Managing Conflict in the Workplace Report

Managing Conflict in the Workplace

In every organization, a conflict exists, which indicates that the organization has a healthy exchange of ideas and creativity. Nevertheless, conflicts that are counter-productive result in employee dissatisfaction, poor service to clients, increased employee turnover, reduced productivity, absenteeism, increased work-related stress or litigation based on harassment claims or a hostile work environment. For instance, Coca-Cola was sued for racial discrimination, which was under the U.S. Civil Rights Act in April 1999 by four former and current African-American workers in the U.S. The claims of the appellants were that they suffered discrimination in promotions, pay, and performance evaluations, and they were able to provide statistics to support their claim. It also showed their average salary, which was one-third less than what their counterparts, the whites, in the company received. The advancement of African-Americans to senior levels in the company showed the great heights of discrimination the appellants were facing.

Therefore, the following study looks at discrimination and conflict in the workplace based on Coca-Cola Company’s operations around the globe. The literature review provided give a glimpse of what other scholars are saying concerning discrimination conflict in the workplace. The other sections offer diverse views on how conflict management can be practiced for the benefit of the company and the employees; symptoms and their various solutions that may help resolve the situation at Coca-Cola are identified. The third part looks at the analysis that provides a description and identifies the causes of Coca-Cola discrimination conflict. The fourth part is the conflict resolution recommendation that looks at the consequences of not acting on the conflict present in an organization in this regard Coca-Cola Company. Lastly, a reflection of how the discrimination conflict at Coca-Cola has influenced my personal development in better understanding how workplace conflict can be managed better.

Literature Review

According to Kurtzberg and Mueller (2005), there are three types of conflicts, which are based on work process, relationship-based conflict, and task-based conflict. The work-based conflict looks at how work is performed in an organization and the obligation of team responsibilities and roles. The second aspect is the relationship-based conflict that looks at relationships and interaction advocated between team members. Task-based conflict occurs when work task is the cause of the disagreement. Such a conflict is beneficial while the process-based and relationship-based conflicts have negative effects on the performance of a team. The task-based conflict looks at promoting and unveiling different perspectives that stimulate creative thinking and innovation practices in the organization. The organization faces negative threats of conflict that may affect and create vulnerabilities in employees’ relationships because of the related psychological effects. The conclusion of the author is that individuals find it difficult to remain objective about a situation when other disagree, or disapprove their viewpoints.

Aritzeta, Ayestaran and Swailes (2005) talked about the preference of team role and the styles used in conflict management. The article shows the relation of teams’ role preference to the approach of team members in solving a group problem. Concerning time and processes of interaction in teams, it is evident that team roles are contextually sensitive. This is because they showed different patterns of correlation when teams are constructed a new and when they are about to finish. Therefore, the concept of team role is flexible in terms of contextual changes than personality traits, which are more stable. High performing work teams in organizations need to build complementary ways that present different team role preferences with individuals having the ability to manage conflicts. The results of the research conducted show positive implications on team building and team development programs. Besides, one can predict behavior accurately by combining different analysis levels (organizational, group, and individual).

Desivilya and Eizen (2005) puts stress on project team members choosing passive approaches that count on obliging and avoiding while compromising, integrating, and dominating are seen as active strategies. Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy (2009) like Desivilya and Eizen and looked at conflict management approaches from a different perspective. Their claims of conflict resolution being divided into cooperativeness and assertiveness are described as having common approaches that help manage conflict:

Competition: the desire to achieve individual ends at someone else’s expense (domination) and considered as a win-lose orientation.

Accommodation: the an individual gives into another person’s concerns without making efforts to achieving their individual goals. It is an appeasement tactic.

Sharing: a compromise between appeasement and domination is evident, and the parties involved give up something and in return, get something. Hence, the two parties are moderately but satisfied incompletely.

Collaboration: the efforts of both parties are satisfied, and it becomes a problem-solving approach since it requires the integration of each concern of the parties.

