Conflict Resolution in the Workplace (Personal Experience)
Personal Application Assignment
To begin with, it should be stated that working in the organization often becomes a tough experience, as people have to learn to adjust to others. At first sight, being employed within a team brings a number of advantages. However, the team work presupposes the occurrence of a great number of conflicts, which have to be masterfully resolved in order to assist the employees in producing the fruitful final result. This essay aims at conducting the analysis of the problematic situation, which is common for the organizational setting and providing the efficient methods of solution, grounded on the theoretical knowledge and assumptions.
Among various work experiences, there are some that allow testing one’s managerial skills, potential performance, and the ability to work with others. There has been such experience in my short career, when I was working in a small team of young professionals in summer. The work-related experience made me see my own skills in the terms of intercultural communication, conflict resolution, and the ability to work under pressure. At that time, I had a chance to meet a representative of a foreign culture, whose work methods spurred controversy and led to conflict and noticeable discrimination. Through the experience, I managed to reevaluate my own perception of communication within a workplace, equality and acceptance, and approaches to managing people.
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It all happened during the time I have been working in-between the studies; I had a position of a junior manager in marketing in a team of young professionals, each assigned a different area of work. Although I had no experience in the field and each of us had different tasks without close supervision by a specific manager, we cooperated well and had a great performance as a team despite some minor issues. I have been with the team for nearly a month when a new worker was introduced; it was an international expert with plenty of work experience, who came there on working visa from South Africa. I had never met anyone from there before, but I felt rather intrigued and interested in meeting the new professional. The expert was to come there and be the manager of our small branch, since the company wanted more South African experts. It was expanding to the African market and opening new branches and production chains there.
Before the expert arrived, I noticed the unusual behavior. The other team members, who were close with each other, since they worked longer together, expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that a foreign manager was about to come. Some of the employees were very open about it; they made jokes regarding the nationality and persona of the potential manager without ever meeting him. Some comments were rather cruel and racist, and although I never participated in unjust criticism and did not understand its origins, I felt some fear regarding the arrival of the new manager. I feared that the new manager’s presence may lead to some conflicts in the workplace, and it proved to be true. When this person arrived, he was immediately met with resistance, despite his initial attempts to get to know the team. Although the resentment was hidden at first, later it was expressed openly. The manager organized a party on Friday night in the office, which was an attempt to get to know us better as well as relax after a long week. We used to have such parties before, but a part of the team decided to ignore the invitation, and there were only three people including me, another employee, and the manager.
Next week, one of the employees was extremely rude with the manager; she responded inadequately to his work remark and insulted him regarding his race and the fact that he arrived to work in America. The incident was public, and although I was not involved in it, I was one of the quiet observers, and it made me feel very upset. It was the first time I sensed and experienced such a huge discrimination in the workplace alongside racial remarks and other comments. It was also the first time I observed a total lack of understanding, communication, and respect within a team. Even observing a conflict made me feel very uncomfortable not to mention participating in it, and afterwards I had to work with the people who started it. However, as my contract was short, I remained with the team and people who supported the racism.
I recall my feeling of complete lack of security, discomfort, and unhealthy communication with colleagues, although they treated me the same way. I felt like I could not communicate with them as I did before, after they supported the conflict and the person who started it. In addition, I felt guilty in front of the manager despite the fact that I knew it was not my job to defend him. After my contract was over, I was happy to leave that place as I felt bad throughout the remaining working time and communicated with everyone as little as possible simply performing my tasks. The atmosphere made me even more depressed, and I felt relieved when I left.
