Week 11 – 11/7: Handling Conflict

Learning Outcomes

As a result of completing this module, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze the relational and content-related elements of an example and a previously experienced conflict
  2. Apply Fisher and Ury’s method to solving conflict
  3. Reflect on their conflict style and ability to manage conflict

Due Date Overview

Work Due Tuesday: 11/4 Due Friday: 11/7
Required Reading Chapter 10 (Handling Conflict) None
Learning Activities Office Space Case Study  |  Blog Post Participation
Assignments LLM Draft

Required Reading

  • Northouse, P. G. (2009). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. Chapter 10, Handling Conflict

Learning Activities

Due Tuesday, 11/4

  1. Office Space Case Study: Review case study 10.1, “Office Space,” in the text and answer the required questions by replying to 3 of 5 questions on page 253.  You will post your response below where it says “Leave a Comment”
  2. Blog Post – Getting Real, Your Conflict Style & Experience
    1. Take the Conflict Style Questionnaire located in the text and/or the following online assessment http://academic.engr.arizona.edu/vjohnson/ConflictManagementQuestionnaire/ConflictManagementQuestionnaire.asp
    2. Write an analysis of how your dominant and less dominant conflict styles affect your leadership abilities and outcomes.  How might using a different conflict style improve the outcomes?  How might using a different conflict style improve the outcomes? Provide specific examples to support your argument.
    3. Describe an actual conflict you had with a family member, roommate, or coworker (please use pseudonyms and/or feel free to make your post private and send me the password if you prefer).
      1. Describe the positions and interests of you and the other person in the conflict.  Describe how you could fractionate the conflict.
      2. Using Fisher and Ury’s methods, describe how you could separate the person from the problem and how you could work together to address the conflict.
      3. How could you have helped the other person in the conflict save face?  How could the other person help you save face?

Due Friday, 11/7 (before class)

  • Participation: Respond to at least TWO of your classmate’s responses to the Office Space Case Study and Blog Post. When reading your colleague’s post, be mindful. Do you agree or disagree with their assessment of the reading/perspectives? Why? Is there something your colleague missed that would help inform his/her post? Do you have questions that are unanswered after reading their post? Have we/you read another article that offers different insight into the topic? If so, how would that author feel about your classmate’s post?


Leadership Learning Module Draft – Based on decisions made during our face-to-face session held on October 31, 2014. Our Leadership Learning Module Roadmap is located here.

19 thoughts on “Week 11 – 11/7: Handling Conflict”

  1. 1. How would you describe the conflict that has arisen between the members of the web programming department?

    I believe the issues are a mixture of relational and content conflicts. They all have strong opinions on how the arrangement should be and their desires are not being met. This is due in some regard to poor leadership. They should have had discussions on the move and the arrangements but they did not and now the team’s chemistry is now damaged.

    2. Is the conflict relational conflict? If so, what type of relational conflict? Is there a content dimension to this conflict?

    There are relational conflicts occurring here. I think that Bradley is dealing with issues of esteem. He feels as if he is not being heard or respected by Martin. He is also dealing with issues of control since he has no control over his seating arrangement and no ability to change his arrangement. Also Sanjay is having relational issues because he is having problems dealing with Rosa and Kris’ chatty personalities. There is content dimension in this conflict and it is the seating arrangements within the office.

    5. How could Martin use fractioning and face saving in attempting to resolve this conflict?

    He could use fractioning by experimenting with different seating arrangements. He could also use fractioning by addressing other concerns of the group such as Rosa and Kris’ excessive talking. Doing this would relieve Sanjay’s problems. Also by communicating more, this would create stronger group cohesiveness. He could have also used face saving in order to address the concerns of the group and to let them know that their opinions are being heard. This is one of Bradley’s biggest issues and by letting him voice his opinion, it would help him coexist in this new environment.

    • Hey Forrest,

      So after reading your post I think you were pretty accurate with what you posted. I actually responded to the same questions and it turns out I agree that there is content and relation aspect to this conflict. I had a couple of questions though. Looking at the scenario would you say that Sanjay is having relational issues with the girls? When I was looking at the situation it stood out to me as a content deal. This is mainly because I saw it as a conflict of policy. Sanjay believes that the goals of the work should be met without talking and the girls think it should be met by bantering. It was just and idea and I would love to know what you think about it.
      The other thing I wanted to comment on was a portion of your piece. You said “He [Martin] could use fractioning by experimenting with different seating arrangements”. I thought this was a great idea. Martin could try and figure out the core issues of the problem and then seat people accordingly. For instance he can keep Sanjay where he is, switch Bradley with the talking girl closest to Martin and a majority of issues would be solved. Bradley would feel close and involved. Sanjay would have quiet, and the girls could talk in the large corner cubicle with one another. I though using fractionation this way was a great idea.

