In this situation, Jeff and Tina are coworkers who cannot avoid conflict and thus, are at a crossroads over Tina’s conduct and potentially her employment status. Tina Tumultuous has the tendency to argue with customers when they come to her for refunds or attempt to circumvent More Power’s return and refund policies. The situation at hand came to a head when Tina threw an ethnically insensitive comment toward a Latina customer named Maria. Her boss Joe Newcomer has repeatedly reprimanded Tina for her conduct and has been patient throughout her employment, but the situation at hand, his patience had run out. Tina appears to be a naturally combative and manipulative person, as exhibited when she threatened him with a discrimination suit, followed by tears. Joe is a naturally patient person with a calm temperament until his patience runs out, as it did here. The case notes that at one point, Joe and Tina worked well together and that she was a “conscientious” employee and Joe a supportive boss—until now.
Joe’s tendencies are power based, as he used his power as Tina’s supervisor and boss to exact punishment, and rightly so. Joe went light on her, according to his statements to Tina, only giving her a three-day suspension. However, his actions were not motivated by a power play or indicated an abuse of power. Tina’s tendencies, however, appeared to be rights based. Although her ethnicity, race or nationality are not described in the case study, her threat to file a discrimination suit likely makes her a member of a protected class. Tina’s behavior and threats to take legal action also come from a power-based approach as she threatens and attempts to undermine Joe’s authority, especially since she knows that he is not as combative a person as she is and is typically mild-mannered.
Tina and Joe’s contentious argument ended with Tina saying “well, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.” Although it is unclear whether she means going forward with a discrimination lawsuit or another method of retribution, her combative nature does not make it easier for Joe to try to create a peaceful solution, which he reminded her of during their fight. In order for Joe to create a cooperative relationship with Tina again, he will have to work with her, not against her, to prevent conflict on a personal level. If he neglects to terminate Tina’s employment, he could attempt to address the work climate and see from where her frustration stems. Although it seems that Tina is just a combative person by nature, it may not be the workplace, but her own emotions. Joe could then try to develop a close, but professional working relationship with Tina and be supportive, yet not complacent in her blowing up over simple customer requests. If Tina has legitimate employee concerns, then Joe can ask and attempt to learn her triggers. However, it appears that Tina could possibly unwilling to engage in such close contact with Joe.
An interest-based approach should be employed when the result will be satisfactory for the parties, which is why courts, arbitrations, and other official decision-making forums are ill equipped to do so. The interest-based approach does not focus on the “correct” solution, but the one that brings about a positive outcome. In this case, a third-party intervention such as a mediator or someone that is a collaborative problem solver or facilitator. This can open up the possibility for satisfaction on both sides and solving a dispute in contrast to going all-or-nothing. Hopefully, Tina having the opportunity to open up and maybe discuss any internal conflicts she has can get her and Joe back on the road to having a copacetic relationship.