Typical sources of conflict within an organization come down to three driving forces or constraints: competing objectives or dissenting views; scarcity of resources; and interference or challenges to primacy. For example, when an organization is decentralized and the top management of the different business units is used to operating with relative autonomy and without interdependence on other business units or divisions within the organization, fiefdoms and siloes emerge that pit one group’s objectives against another in what is frequently perceived as a zero sum game. When resources are in the balance, such as money and talent, if one division gets what they want it often comes at the expense of another division, creating rivalries and setting the stage for future conflicts.
In class, we had the ability to experience a similar resource conflict first-hand with an EMOB negotiation exercise entitled, “The Ugli Orange.” Fortunately, because of an earlier exercise that ended in abject failure, both teams had learned enough to ask the right questions, understand what the competing objectives were and ultimately we found a way where both parties could achieve their respective goals without compromising the goals of the other.
Another form of conflict resolution that we observed in class was in the form of the video: Workplace Violence: First Line of Defense. The key takeaway from this video is the need on the part of management to address issues as they begin to escalate, such as an employee who increasingly appears disenfranchised and disgruntled and begins to hint at exacting revenge through violent means. Managers need to manage these situations by confronting the person and addressing the unacceptable behaviors and statements before that person reaches a breaking point and makes good on threats that many did not take seriously. Unfortunately, many managers take the “path of least resistance” and try to placate or ignore the offending party, allowing the situation to escalate to the point where it is no longer manageable.
A very helpful and illuminating EMOB exercise turned out to be the Managing Role Conflict self-assessment tool, in which I realized that where I was scoring highest, in planning and organizing and trying to fulfill all of the demands, I was actually compensating for glaring weaknesses in other areas where I need to focus more on managing the expectations up front and saying no. That was an eye opener, and I am trying to apply what I have learned here.