Now, when I recall that experience, I can see it more clearly as I see the possible points of view of other team members. Firstly, I remember many remarks and unfunny jokes made within the team about international branches and experts coming over there. The arrival of the new manager was a logical consequence of the previous dislike of foreigners and outsiders, which existed in the office and which I failed to notice on time. The racial and cultural differences did not bother me, but I also failed to see that my other colleagues had a huge racial prejudice and did not like the people who were very different from them. One of the informal leaders of the group wanted to get the position of the manager since he had a big work experience. Although he never led a branch and had limited responsibilities, he hoped to get that job instead of a new manager from South Africa. Therefore, I realize now that the employees, who acted the way they did, felt justified as they claimed what they wanted, and they felt like they had a right to insult the manager they did not respect. The manager, who felt like an outsider from the very beginning, acted in a very calm and professional way, and he handled the conflict well, but I suppose he must have felt terrible both as an individual and a professional, as he was offended, and the employees did everything to prevent the branch from working well.
The described experience is closely related to perception bias, and even more closely to the discrimination and stereotypes. The manager has been met with a discrimination, which means a different treatment of an individual based on particular qualities; and in this case, they were nationality and race. The stereotypes were used to fuel the conflict and create tension and misunderstandings, because the colleagues relied on them to feel superior to the new manager and prevent themselves from adapting to the changes. They were the main source of the resentment in the first place. This incident is the manifestation of the organization’s team inability to stick to leadership philosophy, initially proposed by Welch.
The other theory, closely related to the experience, was concerning the self-fulfilling prophecies. I have mentioned that one of the employees wanted to get the managerial position, and he hoped it would be his due to his extensive experience in the company. Therefore, when an outsider got the job, the employee felt like his job was taken from him because he imagined himself on that position. However, it was a mental construction since the individual was not about to get the job, and no one ever promised it. It was merely a mental trick because the employee imagined himself in the role, and he rebelled when his own expectations contradicted the reality.
The incident is also related to Welch’s leadership philosophy and the way the situation has been handled. Although the manager resolved the initial conflict well through the direct communication, there were still lack of professionalism and continuous remarks after the conflict. That is why the manager failed to arrange communication effectively, and he was unable to leave the conflict behind. The workers looked bad at the incident, and they lacked effective communication with the manager to solve the issues that they were having with him. Although there was no more negativity than before, the atmosphere at work was still far from healthy, and the manager did not talk clearly with the team and did not think of the company’s values. He did not use motivation as a tool to change the situation, leaving the branch in a dysfunctional state.
Writing this essay assisted me with investigation of the past experience from different points of view, and helped to apply the theoretical and practical expertise to the consideration of the final issues. As I analyze the incident, I see three solutions or improvements, which could be applied to the situation.
The first, related to leadership, would be to set a clear communication between the team and the managers. The managers should have discussed the arrival of a new expert more effectively by asking the employees their opinion and enabling them to get more information and influence over the changes within the branch. The lack of such communication led to the conflict. The accurate consideration of details helped me to analyze that incident and understand that it was partially caused by the inability of the authorities to meet the social needs of the employees. According to Maslow, the workers experience the severe necessity to have the sense of belongingness. In this case, there was not belongingness, no care or understanding, but a straightforward command. The way of representation of the new manager later has become the main source of hostility.
Second, I would make more use of Kotter’s motivation theory and encourage people to follow the company’s values in order to achieve significant results and goals they imagine in the workplace. The workers felt that with the new manager their goals were being neglected, and this could be avoided.
Thirdly, I would personally have more courage to speak with my colleagues and express my dissatisfaction with their actions. This is something that can be applied to different companies, which can arrange face-to-face discussions with the employees in order to understand the working environment in the company and arrange healthy relations among the people. Writing this essay helped me to grasp that my actions were the manifestation of self-fulfilling prophecy, which I discussed in the previous part. I behaved the way other people expected. I kept silence, and it was my major mistake.
This essay reveals the past experience, and its close analysis turned to be extremely helpful and essential for me personally, as it helped to conduct the analysis of the committed mistakes, connect them with the theoretical background, and think about the ways of preventing their occurrence in future. The paper analyzed the discrimination and stereotypical bias in the company’s milieu. It equipped me with more thoughtful understanding of the problem, its preconditions, and reasons for the negative consequences.