Like organisms, the individual units of the organization need to function as one. Its units are interdependent to each other, so the individuals assigned to these units. Symbiotic relationships exist within the organization for it to function efficiently and effectively. Sometimes individual attitudes, culture, and behaviors collide and create conflict with is oftentimes bring regarded as counterproductive (George & Jones, 2006).
Conflict is inevitable in organizations – personalities, worldviews, attitudes, and various cultures collide and inevitably ensue. On one side, involved individuals can take conflict and conflict resolution until irreconcilable differences can no longer be resolved which warrants elevation to management. On the other, management can take charge and manage these interpersonal conflicts through mediation.
In his book, Kondalkar (2007) proposes four ways in viewing conflict:
Traditional View. Conflicts are traditionally considered bad and negatively affects the organization. It was considered harmful and unnecessary which is often equated to destruction. I was assumed that lack of trust and miscommunication causes conflict. Managers view this as something that must be avoided through various mechanisms employed to ensure clear communication lines.
Human Relations View. On the other hand, Human Relations view conflict as an unavoidable event. HR practitioners theorized that conflict must be accepted instead of being eliminated. Organizations therefore must lay down proper policy and procedures to approach conflict. Resources therefore should be focused on proper allocation to ensure avoid any occurrence of conflict.
Behavioral View. Some scientists on the other hand encourage conflict to break the monotony. The view a group with harmonious relations, peace, and cooperation to be non-vibrant, static in nature, and can display apathetic attitude towards group members. This makes them non-responsive which limits innovation and creativity. However, conflict is only viewed beneficial when it is at its minimal level. This increases competitiveness that results in higher productivity and job satisfaction. Since people differ in attitudes, values, and goals, conflict is but a natural outcome in any group of people, and that it can be helpful and constructive.
Modern View. Modernists view conflict as a necessary element for organizational effectiveness. It is believed that harmonious, peaceful, and cooperative groups can become static – minimum level of conflict therefore must be present in order to encourage innovation and creativity. Interactions should require differences in opinions which encourages critical thinking, analysis, and discourse.
This paper looks into a conflict scenario between a staff and officers of a local bank, how low job satisfaction affected conflict episodes, and how it affected employee productivity.
Background of the Study (Organization)
Focus of this paper is a major local bank with several branches and frequent number of transacting clients. The selected branch has three officers and several staff at different workstations performing varying tasks.
Jun-Jun the junior officer. Jun-Jun, a recently promoted officer of the bank, rose from the ranks and boasts 25 years of loyalty and experience. Due to bank-wide reorganization and job alignment, his present job, service officer, is not new to him as this came as a formality in his long-time role as a senior staff. Jun-jun’s main responsibility is to ensure seamless day-to-day operations of the branch. From account opening to significant withdrawals, among other transactions, as well as records-related customer complaints, the Jun-jun’s responsibility is no joke.
Ash the alternate officer.Due to a month-long leave of the branch head, together with a more junior service officer, Jun-jun was assigned to take charge of both branch sales and operations. Coming from a different department, his partner Ash, takes job lightly as he still quite unfamiliar with branch operations. A father of three, ash is seen by his colleagues as nice and approachable but easily persuaded. Thus, branch staffs often take advantage of his kindness
On the other hand, Jun-jun, also a father of three, is strict when it comes to office behavior and work attitude. He is always well-groomed and ensures everyone in the office projects a good impression not just to the clients but also to their colleagues in the area. Jun-jun’s two decades long experience in the bank is unquestionable. Being more tenured than most of the officers in the bank with his fatherly advices, Jun-jun enjoys utmost respect in the company.
Bella the staff. Despite being in the bank for four years, Bella is seen by her peers as a rebellious brat. Being involved spats with her former supervisor, she bears no good impression to all. Being the breadwinner of her family of six, Bella is also a single parent with her sickly daughter. Add to the equation her ageing parents and siblings who depend on her, Bella believes that she should be given special treatment in terms of time flexibility and workload.
With her frequent absences and tardiness, Jun-jun often reminds Bella to abide by the company policies. Ash, on the other hand, passively approaches Bella and shrugs her work attitude. Despite frequent reminders, Bella still continues to be tardy, often filing unscheduled leaves which often affects branch operations and causes processing delays of clients’ transactions.
Whenever given additional tasks, Bella complains and points out that the additional task is no longer part of her job and that it should be given to other staff who are paid to do so and are more capable. She believes that tasks are not equally distributed among her and other staff in the branch.
Jun-Jun and Ash confronts Bella. Despite being close with Jun-Jun outside workplace, due to numerous complaints because of her attitude, officers Jun-Jun and Ash decided to talk to Bella to call her attention. Some clients even point out her rude attitude as she often ignores those who have questions. If she doesn’t she often gives wrong information to them which requires them to follow-up their transactions multiple times, prolonging the turn around time.
