The conflict between Emma and Isabella is what the Harvard School of Law refers to as a “task conflict”, in which the participants disagree about the correct procedure by which a task can be tackled (Shonk, 2018, n.p.). This is lucky because unlike a relationship or values conflict, a task conflict involves disagreement about the less emotive aspects of a situation, making it easier for a solution to be reached. In this case, it is the only best means of delivering the training which Emma and Isabella disagree about, rather than the fundamentals of each other’s’ personalities or values.
According to the Harvard Extension School for Professional Development, “open, constructive communication” is one key effective strategy that can be used to resolve workplace conflict (Kogan, 2018, n.p.). Since Emma and Isabella are usually on good terms with one another, this would be a particularly effective strategy in helping them resolve this conflict. The manager should encourage the two women to sit down in a neutral space and discuss their different approaches with the help of a neutral mediator (the manager), who could help them compromise on the best approach, and who could also help them to understand each other’s differing expertise and see common ground in their two approaches.
It is important for this process to occur because the defensive climate created by the conflict will affect the workplace relationship between Emma and Isabella: as a recent study in The International Journal of Organizational Analysis indicates, conflict in the workplace is “associated with bullying, emotional reactions and counterproductive behaviors” (Oluremi et al, 2003, p. 283). If the conflict is not resolved, the defensive attitude of each woman towards the other and towards management is likely to affect their productivity on the project. Because they are also in customer-facing roles, it is also likely that this conflict will reflect negatively on the organization as a whole.
- Ayoko, O. B., Callan, V. J., and Härtel, C. E. J. (2003). “Workplace Conflict, Bullying, and Counterproductive Behaviors.” The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 11 (4), 283-301.
- Kogan, E. B. (2018). “3 Effective Strategies to Manage Workplace Conflict.” Retrieved from https://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/3-effective-strategies-manage-workplace-conflict.
- Shonk, K. (2018, September 17). “3 Types of Conflict and How to Address Them.” Retrieved from https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/conflict-resolution/types-conflict/.