Polin, B. (2017). Organizational conflict navigation: Building a comprehensive conflict management course. Refereed Proceedings of the Appalachian Research in Business Symposium. 128-133. Boone, NC.
Management, Marketing, and International Business
Conflict situations are unfortunately a naturally occurring phenomenon in the workplace. Whether it is an employee not voicing concerns because of fear of retaliation, team members not trusting one another, or companies negotiating terms of an agreement, conflict situations are ubiquitous. Because no organization is immune to conflict, employees must enter the workplace equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to appropriately navigate such situations. Companies recognize this need and call for graduates to possess this unique set of soft skills (e.g. Buhl, nd), as much efficiency can be lost when employees are focused on conflict and not its resolution. Ultimately, conflict can lead to a number of negative individual, team, and organizational outcomes such as decreased commitment, engagement, motivation, and performance as well as increased turnover. While many employees prefer to avoid conflict altogether due to discomfort with such situations, the "costs" of addressing conflict as soon as it is arises are much lower than the "costs" associated with those potential and likely negative distal outcomes.
Despite its importance and the request by employers for employees to have these KSAs, few business programs offer a course that comprehensively covers this topic. What "conflict management" or "conflict resolution" courses are offered focus singularly on negotiation which is only one type of conflict situation. Despite an extensive search, there is not even an existing textbook that covers conflict management topics beyond negotiation. This leaves employees with recommendations on handling conflict situations that are either invalid and unreliable such as "hit conflict head-on" (Myatt, 2012), or that are unsympathetic such as "maintain a positive outlook" (Harper, 2012). Students graduating and entering the workforce with the capacity to navigate a variety of conflict situations will not only be a more attractive hire to employers, but they will also be more confident in managing conflict situations when they inevitably arise.
In an effort to provide students the opportunity to develop this critical skillset through both study of and practice in navigating conflict, a course titled Organizational Conflict Navigation was designed and offered to junior- and senior-level students in a large, Midwestern, regional university during the 17-week Fall semester of 2016. The course also (a) strengthened the business program by offering expert instruction on a challenging yet critical subject matter, and (b) increased the number of elective course options for students. This paper first outlines the design of the course and then offers professor and student evaluation regarding the course material.
Appalachian Research in Business Symposium (ARBS)