Because of her attitude, Jun-Jun and Ash decided to talk to her and call her attention. However, Bella refused to talk. Instead, she reasoned out that she’s still busy trying to finish all the additional tasks assigned to her. The encounter resulted in a spat which was elevated to HR which is, until now, left unresolved.
By working in a place which she regards as too controlling, how did the spat affect the interpersonal relationship of Bella to Jun-Jun, Ash, and her other co-workers. In this paper, we delve deeper into the impact on employee job satisfaction.
Pondy (1967) identifies three types of conflict among the subunits of formal organizations:
- bargaining conflict among the parties to an interest-group relationship.
- bureaucratic conflict between the parties to a superior-subordinate relationship.
- systems conflict among parties to a lateral or working relationship.
In each of the three cases, conflict is treated as a series of episodes, each episode including stages of latency, feeling, perception, manifestation, and aftermath (Pondy, 1967).
It is the process in which one party perceived that interests are beign opposed or negatively affected by another party. Conflicts often arise due to (1) poor communication lines, (2) incompatible goals, (3) different values and believes, (4) task interdependence, (5) scarce resources, and lastly (6) ambiguous rules (McShane & Glinow, 2005).
When viewed as a dynamic process, conflict can be more readily understood. Parties in conflict situations may be unaware on the conditions or situations developed at and early stage. Behaviors may vary depending on the number of factors in a conflict situation.
Conflict episodes may leave aftermath which affects the course of succeeding episodes. Certain trends or stable aspects of conditions, affect, perception, and behavior characterize the entire relationship. In his framework, Pondy identifies five conflict episodes – (1) latent conflict, (2) perceived conflict, (3) felt conflict, (4) manifest conflict, and (5) conflict aftermath. This does not mean however that conflict passes through all stages but may skip some of the phases which parties may sometimes never perceive as such, or conflict may be resolved prior to hostilities.
Latent Conflict. Competition for scarce resources, autonomy, and divergence of goals results in this episode. Conflict arises when parties push their interest on limited resources, compete to exercise control over some activity or when two or more parties who are expected to cooperate fails to do so and reach a consensus.
Perceived Conflict. Sometimes conflict may arise without any of the participants perceiving its existence. In this case, conflict is said to result in a misunderstanding between two or more parties. It argues that improving communication lines and clarifying positions can resolve this conflict episode.
Felt Conflict. People perceive and feel conflict differently. Disagreements can make one part tense and anxious while the other party may not feel the same. Inconsistent demands of organizations to employees create anxieties resulting in stress and organizational pressure. Also, when the whole personality of the individual is too ingrained in the relationship, there is good possibility of conflict arising. Individuals therefore need to vent this anxieties in order to maintain a certain level of equilibirium.
Manifest Conflict. Conflict perceptions and emotions usually manifest themselves in decisions and behaviors toward another party (McShane & Glinow, 2005). Open aggression, physical and verbal violence characterize this conflict episode. Manifest conflict only occurs when the party knowingly blocks the other party’s goals. Without knowledge, manifest conflict does not occur.
The interface between perceived conflict and manifest conflict as well as interface between felt conflict and manifest conflict are pressure points where conflict resolution comes to arrest negative impact in the organization. By preserving the stability of relationships, conflict resolution exercises ensure that conflict situations are controlled and prevented from influencing other issues.
Conflict Aftermath. Once conflict is genuinely resoled to the satisfaction of the parties involved, a basis for a more cooperative relationship may be laid. Parties then focus on latent conflicts which are not previously perceived and dealt with. On the other hand, if the conflict is left unresolved, conflict may explode to a more serious situation until rectified.
Since conflict situation in the chosen company already reached the fourth episode, manifest conflict, we shall further analyze how manifest conflict affect job satisfaction in the workplace pending HR intervention to resolve the situation.
In the study of human behaviors, job satisfaction is one of the most important factors to look as this focuses employee attitude towards his job. Kondalkar (2007) identifies three important dimensions of job satisfaction:
Inferred. Job satisfaction can be measured by emotional response to a job situation, hence it cannot be seen.
Reward. Since job satisfaction is related to what you actually get from what you expect, it is often considered as a reward. If variance falls within the acceptable range of the employee, then that person will display a positive attitude towards work. If, however, below the minimum expected parameters, employee may show negative attitude to indicate dissatisfaction.
Job dimensions. Job satisfaction is also related to job content, remuneration, attitude of co-workers, and growth opportunities such as promotion, salary hike, etc.
Individual and corporate value system must be in congruence with each other. Below are some important factors that determine job satisfaction of employees within an organization.