Avoidance — is where both parties indifference is the concern and reflects on withdrawal from neglect of party’s interests.

Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy assert that instead of trying to find an approach that are superior in terms of conflict management in organizations, they should focus on determining when an approach is deemed as appropriate. No matter, the approach was chosen, individuals should know that each of them has diverse advantages and disadvantages (2009).

Huan and Yazdabifard article reviews conflict management styles and conflict resolution from the perspective of managers and supervisors’. Leaders in organizations need to form strong relationships with their subordinates to achieve organizational performance in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. In any organization, leaders need to resolve all manner of conflicts to promote organizational success and therefore, it is the duty of all leaders in the organization to work together in attaining this goal. Leaders must learn to manage and address conflicts depending on the situation and the parties involved. In the globalized era, the Internet has increased organizational performance but created new types of conflict. Workplace conflict may cause absenteeism while employee loyalty is jeopardized, which translates to reduced profit margins for the organization.


CEO Ivester Douglas replaced Robert Goizueta, who died suddenly in 1997 after being at the helm of the company since 1980. Morris and Seller (2000, p. 15), described Ivester as an arrogant and insecure leader; this might have contributed to the lawsuit served to the company. In his response to the lawsuit, Ivester decided to appoint Carl Ware as the highest-ranking black executive to be the co-chair of the Diversity Advisory Council, who worked along with Jack Stahl, who was the Senior Vice-President. Ware was appointed to work in the urban and government affairs are of the company upon joining the company in 1974 after graduating from Harvard. Thus, he became the vice-president of the Africa group and focused on cultivating the African governments. While bridging the existing cultural hurdles, he enabled the company to collaborate with the local government (Holsendolph, 1999, p. 1). Coca Cola’s South African assets were divested in support of the antiapartheid cause. Ware also organized a fund-raising tour for Nelson Mandela in the United States that smoothed the sales of the company in South Africa. The leadership team of Coca-Cola Company played a vital role in supporting diversity and tied compensation increases to the achievement of diversity goals.

The other resolution made by the company was to implement numerous systematic changes in its procedures and policies with results that are measurable. The areas identified included the identification of employees for senior managerial positions and improvement in minority employees’ perceptions that their career opportunities are comparable to the white employees. The board also needed diversification because this undermined their efforts of diversity since it suggested a lack of sensitivity to diversity goals. Through this, the health benefits were extended to same-sex domestic partners in 2003.

The aspect of negotiation when it comes to resolving conflicts is a tool that is powerful because it incorporates the needs of employees and helps in meeting organizational and personal needs. Therefore, negotiation in the Coca-Cola incident came in handy for solving the conflict and eradicating discrimination from the organization given that it is a multinational company. Power, rights, and interest are the basic negotiation levels. For Coca-Cola Company, they will apply the rights (basis is on contracts and often leads to legal action, which is costly and time-consuming) and interest (involves good communication and collaboration and results in a win-win situation for plaintiffs and the company) negotiation levels. Globalization has also made negotiation a powerful tool when it comes to solving organizational conflicts and improving communication within the organization.

The causes of discrimination conflict in Coca-Cola were attributed to the structure where invisible barriers blocked racial minorities from advancing into senior leadership positions in the company. Diverse senior managerial levels representation is a symptom of level discrimination because as an antecedent of continued discrimination. Segregation due to “homosocial reproduction” arises when individuals promote and hire people who are like themselves. Thereby, results in fewer opportunities for those individuals in power. The organizational culture of Coca-Cola is monolithic due to the lack of diverse representation at senior managerial levels of the company. Besides, the company’s cultural norms are associated with white as they have access to power. The African-American groups felt pressured to assimilate rather being free. Companies with diverse representation in the managerial levels are less likely to have employees relying on stereotypes in their social interactions. Greater discrimination levels experienced by large companies like Coca-Cola are due to the stable and unchanging employment conditions. Additionally they also have greater labor specialization, narrow control spans, titles proliferation, and lengthy command chains (Mujtaba, 2014).

