Conflict and Reconciliation

Subject: Business
Type: Evaluation Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 2093
Topics: Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Work Ethic

Conflicts in organisations arise due to different reasons such as disagreements between managers and subordinates on how to carry out assigned tasks. In organisations, managers are expected to give directions or guidance regarding how employees are supposed to carry out their tasks. However, in order to establish a working rapport with the front-line staff, it is expected for managers to accommodate the input of subordinates in their decision-making processes (Campbell, White & Johnson, 2003). Such a focus by managers helps employees to feel that their efforts are recognised thus enhancing cooperation and collaboration between the management and subordinates in meeting the overall goals of their respective organisations. On the other hand, instances may arise where managers are not willing to delegate authority to their junior staff because they feel threatened by star employees who may excel if given an opportunity to lead others (Sutton, 2010). Consequently, managers who feel threatened by their junior staff are likely to shut down initiatives they bring to the table, withhold promotions and constant criticism of employees without any genuine reasons. Subsequently, employees may feel unwanted thus developing a negative attitude towards work. In such occurrences, leadership conflict is likely to emerge because of opposition from subordinates to carry out orders from a manager that is ignoring to address their presenting needs and wants (Jameson, 2004). In this paper, I critically examine leadership conflict between the sales manager and sales representatives of company ‘XYZ’ and how it was resolved.

Case Study: Leadership Conflict at Company XYZ

Andrew has been the sales manager of company XYZ that deals in apparel for several years. His efforts as the sales manager have helped the firm to increase sales as well as profits. His success in the position is associated with the good working relationship that he has established over the years with other sales representatives working for the firm. However, in recent times, a few sales representatives have raised concerns regarding Andrew’s management style. Their concern relates to Andrew’s insistence to micromanage their work, which makes them to doubt their ability to deliver (Davidson, 2003). 

In addition, the sales representatives are also bothered by Andrew’s attitude towards them. They argue that Andrew keeps criticising their work without giving any concrete reason thus affecting their morale and self-confidence they need to carry out assigned tasks in an appropriate manner (Tepper, 2000). Despite their efforts to seek audience with the top management regarding Andrew’s style of leadership, nothing has been done since all complains from the sales department has to pass through Andrew prior to being forwarded to the top management of the firm for further action. Currently, the on-going tension between Andrew and the dissenting sales representatives is turning chronic with some of the representatives threatening to quit if nothing is done to address their concerns (Tepper, 2000).

Analysis of the Conflict

From an existential perspective, individuals working in an organisational setting tend to present with varying needs and wants (MacMillan, 2009). For instance, the aspirations of an individual in a managerial position may vary from those of frontline staff. A manager may wish to maintain the status quo by ensuring that his or her role as an authority figure in the organisation is not challenged by front line staff with hopes to scale the career ladder and become leaders themselves (Schultze & Miller, 2004). When individuals join employment, there main intention is to improve their socio-economic status as well as grow career wise. As such, seeking employment to various organisations come with expectations that will ensure they achieve self-actualisation needs. However, such expectations are likely to be hampered by conflicts of interest between employees and those holding leadership positions (Afzalur Rahim, 2002). 

The managers, on their part, are more likely to view themselves as authority figures in the organisation with power and influence necessary to dictate over their junior staff (Ashforth, 1994). Conversely, the front line staff also believes that they should be given an opportunity to ascend to leadership roles. In this sense, they may hold aspirations to work with in an environment where they have some freedom to explore their skills or expertise as they prepare themselves to climb the career leader (Brown & Posner, 2001). However, such ambitions are not possible in a work environment where employees are consistently micromanaged or their work criticised by those leading them. In this sense, employees may feel their contribution in the workplace is undervalued and may end up developing a negative attitude towards work (Andersson, 1996). Further, they are also likely to rebel and make life difficult for their leaders. In the event that managers also take a hard-line stance by refusing to give in to junior staff’s demands, the likely outcome is a full-blown conflict where there is no cooperation or collaboration in meeting the organisation’s intended objectives. In order to address such conflicts, the top management can assume the role of mediators to resolve the differences between the middle managers and the subordinate staff (Alper, Tjosvold & Law, 2000).

How the Conflict was Resolved

The leadership conflict between the sales manager and some sales representatives at XYZ sales department was caused by a conflict of interest between the sales manager and the sales representatives. While the manager wanted to stump his authority in the department, the sales representative desired for some level of autonomy in carrying out their duties. In addition, the leadership style embraced by the sales manager was autocratic and the dissenting sales representative felt the manager did not value their contributions in the department (Rahim, 2010). 

