University Kaplan University (KU)
Subject Conflict Management

Case Study

Nick has joined the National Recreation Agency (NRA) as a Programme Development Executive (PDE) six months ago and this was his first job after graduation. His duties include attending to walk-in enquiries and taking charge of the Women’s Wing (WW). In his first week at work, the Senior Manager (SM) gave him the duty roster and told him the days he was to attend walk-in enquiries and the various events and committee meetings. No additional guidance was provided with respect to how he should carry out his duties. He was told to liaise with the Assistant Manager (AM) if he had any questions.

At his first WW meeting, he was tasked to arrange catering, posters, and banners for an event. He also had to confirm that the Guest-of-Honour would be attending the event. As this was his first project and unsure of what to do, he approached the AM for help and was asked to come back later as the AM was busy preparing a submission for the National Recreation Headquarters (HQ). The meeting did not happen that day and the following two days the AM was away for a workshop. Nick tried approaching the other staff but all were too busy with their own events to give him any proper guidance. It was a frustrating two weeks for him trying to get guidance on how to organize an event and meanwhile, he had to give updates to the very hostile and sarcastic WW Vice-Chairman.

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It was only after two months that he “got into the groove” and he learned fast that if things are not moving, tell the Manager and AM, and then it no longer is “your problem” as “I’ve already told my seniors”. Let them handle all the problems and answer the senior management or HQ if anything goes wrong. He also found it ridiculous that he had to endure scolding from angry parents if a course instructor was late in starting the class. Furthermore, there were several occasions where he was on duty with the AM where when he was on the phone attending to an inquiry or attending to an inquiry at the counter, the AM would not step in to help if there were other customers waiting at the counter.

He raised this to the SM but was told that he “he should learn to give and take”. Exasperated, Nick expressed dissatisfaction in attending to the walk-in customers and he could be heard openly criticizing them. He opined that people who needed the agency’s highly subsidized services should “learn to be humble” and “less arrogant”. He also found dealing with “uneducated” customers, a “waste of time”.

Another thing that baffled him was that the roster system just didn’t work. There was always someone who had to go somewhere for a briefing, meeting, or training. Equally puzzling was having to attend an event on his day off and not getting time-off in lieu because “you are given an allowance.” However, to his understanding, the allowance was for shift duty and attending to being stationed at the front desk to attend to walk-in inquiries. He decided to make things better. He spent a few hours (his own free time, outside working hours) to come up with a proposal on how to overcome some of these challenges and gave it to the SM but he received no response.

When he spoke to the SM, he was told that the SM had asked the Manager and AM to study the proposal. When he approached the Manager and AM, they told him that this was not a priority and not part of their Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Hence, they would attend to it if they had time.

After this, he began to notice that the other colleagues spoke less to him. Even those that used to agree with him on the shortcomings refused to speak up during meetings. They would agree to whatever the seniors said. It was quite evident that Nick was not motivated and his performance began to slide. After a recent screaming match between Nick and the AM, Nick decided to resign. The incident escalated because the AM was sitting at her desk and not giving a helping hand even though there were five people waiting at the front desk. When one of the customers started criticizing Nick for being slow and on the inefficiency of the organisation, the AM came forward and apologised to the customers and told Nick that he should be more efficient and that she will make a note of this on his performance review.

An argument ensued as Nick felt that the AM had no grounds to make such a remark and that whatever was to be addressed, should have been done privately. Nick submitted his resignation letter to the SM and copied it to the HR Director and Divisional Director. In his letter, he stated clearly the lapses he had observed during his six months and his disappointment that the SM had done nothing to improve the situation despite his feedback and written proposal. He was very upset that the DM and AM didn’t provide any guidance or coaching and did not support the staff.

He also noticed that the other six PDEs were given lesser hours of counter duty compared to him. The organisation as a whole is facing a high turnover and the HR Director I under pressure to ensure high retention, especially of new hires. The Divisional Director is also under pressure because this Division has the highest attrition rate.

Assignment Task (2000 words)

  1. Using the conflict assessment tools discussed in the module, analyze and explain the causes of conflict in the scenario using theories and/or concepts discussed in this module.
  2. If you were in Nick’s place, using theories and/or concepts discussed in this module, discuss how you could have prevented the conflict from escalating.
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