Culture content is the other cause because organizational leaders hold stereotypes as to which type of employees are best and the reward system looked at those employees who behave consistently with leaders stereotypes. These cultural values, beliefs and assumptions that are discriminatory manifest in cultural artifacts such as HR practices, behavioral norms, and physical arrangements (Huan & Yazdanifard, 2012). The upper level of management also caused discrimination because they did not embrace diversity and the extent they choose in emphasizing inclusiveness as a strategy indicated the priorities of their leaders. By making rewards systems contingent, the leaders at Coca-Cola are trying to implement accountability systems for their employees.

Conflict Resolution Recommendation

Coca Cola’s experiences included high costs associated with turnover, lawsuits, and grievances. In most case, legal discrimination costs are high, with settlements for cases of discrimination in hundreds of millions of dollar. Additionally, the employee grievances investigation costs are high in terms of personnel time and resources needed to conduct the investigation. In terms of replacing employees, the company is bound to incur high costs in training, recruiting, and selecting are financial costs likely to impair a company’s organizational effectiveness.

The reputation of Coca-Cola was impaired through the whole process yet it influences the commitment of current employees’ and their perceived fulfillment of psychological contracts. Moreover, reputation influences the ability of an organization to attract qualified applicants, which may influence the willingness of customers in purchasing the products (Pruitt & Nethercutt, 2002). Besides, employees being discriminated are more likely to provide their customers with poor service. Finally, discrimination experiences and levels of stress of employees are linked together. This increases costs for the organization in meeting worker’s compensation claims, disability leave, and health insurance.


When it comes to managing conflict in the workplace, it is important for managers to be proactive and prevent the conflict from searching for the hidden sources of conflict. It is apparent that leaders need to look at the overall group function and micro-level that includes goals, individual personalities, patterns of communication to determine how to deal with the conflicts. Secondly, identify the triggers of conflict and try to get everyone in the organization on the same page. Therefore, employees will need to understand their respective roles like job descriptions, company and individual goals among others. Managers also need to accentuate the positive by recognizing and praising accomplishments they minimize “jockeying for position,” which generates friction among competitive employees.

It is conclusive that by encouraging healthy debates about work issues, builds tolerance and patience among team members. Lastly, discouraging and ignoring gossip in the work environment is a way of reducing conflict. A negotiation is an approach that has been applied by many organizations in the succession of solving conflicts and resolving them. It is necessary for both parties to combine their efforts and stand together in ensuring that organizational and personal needs are achieved. Furthermore, using negotiation collaboration is enhanced, and both parties will aim at working together in solving existing organizational conflicts.


Aritzeta, A., Ayestaran, S. & Swailes, S. (2005). Team Role Preference and Conflict Management Styles. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 16 (2):157-182

Desivilya, H. & Eizen, D. (2005). Conflict Management in Work Teams: The Role of Social Self-Efficacy and Group Identification. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 16(2): 183-208.

Holsendolph, E. (1999). Once Again, Carl Were Takes On An Assignment, A Big One. The Atlanta Journal And Constitution.

Huan, L. & Yazdanifard, R. (2012). The Difference of Conflict Management Styles and Conflict Resolution in Workplace. Business & Entrepreneurship Journal, 1(1): 141-155.

Hughes, R., Ginnett, R. & Curphy, G. (2009). Leadership: Enhancing The Lessons Of Experience, (6th Eds.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Kurtzberg, T. & Mueller, J. (2005). The Influence Of Daily Conflict On Perceptions Of Creativity: A Longitudinal Study. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 16 (4): 335-353

Morris, B. & Seller, P. (2000). What Really Happened At Coke? Fortune, 14(1), 14-17.

Mujtaba, B. (2014). Managerial Skills and Practices for Global Leadership. Florida: ILEAD Academy.

Pruitt, W. & Nethercutt, L. (2002). The Texaco Racial Discrimination Case and Shareholder Wealth. Journal of Labor Research, 13, 685-693.

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