Abstract Summarize my research into recent issues with workplace violence and how conflict resolution strategies can aid in preventing violent behavior in the workplace. Conflict is defined as the mental struggles resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes or external or internal demands. If this conflict is left unnoticed people might take actions that they would not normally take (“Conflict,”). This conflict can lead to people going to the workplace or being at the workplace and inflicting harm upon others that they work with.
Here are some examples of work place conflict escalated into workplace violence. On the night of March 11th 2011 two employees at an upscale athletic clothing shop located in Montgomery County Maryland were robbed and sexually assaulted; one co-worker did not survive the robbery. This was not really what happened though in reality a case of workplace violence had occurred. An employee killed another over a dispute between the two because the victim was going to turn the attacker in to management for stealing.
In yet another example of workplace violence, Jeffrey Johnson a fashion accessories designer who was fired from his job returned to his place of work armed with a gun and shot his former boss three times which resulted in his death. The police confronted Jeffrey on the street and he started firing on them the police fired back and Jeffrey was killed and several people on the street were hurt in the crossfire. In this last case Johnson and his boss had been involved in several confrontations over the years one of them even turned physical and that Johnson had blamed his boss for being fired (Kruger, 2012).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are around 500 workplace homicides per year in the United States (Kruger, 2012). The majority of workplace violence can be caused by factors that have been building up over long periods of time. An attacker will display warning signs of the impending attack, and workers should be taught to be aware of these signs. Twenty-two percent of co-worker related violence involves former employees while approximately 43 percent of incidents involve current employees (Kruger, 2012).
In light of these sobering statistics employers should consider utilizing conflict management strategies within the workplace. “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret” (Bierce). Utilizing conflict resolution strategies can turn the negative into a positive but first one needs to understand the two theories that comprise conflict resolution. The first theory understanding conflict styles in the 1970’s Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilman identified five styles of dealing with conflict.
These different styles were more useful than others in different situations (“Resolving conflict rationally,”). The five styles that Thomas and Kilman identified are as follows competitive, collaborative, compromising, accommodating and avoiding. In the competitive style people take a firm stand and are aware of what they want. These types of people usually operate from a power position utilize this style when an emergency arises and a fast decision is needed. The collaborative style will try and meet the needs of all involved. They are also highly assertive but will acknowledge the importance of everyone within the group.
Apply this style when working in a group where been previous conflict was a problem. Compromising individuals find solutions that will partially satisfy the entire group. Agree to use this style when there is a stale mate and there is a deadline looming. Accommodating is a willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of the accommodator. If peace is more valuable than winning accommodation should be used. Avoiding, when people seek to evade conflict entirely. When victory is impossible or the matter is trivial utilizing avoidance can be taken.
Once a person understands the different styles and appropriate one or mixture of styles can be utilized. The second theory that must be understood in order to properly manage conflict the “Interest Based Relational Approach” or IBR (“Resolving conflict rationally,”). This theory helps people respect individual differences while not becoming entrenched in one position. Utilizing IBR theory to resolve conflict certain rules are utilized. Good relationships are the first priority in building mutual respect and treating others fairly. The second rule of IBR keeps the people and problems eparate. Realizing that a person is not just being difficult then real issues can be debated without damage to the workplace. The third rule involves paying attention to the interest that is being presented. Listening carefully to the problem that a person has helps make the problem more easily understood. Fourth listen first talk second. In order to effectively solve someone’s problem you need to understand where he or she is coming from. Lastly explore solutions together. Be open to the idea that other options may be available and a joint agreement can be made.
Utilizing these skills can keep the discussions positive and avoid the perils of conflict within the workplace. Once people in the workplace are familiar with there conflict style and the theory of IBR it would be wise to use this five-step approach and work through some scenarios. Set the scene lay down the ground rules. Ensure people have a mutual problem that can be solved via a discussion or negotiation rather than through aggression. Gathering all the necessary data in trying to understand the root of the problem. Agree on the problem that needs to be solved.
Notify the involved parties about the conflict. Work together to get inputs from the group on a possible solution. Decide on a solution regarding the conflict. There is a good chance that an agreement has been reached or there could be differences between the positions of the parties. If a difference occurs try to find the best solution to the problem. What employers and employees need to be aware of are the add benefits that conflict resolution has in the workplace. Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding” (Emerson).
The benefit of teaching employees how to handle conflict resolution in the workplace can lead to a decrease in violence in the workplace. Employees will know how to properly engage other employees with whom they have conflicts (Frost). Stronger relationships within the workplace are another benefit. Poorly managed conflict causes friction in the workplace this can lead to higher turn over rates and poor production at work. Having the skills to manage conflict enables employees to resolve issues among themselves allowing for workflow to continue without disruptions.
Employees who know how to handle conflict are less likely to go to managers when issues arise in the office (Frost). By utilizing conflict resolution strategies tension in the workplace is reduced among co-workers and management. A disagreement that is not handle properly can lead to tension among workers and it can spread to other workers. This buildup of unresolved conflict can lead to violence in the workplace. Conflict resolution leads to a better understanding of coworkers teaching them to look past your own emotions and take into consideration other peoples feelings.
With the recent trends in violence in the workplace not just among former employees but with current employees businesses need to find a way to handle conflict when it occurs. The best thing that businesses can do for all their employees is implement a strong program that relies on the conflict resolution strategies that were discussed. If businesses implement and foster a culture of conflict resolution as opposed to the current culture of ignoring the problem until someone is hurt or killed.
It is also a benefit to a workplace to utilize conflict resolution strategies because it will lead to a more harmonious work environment and also a work environment that would be more productive for the company overall.
Bierce, A. (n. d. ). Brainy quotes. Retrieved from http://www. brainyquote. com/quotes/authors/a/ambrose_bierce. html Conflict. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/conflict Emerson, R. (n. d. ). Quotations about peace . Retrieved from http://www. quotegarden. com/peace. html Frost, S. n. d. ). What are the benefits of good conflict resolution skills?. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness. chron. com/benefits-good-conflict-resolution-skills-37268. html Kruger, P. (2012, August 24). Empire state building shootings: Is workplace violence on the rise? . Retrieved from http://jobs. aol. com/articles/2012/08/24/empire-state-building-shootings-another-case-of-worker-rage/ Resolving conflict rationally and effectively. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. mindtools. com/pages/article/newLDR_81. htm (“Resolving conflict rationally,”)