The conflict under analysis has emerged within a project management team. The team is working on the design of a new service that will be introduced in the course of the following year. While evaluating the resources that will be required for the project implementation, the team leader uses the top-down evaluation approach, discussing the assessment with the invited experts and the board of directors. The team members, in their turn, would prefer that the leader used the top-down evaluation so that their professional opinion is likewise considered. They feel their ample experience allows them to assess the scope of required resources in an accurate competent manner. The problem is compounded by the fact the team is mainly comprised of female employees, while the team leader is a man. As such, the women accuse their leader of being gender-biased, explaining, in such a manner, his decision to use the top-down evaluation approach.
In order to acquire a better understanding of the conflict’s nature and to develop an effective resolution strategy, it is, first and foremost, important, to define the source of this conflict. In this view, Isenhart and Spangle (2000) suggest differentiating between seven major sources of conflicts: relationship, values, procedures, communication, interests, roles, and structure (p. 15). Applying this differentiation to the examine conflict, it might be concluded that the “role” factor is its core trigger. As such, the team members want to play a more significant role in the project management; their main complaint is that they are not admitted to the decision-making process. The team leader, in his turn, wants to play the role of the authority which enjoys an exclusive right to make decisions.
Both conflict parties seem to have a different vision on the role of the team members which has provoked a conflict situation within the team. A supplementary source of the conflict is the “value” aspect. As such, the female team members do not believe that their manager shares their value of gender equality at workplace. The next step is to identify the level of the emerging conflict. In this view, Rudani (2013) subdivides the levels of conflicts into individual, interpersonal, group, and organization level conflict. In the frame of this classification, the analyzed conflict is at the group level at the current stage. Putting it more specifically, it is an intra-group conflict because all the disagreements arose within one group with no external parties being involved in them.
Since the analyzed conflict is an ongoing disagreement, no measures have been taken to resolve it yet. As such, several steps will be proposed as an alternative solution to resolving this conflict. According to Ayoko, Ashkanasy and Jehn (2013), effective communication is the first step to resolving a group level conflict. As such, it might be proposed that the conflict agents hold a meeting during which they discuss the focal points of contradiction in a concise and productive manner. In this view it is critical that both sides try to communicate their view on the problem: the team members explain their dissatisfaction with the role they play in the decision-making, while the team leader provides the rationale for using the top-down approach instead of the bottom-up evaluation method. Once all the complaints are clearly defined, it is necessary to ensure that both sides come up with an alternative solution that will release the tension. In this view, it is important that none of the sides refuses to accept the fact that some changes need to be performed (Ayoko et al., 2013). Second, when the group defines two or three alternative solutions, each of them might be implemented for a trial period to test how well it meets the needs of both conflict agents. After all the solutions are successfully tested, the group can hold another meeting to discuss the effectiveness of every solution and to develop a compromise that will satisfy everyone. It might turn out that the group will agree to implement a new solution that has not been tested once they examine the outcomes of the trial period. Under any conditions, it is necessary to ensure that both sides show their willingness to find a compromise.
The proposed solutions to resolving the conflict entail a series of possible outcomes. The first potential outcome is that the first meeting will help the team members understand the rationality of the manager’s point so that they will agree to collaborate with the use of the top-down evaluation approach. Likewise, it might turn out that the manager will not resist to the group’s participation in the decision-making process and will successfully reassure the team members that the choice of the top-down approach was no way associated with the gender issue.
Under both conditions, the first possible outcome is that one of the conflict agents will take the side of the other at the first stage of the conflict resolution. The second possible outcome is that discussion held at the first meeting will help to develop only one solution that will satisfy both sides of the conflict. In this case, the group will likewise manage to arrive at a consensus at the first stage of the conflict resolution. The third possible outcome, which is the most unfavorable scenario, is that, after trying different solutions, the team members will choose the one different from that the team leader chooses. In this case, the conflict will redouble, and it will be necessary to search for other alternative ways of its resolution.
- Ayoko, O. B., Ashkanasy, N. M., & Jehn, K. A. (2014). Handbook of Conflict Management Research. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.
- Insenhart, M. W., & Spangle, M. L. (2000). Collaborative Approaches to Resolving Conflict. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
- Rudani, R. B. (2013). Collaborative Approaches to Resolving Conflict. New Delhi, India: Mc Graw Hill Education.