Resolving Interpersonal Conflict In An Organization

Understanding the Level of Conflict

1. There are usually five levels of conflict that can occur. They are – intrapersonal conflict, interpersonal conflict, intragroup conflict, intergroup conflict and interorganizational conflict. In the case study provided, the branch manager, Tom and marketing manager, Kristy demonstrate interpersonal conflict. Interpersonal conflicts occur between two or more individuals (two, in this case) and could be due to a variety of reasons (Kessler et al.). In this particular case, it can be said that the main causes behind their interpersonal conflict would be differences in perceptions and personalities. While Kristy is more dominating and prefers to have employees work according to her principles, Tom is of the opinion that he should be burdened with every responsibility and that Kristy is responsible for the cold calls to the clients, since she is in charge of marketing.

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2. The first step in conflict resolution is conflict mapping, which enables the individuals involved to grasp the complete picture and devise wholesome solutions to it (Brown and Raymond). There are usually a few steps to conflict mapping, which both Tom and Kristy could follow.

  • The first step would be to define the issue. The issue in this case is cold calling and who, in the company, would be responsible for this task. Both Kristy and Tom need to ensure that no individual is held responsible for the issue in this phase.
  • The major parties would be identified in the next step. In this case, it is an interpersonal conflict between two individuals, Kristy and Tom. Thus, both the parties would be included in the map. Since both parties are stakeholders and stand to be affected by the issue, the needs and concerns of both will be considered.
  • In the third step, the needs and concerns of the two individuals would have to be listed. This ensures fair representation of both parties. Each party is responsible for the situation, and equal treatment should be catered to each to ensure fair resolution of conflicts.
  • In the fourth and final step, the map would have to be analyzed. Reading the map would mean that some common ground would have to be found for both parties. For example, in this case, the common ground is the client. Getting a new client would be beneficial for both Tom and Kristy and thus is the responsibility of both parties. As such, both parties would need to divide the responsibility of cold calling for the overall benefit of the organization.

(Figure: Conflict map)

3. Mapping their interpersonal conflict would be extremely beneficial for both Tom and Kristy. Conflict mapping would break the conflict down into compartments and would help the concerned parties better understand the root causes for the unrest. It would also help them find common ground. For instance, Kristy and Tom both realize that cold calling and getting hold of clients is the bigger picture here. Instead of arguing about who is responsible for gathering more potential clients, both should divide partnership and pay more attention to the cold calling of clients since that would be better for business. Having come to the conclusion that the needs and concerns of both Tom and Kristy are on the same page, they would be able to divide responsibility for cold calling the client. For instance, Kristy would have to be more accommodating and take into account the priorities of others before imposing her decisions on them. Tom too would need to cooperate with Kristy more and focus on the immediate task in hand.

4. Constructive response, with respect to conflict management, may be defined as behavioural patterns which are more suited to effective conflict resolution. In situations of conflict, an individual’s response may be termed constructive or destructive, depending on the damage caused due to the conflict. Constructive responses would be a step towards conflict resolution (Folger, Poole and Stutman). Post the conversation presented in the case study, Kristy would be expected to reply to Tom. A constructive response on her part would be one that reflects flexibility. For instance, she could ask him if anyone on his team was available to be sent to Carlton to greet the client. Simply imposing her decision on Tom would not help; Kristy would have to be flexible when it comes to her decisions. A more constructive and proactive response to Kristy on Tom’s part would have been one that suggests adaptability and cooperation. Instead of lashing out, he could have calmly replied stating that he would look into it, assuring Kristy that the client was top priority.

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Brown, Greg, and Christopher M. Raymond. “Methods for identifying land use conflict potential using participatory mapping.” Landscape and Urban Planning 122 (2014): 196-208.

Folger, Joseph, Marshall Scott Poole, and Randall K. Stutman. Working through conflict: Strategies for relationships, groups, and organizations. Routledge, 2017.

Kessler, Stacey R., et al. “Leadership, interpersonal conflict, and counterproductive work behavior: An examination of the stressor–strain process.” Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 6.3 (2013): 180-190.