seniority. In addition, the company offers employees with seniority a choice of which shifts they want to work. Since ***** has a great deal of seniority within her department, she receives preferential treatment when it comes to vacation approvals and shift requests. The senior employees feel they have earned the right to preferential treatment because of their loyalty to the company. Some newly hired employees with less seniority do not agree with this tradition and argue that there should be a better method, but have not yet suggested one.

In an effort to resolve the conflict between veteran employees and the new hires, management decided to make policy changes. The primary change is to split the department into three separate work groups. Each of the three work groups will act individually in granting vacation requests, even though they will still grant vacation requests using traditional seniority rules. Senior workers dislike the change because they fear the newly hired workers may gain an advantage over veteran employees. Because each group will assign vacation independently of another group, new hires in a veteran-poor group might receive first choice of vacation days, while veteran workers in a veteran-rich group would have to compete to get the remaining vacation days. Newer employees agree with the change because it puts them on a more even footing with the veteran employees.

To complicate matters, management decided to vary the work shift hours, moving away from established work hours. Despite overwhelming support from both senior employees and new hires to retain permanent shift hours based on seniority, management will make the change because it allows them more scheduling flexibility. The employees agree that varied shift hours will complicate pre-existing health problems and/or cause other physical problems, such as sleep disorders and those resulting from stress. “Recent studies suggest that work organization may have a broad influence on worker safety and health and may contribute to occupational injury, work-related musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, and other occupational health concerns such as indoor air quality complaints.” (NORA, 1996, Work Environment and Workforce section, para. 21). Even with these objections by both the newer and the more seasoned employees, management seems to be resolute in their decision to make the changes. Does this mean employees who have dedicated years of their working lives to the company will lose the benefits of seniority, or can we find a solution that will benefit both sides? By examining sources of conflict, types of conflict, and more specifically, the types of conflict present in the scenario, we can evaluate a solution that might alleviate some concerns held by all the employees.

Sources of Conflict

No matter how well a group works together, there will always be some conflict in a group. It can arise for any number of reasons. Conflicts may arise between members with different methods of doing things, or can result from the competition for the sharing of resources (Smallwood, n.d.). Some other reasons for conflict can be power struggles, personality clashes, and differing priorities between members of the group (Smallwood, n.d.) All of theses resources are a result of diversity in a work group. Diversity can be an unavoidable cause for conflict involving different viewpoints, backgrounds, and life experiences. These differences result in each person looking at the same set of facts and yet

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