    • You mention that experimenting with different seating arrangements might solve the issue. Is there one in particular that would solve this? Also you mention that face saving could be achieved by letting the group know that their opinions are being heard. Along that vein, would it be wise for the team leader to simply admit to them he failed with his new seating arrangements?

    • Hi Forrest: I like the ideas you used here for how to go about fractioning this issue. When thinking about when you deal with conflict in your everyday life, how do you see yourself being able to use fractioning to solve problems? Please share an example.

  2. I possess a different version of the text and as such the case study I have is called “Conflict with my Father” so I am forced to answer these questions since I do not have the “Office Space” case study.
    1. I would describe the conflict between John and his father as a relational conflict since it deals with how they relate to each other and John’s sister.
    3. John’s position is that he has indeed provided more than adequate love and support for his sister. His father’s position is that John did not “provide satisfactory love showing.” Both of their interests are to help out the sister/daughter through her trying times of surgery.
    4. Yes I believe John handled the conflict in the right way. That is because he employed differentiation and when his father, who was too emotionally charged to listen to reason ignored John, he then moved onto avoidance which seems appropriate given the high strung emotions. If it were me, I may have just moved straight to avoidance since John’s father needed time to cool down before he was willing to listen to reason.

  3. 3.Describe an actual conflict you had with a family member, roommate, or coworker

    One conflict that arose was at my house with my spouse. The conflict was I felt my wife did not care for me and did not show me affection. My wife and I are very different people; my position is I need physical affection (hugs, kisses, and hand holding) to feel loved and I felt she was not doing much of that. My wife, on the other hand, comes from a military family that does not show much physical affection, so when she would hug me or hold my hand every so often, she felt she was smothering me. To fractionate this, the issues are the expectations of physical affection in marriage and the emotional impacts that the expectations for physical affection carry. In a marriage it can be very difficult to separate the person from the problem, especially when the person is emotionally tied to the problem. However, for us we uncovered that the issue was not that she had no love for me. The issue was she was unfamiliar with showing physical affection. I needed more physical affections to feel emotionally cared for. We could address the issue by having set periods of time each day that I could receive a foot-massage, that I could be held, or that I could expect to be physically close to her. Yet, that amount of time needs to be something she feels comfortable with and that she doesn’t feel smothered or irritated doing. For instance, it could be 30 minutes a day I am shown affection by my wife by a foot massage. In order to save face I could tell my wife that although I may not always be physically held by her, I always know she loves me. And my wife could tell me that although she doesn’t like being physically affectionate with me for long periods of time, that I am worth overcoming that to show me love.

  4. 1. How would you describe the conflict that has arisen between the members of the web programming
    I feel like the conflict that has arisen between the members has to do with the fact that there is no longer that connection that was present when they were all in the same room with no walls dividing them. Before they were able to constantly bounce ideas of of each other, along with being able to continue to build on their connections that they had with each other, why because they basically saw one another and it would be weird if they didn’t talk to one another when they were all constantly facing one another. However now in their current situation, they now have the option to avoid one another with the presence of the walls in between them. Some because of this have found flaws in one another, which doesn’t help out their situations.

    2. ls the conflict a relational conflict? If so, what type of relational conflict? ls there a content dimension
    if this conflict?
    I feel like the conflict can be considered a relational conflict, because although it has underlining factors it all comes down to the relationships that these programmers had with one another. This scenario covers all three types of relational conflicts; esteem, control and affiliation. Each one of those programmers have made the situation get to where it is because they have an issue that falls under one or more of these categories. The content dimension has to do with the seating arrangements, the programmers feel as if they should have a say in how they are assigned their cubicles but the team leader Martin has arranged them in such a way that he feels will benefit the outcome of the team.

    3. Using Fisher and Urys method of principled negotiation, how would you separate the people
    from the problem? What do you think is really, really going on in this conflict?
    One way in which you can separate the people from the problem is by pointing out that there are performance criteria that as a team they need to meet along with the level of performance, and that unfortunately after looking through the reviews those were not met. This way although it is going to probably bring up the issue of the assignment of the cubicles it is going to point out the expectations that they need to meet and why they are meeting them.

