Conflicts are common occurrences in the workplace. However, when they occur, they affect the working environment and the productivity of the organization. Since conflicts are bound to occur, organizations have put in place some mechanisms to solve them. This paper explores the conflict in a leading accounting firm in the US. The conflict was interpreted as a form of sexual harassment between Greg and Jane. This paper analyses how they explored the situation and discovered that it was not an effective way. The parties chose to utilize a right-based mechanism to address the issue, whereby the matter was ruled in favor of the offender in court, thereby complicating the relationship between the two further. However, the right-based mechanism did not address the interest of both parties and thus this paper has suggested an interest-based mechanism that follows five stets to solve the conflict.
Organizations function because people interact with one another on various issues. When people interact, they may agree or disagree, and this is considered as normal forms of interaction. Although disagreements are common, it can lead to a conflict between the disagreeing parties thereby affecting the processes within the organization, as well as the parties involved in the conflict (Melton 2014, p. 265). Conflicts take place in organizations, but this does not mean that the organization ceases to function. There exist some mechanism for solving conflict, and one can be vindicated if the proper channel has been followed. Conflict resolution process can be formal or informal. Formal channels are outlined by the organization and consider a rational approach to conflict resolution. Informal approach on the other hand considers a channel that has not been specified, and this means the approach is non-rational (Iqbal & Afsheen 2013, p. 125). This paper analyzes a conflict that took place inan organization in the US.
A large accounting firm in the US had several positions for the financial partners. The role of financial partners was to analyze the creditworthiness of clients seeking for a loan, and this involved going to the site in case the client had offered some immobile collateral, such as business premises. Financial partners used to work in pairs, and this means they would travel together to the site.
Jane was a newly hired financial partner, and she was paired with Greg, a seasoned worker at the organization. Greg was also an assistant to the head of the department. After about three months, Jane had fully oriented to the procedures within the organization, and she could go to the field with Greg to analyze the creditworthiness of clients. In one of the field visits, Greg grabbed Jane and kissed her by force. The incident triggered a conflict between the two. Jane was very mad and considered the incident as sexual harassment. That day, the two did not spoke to each other.
The following morning, Greg went to apologize to Jane. He apologized on his knees to the point that Jane forgave him. However, she requested the manager to pair her with another person of the same sex. Once her request was granted, Greg became angry because he had grown fond of her. He hatched a scheme of going to her every morning and apologizing for the incident he had already been forgiven. The apologies continued for more than a month until Jane got fed up and told other financial partners about the car incident. Her narration destroyed the reputation of Greg because he lost the respect of other employees, and could not lead them effectively.
The company’s policy on sexual harassment was well outlined, and it stated that such cases would be treated as criminal cases. The parties involved would be interdicted pending the verdict of the court once the matter was in the court. However, the policy of the company also gave way for the two parties to resolve such conflict informally. Greg had an influence in the company and thus there was likelihood that he could influence the sucking of Jane if legal procedures were not followed. Fearing for her job, Jane took the case to the court. During the investigation, the court dismissed the case. The judge argued that the case had no evidence, and that the fact that Greg had apologized for any misconduct means that Jane had misinterpreted his motives. At work, the two were interdicted for three months. After resuming their duties, the relationship between the two changed. They behaved like a mouse and a cat, and this had a negative effect on their work.
Analysis of the Situation
From the case study narrated above, the case of power and conflict emerges clearly, as well as the wrong choice of conflict resolution mechanism can be noticed on the outcome. In the first place, the conflict took place in private, which was inside the car, but the consequences were displayed in public, which in this case was the office. The public place or office masked the problem, and this means it would have been prudent for the two parties to solve it in private or informally. When the two were in private, the discourse that dominated them was non-rational. However, because of lack of proper channels to follow in non-formal conflict, there was no room for the two to express their dissatisfaction to each other. According to a study by Palagiet al. (2005, p.279), individuals with the least power at the workplace are the most affected whenever a conflict takes place. As a result, there is a prerequisite for the management to provide a variety of conflict resolution mechanism that can make them feel comfortable so that they will be in a position to maximally deliver.
Jane was powerless when she was confronted with sexual advances. Greg, on the other hand, though that he would use his charm and power to lure Jane into his sexual advances. The two negotiated for power after the incident whereby each one of them wanted to maintain the integrity in the office. Jane had selected to let the incident die whereas Greg also chose to apologize as a way of calming Jane. This means they all valued the relationship they had at work. In the conflict, most dominating claimer was Greg. In the first place, he overpowered Jane in the car. Thereafter, he pestered Jane with repeated apologies that destroyed the harmony of the work environment for Jane. He persisted in his apologies, such that Jane felt it was being pushed too far.