Work Content. Employees look for challenging work which should enable them to make full use of their knowledge, skills, and experiences. The work itself should draw interest from the employee and have variety inbuilt into it so that it is not boring. Too tough and tiring and too little work bring frustration and feeling of failure in the part of the employee.
Pay and Promotion Policy. Pay system and promotion in an organzation should be clear and unambiguous. This should also be in line with industry standards and employee expectations and meritocracy. These policies should be fair, equitable, growth-oriented, and incremental in nature so that employees take additional responsibility voluntarily. Equally important with financial considerations are its non-financial counterparts that motivate employees such as health benefits, allowances, etc.
Supportive Working Condition. Working conditions tend to have lasting effect in employee job satisfaction. Thus, it is necessary to equip employees with efficient technologies as not to hamper them with workload. Office layout is similarly important which enables employees to communicate with internal and external clients while keeping their privacy at the same time. Employees who work closer to home tend to have higher job satisfaction levels compared to employees who spend longer time and effort to report to their workplace.
Work Group. This serves as a support system, that gives comfort, advice, and assistance to individual workers. Employees with good workgroup tend enjoy their work and have higher job satisfaction level. Employees who are unable to get along with other employees tend to have lower job satisfaction.
Supervision. Employees look for supervisors who should be available for advice, guidance, and problem solving. These supervisors should be close to the employee workplace and are readily available. Aside from work-related stuff, they are also expected to take personal interests in the affairs fo employees on both personal and official level. Thus, supervision is related to leadership.
Personality Job Fit. I assigning work, individual competencies should match the expected behavior. In addition, employees expect work which is in line and suit their individual interests.
With concepts on conflict and job satisfaction laid down, resulting conceptual framework below shall be used to analyze the conflict situation of Jun-Jun and Belle.
In the conceptual framework, factors that determine job satisfaction as part of external factors that contribute to latent conflict. Here, we will delve deeper on how these factors magnified the conflict situation between the focus employees.
Methods & Procedures
The researcher implemented a two prong approach in terms of data gathering on employee job satisfaction. To ensure data integrity, employees were first observed to gauge job satisfaction. Informal interviews were then done to validate data observation. Prior to this paper, proper permission were sought from the parties to ensure utmost privacy protection.
The researcher meanwhile used formal records and first hand interview to validate the phases of conflict which the parties had gone through.
Work Content. Interview and frequent first hand conversations with Belle reveal that she feels her full potential is not being maximized with her current role. She feels that she wasn’t given enough opportunity to rotate and apply her skills in other roles available in the bank.
Pay and Promotion Policy. As the breadwinner in the family, Belle needs to augment her salary through other means such as night job and setting up an online shop, on top of her frequent overtime claims. Last year, a new pay scheme was applied to new hires. Two branch staff benefited from the pay hike but the older staff, including Belle, did not receive salary adjustment other than the annual adjustment from their union’s collective bargaining agreement. Belle feels that the new pay scheme is unfair to those who had been serving the bank for quite some time. In addition, she feels that given the higher salary, newcomers should bring in more in the table and that assistance should no longer be extended to them. Being in the company for five years, and despite exerting much effort on her work, it is only this time that she’d seen the bank promote an unprecedented number of staff which includes the newcomers but excludes her.
Supportive Working Condition. With frequent technology breakdown due to obsolete or old systems, Belle feels that she’s unable to provide quality service to her clients. Despite management efforts to upgrade the systems, Belle has friends from competitor banks where she compares her company resources. Thus, she frequently feels the inadequacy and inefficiency of the old legacy systems used in the branch.
Work Group. Employees in the branch where Jun-Jun, Ash, and Belle is a mixture of various generations. Despite seemingly good camaraderie inside the workplace, employees seldom go out for get together and outings. As a result, there are subgroups in the branch – those that are parents, who are usually beyond 30s; and those who are single with no obligations. Belle, as a single mom sits in between with no clear support system from these factions.
Supervision. Being a staff himself not so long ago, Jun-Jun is close with everyone. He even frequently gives personal advice to Belle when she got pregnant. Now, being part of management, Jun-Jun is now responsible not just with branch operations but also with the careers of every branch staff he handles. Being an officer, he now needs to set a clear line between work and personal life among the branch staff which is perceived negatively by some of them, including Belle. One-on-one conversations became limited and Jun-Jun’s responsibilities are now more crucial. In a nutshell, his promotion became counterproductive in therms of his relationship with the branch staff.
Personality Job Fit. Being naturally friendly, Belle is perfect fit in her present role as a new accounts clerk. However, the job requires keen attention and focus on details in which she is challenged.