    • Hey Ana,

      I really enjoyed your response to question one. I thought it was interesting that instead of describing and categorizing the conflicts that were there you went to explaining the situation. I am interested in question two to see how esteem, control, and affiliation relate to each member. I can see with Bradley how he feels a lack of esteem and probable affiliation, but where does the control come in? Is that between Sanjay and Rosa and Kris? I think that is really interesting that you describe it at a conflict of control. Could you please explain that more! 🙂
      My other question was how would Martin address the issues with his employees? You say to talk about the expectations of the company, and I was wondering what if Kris, Sanjay, and Rosa are all meeting expectations and production? What would be the best way to separate it then? Do you think Martin would have to generate new rules and standards of work place decorum (such as less talking) in order to be able to address the large amount of talking they do to? I am just curious as to how you would take care of it! I learn a lot from reading you’re responses to these questions!

    • While I agree with you that the team leader has arranged everyone in such a way that he feels wil benefit the outcome of the team, the actual result is quite the opposite. So then, do you think the team leader should stick to his original plan, or should he accept it as a failure and try to go back to the way things used to be, or what?

    • Hi Ana: I really liked your response to #3 because you maintained a very objective approach to dealing with the situation. In my experience, conflict can get very personal so any time facts can be used, I think it helps the person involved understand the issue from a less emotional perspective.

  5. 1. How would you describe the conflict that has arisen between the members of the web programming department?
    2. Is the conflict a relational conflict? If so, what type of relational conflict? Is there a content dimension to this conflict?

    I would say that the conflict arising has its roots in content values and relational issues of esteem. To start off there is the issue of cubicles with windows and the one without. Martin placed his worker that has been there the longest in the farthest cubicle with no window. This makes Bradley feel insecure and unappreciated for what he has done for the company. Bradley voices his opinion but it is not heard by Martin, furthering Bradley’s insecurity and negative self-esteem issues. With Sanjay and Martin, they are bothered by the fact that the Rosa and Kris are talking. Martin feels they could be using their time more productively, which creates a dimension of content conflict revolving around values. In this case, people should be focused on programming at work and not talking with co-workers. Sanjay is just annoyed by the women always talking which would fall under content conflict within the realm of procedure. He is frustrated because he feels the women should not be attaining the goals of the company by talking loudly over him.

    5. How could Martin use fractionation and face saving in attempting to resolve this conflict?

    There are a couple ways he can go about integrating face saving and fractionation to resolve the issues in the office. The first step is to identify what is causing the problems. He could break it down into three categories. Bradley and appreciation, Sanjay’s content conflict of procedure, and Martin’s conflict of values with Kris and Rosa. He can look at the issues as these smaller issues that as a whole create the unpleasant work environment.
    In terms of saving face Martin can address each issue while stating a positive about each member. For instance with Bradley, Martin can state how much he has missed working face to face with Bradley and how he wants more interaction with him and that he is grateful for everything that he has done for the company. With Rosa and Kris Martin can tell them that although he sees them talking a lot he is grateful for the energy that they bring to the office and maybe they can create allotted times in their schedule to meet with one another and the rest of the time focus on programming.

    • Hey Kyle,
      I have one comment in regards to your response to questions 1 and 2. In the response you stated the different issues that the programmers have with their new arrangements and some of the underlying causes to them. Now do you think that if the leader where to resolve all of the issues and somehow get them all on the same page, would they be at peace in their cubicles or would they find something else to fuss about?

  6. 1. How would you describe the conflict that has arisen between the members of the web programming department?
    It feels like a relational conflict as everyone is having issues dealing with one another the leader is poorly handling the situation. Everyone used to be able to work cohesively with one another in their big open room. Now they are separated and are being managed incredibly poorly.
    2. ls the conflict a relational conflict? If so, what type of relational conflict? ls there a content dimension if this conflict?
    Yes, this is a relational conflict. It seems to span the range of control, esteem, and affiliation. There is also a bit of a content dimension as the individuals want a say in where they are placed in the new office space.

    3. How could Martin use fractionating and face saving in attempting to resolve this conflict?
    One way to go about using fractionating would be by trying out a variety of possible seating arrangements. It would also be helpful is letting the individuals know that their opinions/wants are being heard and are being taken into account. Honestly though the best solution seems to be to tear down the cubicle walls and remake the old open space as that would solve all the problems in one fell swoop.

    • Hey Cody,
      I completely agree with what you said in response to question 3, I feel like it would be a great idea to go back to having the open space like they had before, that way they avoid the conflicts that are arising from the different opinions that they have about their cubicles.
      As far as your response to question 2, who would you say has control, esteem or affiliation conflict?and if they were to consider all of their opinions into the new seating arrangements, do you think it would end well , given that they cannot agree with their current conditions?

    • Hi Cody: I like the idea of changing the seating arrangement and possibly even removing the cubicle walls, that is certainly one way to fraction the issue. What do you think about the idea of asking the staff how they would like to see the room reorganized? Also, how do you think face saving could take place to resolve the conflict.


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