After the incident, the mater was solved by Greg’s apology. However, conflict came as a result of Greg’s continued persistence, and this means there were some ethical issues surrounding the negotiation process. It should be made clear that the ethical issues surrounding the negotiation process are not clear. At the surface, Greg appears to be well mannered and serious in his apologies. However, it appears that he is socially inept because he does not realize when to stop apologizing. The unending apologies of Greg can be visualized as intrusive because they lost meaning and their goodwill intention. The apologies are thus offensive because they turned into a form of harassment.
The company that had employed Jane and Greg had put in place an option for right-based mechanism to address sexual harassment cases. The right-based mechanism in this case implies legal redress. However, Costantino and Merchant (1996 p. 74) fault this mechanism as unfit to solve the conflict at workplace, and this explains as why the relationship between Laura and Greg became worse after the court decision.Right-based mechanisms are grounded on fixed principles and rules and thus they rely on the strength of evidence rather than the truth of the matter (Rowe, 1990, p. 16). As a result, they maynot maintain a healthy relationship after the verdict has been delivered. The sexual advances of Greg could not be proved at all and cannot qualify to be sexual harassment case. This means the method used to address the conflict was not right.
Recommendation and Conclusion
The Best Approach to the Case
According to Connell (1987, p. 28), right-based mechanism cannot address the interest of both parties involved in a conflict. As a result, Greg and Jane could have sought for interest-based mechanism. The company has an Ombudsman, who handles workers’ issues, and this would have been the best person to approach rather than the court. The Ombudsman would have facilitated a private discussion between them (Greg and Jane), and this would have ensured that their interests were preserved.
The Ombudsman would have approached the issues using conflict resolution procedures outlined by Rowe (1995, p. 41), which ensures that the interests of both parties are met. The first step involves identification of the conflict source. When information about the conflict cause is obtained, it becomes easy to resolve that particular conflict. A series of queries should be used by the Ombudsman to obtain the required information.
The Ombudsman would have enquired on how the incident started, and whether there was any relationship between the incident and other things, and the interests of each party among other issues. The Ombudsman would have given the two parties an opportunity to share their sides of the story. This would have helped in getting the proper understanding of the incident, as well as elimination of impartiality cases (Aureli&Frans 2000, p. 81). In addition, the Ombudsman would have carefully listened to both parties and follow with their explanations to encourage them open up.
In the second step of conflict resolution, the Ombudsman would have looked beyond the incident. In most cases, it is not the incident that matters but its perspective that arouses anger, which in turn leads to a noisy and disruptive evidence of a conflict (Dhiman 2012, p. 57). According to Kellett(2007, p. 57), the conflict source may be something minor that happened months before, but the stress levels may grow and make the two parties attack each other at a personal level rather than dealing with the real problem. This would have required the Ombudsman to be calm and carefully help Greg and Jane to see beyond the triggering situation and understand the real cause. Probing questions like “what do you think occurred here?” or “why do you think the problem first occurred between you?” can be used.
In the third step, solutions would have been requested. This would have occurred after the Ombudsman had obtained the viewpoint of each party about the conflict, whereby each of them would have identified how the situation could have been altered. The Ombudsman would also have asked each party to come up with ideas that would have made things better between them. To accomplish this step, the Ombudsman would have been forced to practice active listening, as well as understanding each verbal nuance and body language.
In step four, solutions supported by both disputants would have been identified (Wilmot & Jouyce 2007, p. 26). Perhaps Greg and Jane would have agreed to be friends without betraying their feelings towards each other. Thomas (2012, p. 265) states that in the listening process, the mediator should come up with the possible course of action. The merits of various ideas should be pointed out, not only of the disputants’ perspectives, but also in terms that are beneficial to the organization.
In the fifth stage, the Ombudsman would have asked Greg and Jane to shake hands as a sign of agreement to the identified solution. Where necessary, a contract framing time and specifying actions could have been written. However, according to Bercovitch and Jackson, 2009, p. 8), it is important both parties would outlined the action plans they would both put in place to avoid future conflicts,as well as the path they would have taken incase issues arise between them in the future.
Questions may arise on issues of conflict management. These questions will and may always continue due to the presence of conflicts in workplaces. However, it is advisable for managers to learn techniques of efficiently handling and solving conflict that hinder or even interfere with the professional growth of their employees. In this paper, the right-based mechanism was selected by the aggrieved party to solve the conflict. However, this paper has indicated this mechanism was not effective as it could not address the interest of both parties involved in a conflict. As a result, the paper has proposed the interest-based mechanism and how it would have been used to solve the situation arising in the place of work.
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