conflict resolution skills, occurred with a three-member project team, on the development of a new product for a customer. I was unsure that what the two engineers were purposing would really meet the client’s needs. This paper will describe the situation, my response to the situation, and an analysis of my behavior. It will conclude with a recommendation for improvement on how this situation could have been handled more effectively.
I was assigned as part of a three-member team given the task of development of a new product for a customer. The team consisted of myself and two engineers. Having dealt directly with the customer, I had specific ideas about the new product specifications and how they should be brought to fruition. However, the two engineers believed that what I was requesting would be better handled in another way. Although their ideas had some merit, I was unsure of whether or not their purposed design would truly meet the needs of my customer. They insisted that my idea was a far more difficult undertaking and their’s would provide a similar benefit, without the technical challenges of my design idea. Their proposed design was lacking certain minor elements that I felt would be important to the client and offer added value to the product, which warranted the additional difficulty.
My initial reaction to the alternate product design was negative. It was not what I had been envisioning and therefore my first response was to say, “No.” I then proceeded to explain to the other two members of my team more details of what I had been thinking would be a more appropriate design, explaining to them the areas where I thought their design was lacking. When they continued to explain why my design was going to be more difficult than what they felt it was worth and how their design features would offer similar benefits, I began to consider the idea; however, I was still unsure that it was what the customer truly wanted and so did not back down, forcing them to adopt my design almost entirely.
My response to the conflict was not an effective means of handling conflict, according to Rothman. As the author noted, I demonstrated a typical response of rushing to a solution before fully understanding the causes and parameters of the conflict. I rushed to the conclusion that I, having known my customer’s needs personally, would have the most appropriate solution for the design. I did not seek to fully define or analyze the conflict that had arisen. Nor did I try to find an appropriate intervention strategy to use to solve the conflict between myself and the other two members of the team. I simply bullied my way into winning the conflict.
I missed an opportunity to see this conflict as the creative possibility described by Rothman. If I had utilized a more appropriate conflict management solution, I could have used this opportunity to consider alternate, and perhaps better, solutions to the product design. “Employees need conflict management skills to manage themselves, make decisions, and work effectively in the ever-increasing team environment of today’s organizations” (Lang 241). Without these skills, I was unable to work effectively. In addition, my poor conflict management skills resulted in a negative working environment for the entire team, which likely decreased their effectiveness and productivity. Not only did I negatively affect the current team efforts, but I likely negatively affected future projects with these team members, as well as any other interactions we may have outside of a team setting.
I did not complete any of the steps required in effective conflict management. I did not seek to understand the conflict at hand or where it was stemming from. Without understanding where this conflict resided, I was simply operating on instinct and my own personal biases that led to preferring my solution over the other one presented, or any possible alternatives we had yet to consider. This close-minded response meant that all the creative possibilities that were possible, with a collaboration with my team members, was lost. This was not only a disservice to my customer, but also to my organization, my fellow team members, and myself.
Recommendation for Improvement:
There are several recommendations for improvement. First, I should have used some conflict diagnostic tool to better understand the situation and gain perspective, such as the ROI Diagnostic recommended by Rothman (2006). After properly diagnosing the conflict, I may have found that this may have been partially an issue-focused conflict, with the issue being the recognition of having designed the appropriate solution. If this was the case, there may have been a better way of handling the conflict so that everyone got the recognition and felt valued, as a team member. Handling this issue-based portion of the conflict as a rational negotiation would have allowed for resources to be utilized more efficiently and a better project outcome. Lastly, as Bradlow noted, an apology to my team members for not effectively handling the conflict would go a long way in rebuilding the trust between myself and my fellow team members. In the future, I will utilize conflict management steps in order to ensure I handle the situation more effectively. When I realize I have failed to handle it in an effective manner, I will take responsibility for my actions and apologize, to begin rebuilding trust with my team.
Bradlow, Eric. “Regain Your Counterpart’s Trust with an Apology.” Negotiation Feb 2009: 6.
Lang, Matthew. “Conflict Management: A Gap in Business Education Curricula.” Journal of Education for Business Mar/Apr 2009: 240-245.
Rothman, Jay. Conflict and Creativity: Opening the Window to New Ideas. 2006.The ARIA Group. 9 Apr 2009 .
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