Analysing Conflict

A rookie metallurgist, who had been responsible for monitoring furnace conditions during melting processes and oversee casting processes, was also assigned the task of manually operating the overhead crane to fill in the molds with the molten steel. A foundry, being a stressful work environment, often makes things delicate with no chance for error and apprentice engineers are often made to undertake all responsibilities of the technicians for them to get acquainted with the equipment and work process. Under such circumstances, the fresh metallurgist filed a complaint against the foundry manager for assigning him tasks he was overqualified for, feeling that the task was below him and further took it as a personal insult or at minimum, an obstruction to his career. This case became the center of contention in the workplace hindering work shifts causing a rift between the technical labor and the engineers. To avoid spreading this chaos to other departments, the company decided to deal with the case by giving the metallurgist a hearing with the top management. Most of the top managers being in favor of the current process turned down most of the suggestions by the metallurgist which resulted in legal threats and further complication of the case. The contention, shortly followed by a previous cooled down conflict between labors and the top management, that had put the fresh engineers on wrong side of technician workforce had now also put the top management, engineers and managers alike, on a third stance further complicating the situation. In this case, experienced employee engineers were requested to intervene, to prevent legal ramifications or work process hindering, as a process of informal mediation. Conflicts can generally be divided into three main categories: relationship conflict, process conflict and task conflict. A relationship conflict would mainly consist of issues like personal discrimination and interpersonal conflicts between employees or the involved people, task conflicts on the other hand are less of hindrance to the work process itself in general and often results in positive discussions about task improvement and goals. Process conflicts are more negative and often invite combinations of other conflicts to increase complications since the main issue is about the work process and the way things are being handled at work or a project. Greenberg (2003) describes a process conflict to be a clash of views about how task accomplishment should proceed in terms of assigned duties and tasks, responsibilities and accountability. A successful mediator needs to gather some essential data about the conflict in order to be fully equipped for dealing with the situation. The first thing to do is to understand the nature of the conflict. The three basic types defined above are essential to be considered. Once the nature of the conflict is known, the mediator would determine the underlying needs of the involved parties. Irvine and Adam Gersch (2002) suggest such data gathering to be one of the basic roles of the mediator. Statistical data gathering has been termed as a best practice for mediation in contentious issues for satisfaction of the conflicting parties. Further data gathering would involve the types of tasks the perceived aggrieved party was made to perform in regards to the example of the metallurgist. These tasks would then be