The consequences of failing to work in harmony was a full-scale conflict where the dissenting sales representatives ignored directives from the sales manager and also threatened to quit should the top management fail to intervene in the rift. As the situation worsened between the sales manager and the subordinates, the human resource manager of the company alerted the top management (Amason & Schweiger, 1994). After being briefed about the conflict, the top management resolved to form a conflict resolution committee that was headed by the human resource manager. During the conflict resolution process, the human resource manager who assumed the mediating role gave both sides a chance to defend themselves with regard to the stand they took in the conflict (Ramsbotham, Miall & Woodhouse, 2011). After listening to both sides, the committee tasked with resolving the conflict noted down pertinent issues that may have caused the rift between the sales manager and some of his junior staff members in the sales department. Based on the issues that they observed as the major cause of the conflict, the committee concluded that consensus building was necessary to resolve the conflict (Fiol, 1994).  

In this respect, the committee requested to propose ways that they can make compromises in order to work in harmony. On this basis, the sales manager proposed to adopt a democratic style of leadership as long as the sales representatives would give him the mandate to make the final decision in the department after listening to varying views of the sales representatives on the most suitable way forward (Mayer, 2010). On the other hand, pointed out the need to be given some level of independence to carry out their assigned tasks with less supervision. In addition, the also proposed that the top management consider their immediate needs and wants such as career training and development and promotions carried out based on merit rather than giving favours to the personnel that are loyal to the sales managers. Subsequently, the committee went through the propositions of the disputants and asked the dissenting sales representatives if they were willing to let the sales manager have the final say on decision-making processes that have been deliberated on as a team (Pinkely, 1990). 

In the spirit making a compromise to create a win-win situation, the sales representatives agreed on their willingness to support the final decisions made by the sales manager to direct operations in the department on condition that their immediate needs are addressed. In this regard, the committee mediating between the disputants agreed to address some of the needs pointed out by the sales representatives such as creating opportunities for career development through training. However, they also asked for patience from the sales representatives because some of the concerns they raised could be addressed based on available resources. The committee explained the position of the company and pleaded for understanding as they work hard to address all the concerns raised by the dissenting sales representatives (Mayer, 2010). In order to convince the sales representatives on their resolve to address their problems, the committee gave a time line for addressing each of the issues that the sales representatives raised in the negotiations process to reach a truce with the sales manager. Based on the promise by the committee resolving the conflict, the sales representatives agreed to go back to work and support the sales manager in executing the plans of the sales department aimed at meeting the overall goals of the company (Moore, 2014).

In the process of resolving a conflict, five stages are critical as pointed out by Mayer (2000). These stages include the identification of the root cause of the conflict, looking beyond the conflict, generating solutions, identifying solutions agreeable to the parties in a conflict and an agreement that suits the needs or interests of the disputants. In the leadership conflict between the sales manager and the dissenting sales representatives, the mediating team began by examining the root cause of the rift looking to have a better understanding of the nature of the problem at hand. In terms of looking beyond the conflict, the committee might have been informed from an existential perspective to understand the reason behind the rebellion by some of the sales representatives (Luzio-Lockett, 1995). 

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According to literature on existential psychotherapy, individuals tend to search for meaning within themselves instead on leaning on other individuals to influence the decision they make regarding their lives. In this sense, the conflict between the sales manager and some of the sales representatives can be understood from the point of view that it was an outcome of a desire by the dissenting sales representatives to make decisions that they considered to shape their own lives thus the demand for the organisation to address their presenting needs and wants (May, 1967). Further, in any form of conflict as pointed out by Kalayjian and Paloutzian (2010) forgiveness is important for a long-lasting resolution to conflicts. In order for disputants to forge ahead in the same environment as evident in the case of XYZ Company, forgiveness should take centre stage in the reconciliation process.

Similarly, Mayer (2000) supports that successful resolution to conflicts requires the disputants as well as mediators to understand the factors that underpin different types of conflicts. Such a focus would help to apply appropriate measures necessary to address the identified root cause of a particular problem or conflict. Mediating in a conflict also require a greater focus on understanding the world views of the disputants and how to convince them to make a compromise to enhance the chances for successful conflict resolution processes (Strasser & Randolph, 2004 ). Conversely, according to Spinelli (2004), there are limitations that may affect interventions used, for instance, to resolve conflicts. In this sense, embracing Sartre’s ideas on psychotherapy interventions contributes to an existential approach to resolving conflicts between disputants. To this end, addressing the conflict at the XYZ company required an emphasis on understand the root cause of the problem. Such a focus would have helped to prevent disagreement regarding the approach to leadership the management needed to use when they worked with subordinates.


Conflicts are a daily occurrence in organisations due to dissimilar interests or beliefs that individuals consider to shape their lives. As such, where there is no consensus on conflicting interests or views, the persistent disagreement may turn into a full-blown conflict. In the case of XYZ company, the conflict became chronic due to the disputants taking a hard-line stance on what is best for the personnel in the sales department. While the sales manager wanted to maintain the status quo as the authoritative figure in the department, subordinates, on the other hand, insisted on a democratic style of leadership that could offer them some level of independence to explore their talents as well as realise career growth and development. In essence, resolving the conflict at the firm involved a focus on consensus building and compromises from the disputants, which created a win-win situation for the manager and the sales representatives.

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