With the above information, it can be inferred that Belle has low job satisfaction level. From the case, her frequent absences, tardiness, and excuses suggest her disinterest in her present job. In addition, with little support system, coupled with the perceived inequitable pay, very little reward system, and vague basis on promotion, Belle has little organizational commitment.
Her very low job satisfaction level is the exact opposite of Jun-Jun’s. His promotion as an officer is a strong testament of his long commitment and excellent contribution to the bank. With promotion also comes increase in salary as well as additional non-monetary benefits that branch staff doesn’t enjoy.
Latent Conflict. Divergence in personal financial and career goals are the two primary reasons of latent conflict. At this point, since mass promotion is beyond Jun-Jun’s scope, and personal financial goals are considered separate from company goals, officers, including Ash were unable to spot the looming conflict.
Perceived Conflict. With one less officer due to month-long leave of the branch head, coupled with unusual increase in transactions, Jun-Jun is left with no choice but to delegate and tasks to other branch staff. Due to her situation as a single parent, coupled with some personal problems involving her family in addition to the perceived inequity in terms of salary, Bella felt too much tasks is being hurled on her. She tried airing her concerns to Ash and Jun-Jun but both were unable to immediately address her concerns. With frequent complaints from Bella, both officers felt that she’s just trying to get their sympathy and become more lenient in her absences and tardiness.
Felt Conflict. Conflict became apparent with Bella taking more frequent and unscheduled absences which paralyzed branch operations and required the entire branch to render excessive overtime to finish all transactions. Bella at this point, when approached by the officers, refused to talk and made several excuses. With so much exhaustion and complaints from other branch staff, this prompted Jun-Jun to serve verbal reprimand to Bella which she hoped will fix the problem.
Manifest Conflict. With both parties finally meeting, with Bella feeling overpowered by the two officers, confrontation resulted in an open spat seen by some branch staff, including the author of this material. The spat promted Jun-Jun and Ash, to issue written reprimand due to Bella. Bella immediately replied pointing out her being a single mom as an excuse to most of the items pointed out by the two officers. With an officer and staff involved, HR steps in to help reconcile their differences and solve the issue.
Conflict Aftermath. Days after opening fire with each other, Bella and Jun-Jun realized their missteps and apologized to each other. However, since the issue has already been raised to HR, both parties need to undergo a hearing which is as of writing still yet to be scheduled.
With both clarifying their points and reinstating their good relationship, a feel good vibe is evident in the branch once again. Bella reports on time, which as a result, enabled her to finish the tasks assigned to her on time. Other employees were also noticeably happier as additional headcount means less work for everyone.
Present situation validates the both modernist and behavioral view on conflict as something beneficial. Although conflict, in this case, resulted in a spat which required elevation to HR for formal handling, actual conflict has been resolved between the two employees who are primarily involved. Initially seen as something counterproductive, the result is something more beneficial rather than detrimental to the performance not just of both employees but also other employees in the branch who are indirectly affected by the situation.
This also opened opportunities to set standards and clarify expectations which weren’t clear before the manifestation of conflict happened. As expectations become clear, employees also become more conscious on their individual and collective work attitude, actions, and behaviors which may help increase organizational commitment.
With the branch officers unable to spot the looming conflict at its latent stage which could have enabled them to avoid the spat, the following recommendations are essential in minimizing such hostile encounters:
Regular one-on-one conversations. As lack of clear communication lines resulted in misunderstanding which triggered the looming latent conflict, an avenue where staffs can freely air their grievances to officers, and officers can objectively evaluate performance of staffs should be present. Regularity is a very important factor on this as it suggests willingness and sincerity of management to listen and understand the situation of the staff.
Regular branch meetings. Conducting regular branch meetings with sufficient time to augment one-on-one conversations should also be present. Such activities ensures that everyone is on the same page and minimizes if not totally eliminates doubts on favoritism and ensures unbiased policies and procedures on all employees.
Team building activities. Significant differences in terms of life stages created unnecessary factions that are counterproductive. As such, team building activities such as quarterly dinners, or summer outings is necessary to enable everyone know more about their colleagues beyond work. If schedule or budget does not permit, a buddy system with regular rotation intervals can be adapted, paring seasoned employees with the newer ones.
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- George, J. M., & Jones, G. R. (2005). Understanding and Managing Organizational Behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Kondalkar, V. G. (2007). Organizational Behaviour. New Delhi: New Age International(p) Limited, Publishers.
- McShane, S. L., & Glinow, M. A. (2005). Organizational Behavior: Emerging Realities for the Workplace Revolution (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
- Pondy, L. R. (1967). Organizational Conflict: Concepts and Models. Administrative Science Quarterly, 12(2), 296. doi:10.2307/2391553