A Company that will be further described in the given paper in the conflict management context is a privately owned small-size firm that uses outstaffing services and has offices in several countries: UAE, Belgium, Denmark and Ireland. Company develops and sells Mobile Roaming Analytics software and provides consulting services for Mobile Operators in many regions of the world. CEO, CFO and the rest of management is based in Dubai; client service specialists are based in Belgium; team of software developers and technical staff are based in Denmark, sales managers are based in Ireland. Total number of employees is about 30 people. Since Company has offices in different countries, communication between foreign offices is mainly distant, with the usage of standard communication tools, such as e-mail, Skype, cell phone.
The Company has expanded its technical and client service staff and hired System Administrator (SA) in Denmark and Client Support Manager (CSM) in Belgium at the same time. Both employees were based in different countries, hence didn’t know each other personally, didn’t know each other’s actual working hours and didn’t have work related direct communication. One day when Client Support Manager came to office in the morning, he discovered that Company’s software application, sold to customers and installed on the clients’ side, is not working properly because of the Database failure. He messaged to System Administrator by Skype, requesting him to check servers and to fix the issue before clients would have discovered the problem. As CSM didn’t get any response from SA during half an hour after the message had been sent, he tried to reach him on his cell phone – no response was received either. Meanwhile, clients have discovered the problem and started to send complaints to CSM. After having contacted colleagues of SA, CSM was informed that SA was still not at the office and he wasn’t working remotely from home either. After a while he finally responded to the messages with a note that he would soon have the issue fixed and that it is not worth paying so much attention. So, the main problem here is unavailability of SA and violating him his direct responsibilities, as well as the working schedule, that caused technical problem, lead to client complaints and made CSM making excuses to clients for the problem that was out of his competency. The sides of conflict are Client Support Manager and System Administrator. I would choose CSM’s side since he is the one who had to deal with the conflict actively and to find ways for its resolution.
Part II – How was the Conflict Managed?
There was only one System Administrator in the Company’s staff; consequently CSM couldn’t get help from any other colleague. So, without having any feedback from SA and information about his possible availability, CSM had to escalate the issue to the SA’s direct manager – Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of the Company, who was based in Dubai.
Thus, Client Support Manager has chosen the strategy of Getting Help or a Third Party Method. “This strategy involves bringing in a third party to act as a conflict mediator.”
Major considerations behind the choice of the strategy by CSM were the following: getting an advice from CTO as from SA’s direct manager, regarding further actions in this case; striving to prevent similar situations from happening in the future by notifying a person from top management of the Company; informing CTO that a Company’s employee can be potential cause of customers’ dissatisfaction if similar issues would take place in the future; collaborating on the action plan if such issues would have taken place in the future.
Besides, this type of the strategy was chosen because SA “was not responsive or cooperating” with CSM directly, that usually leads to involving a mediator.
The strategy of Getting Help was not very efficient in this particular case for several reasons. First of all, since Client Support Manager and Chief Technician Officer were based in different countries, it made communication process more complicated – CTO was apparently busy with some meetings and didn’t respond to CSM’s letter and messages right away. While CSM was waiting for CTO to respond, SA finally appeared at his working place and started fixing the problem. By the time, when CTO finally responded to the message and paid his attention to the problem, SA had fixed the problem and assured his manager that everything was under control and it was not worth worrying about. In that situation CTO had chosen so called “No Winners, No Losers” strategy, also known as avoidance (Masters, Albright, 2002). The choice of this strategy by CTO was stipulated mostly by his character and striving to maintain friendly relationships with his new subordinate (SA). CTO also had a hope that such problem happened as an exception and shouldn’t occur in the future.
Unfortunately, avoidance was definitely not the best choice since System Administrator appeared to have a lack of responsibility and time-management problems, which caused similar situations to occur in the future.
Part III – What Would You Have Done?
If I were the principal representative for Client Support Manager, without knowing System Administrator personally, I would try to get as much information about him as possible. I would ask his colleagues who work with him at the same location about his personal features, his approximate working schedule and his previous work experience, if by any chance they would have been aware of it.
Based on the information obtained I would make a conclusion that if he behaves this way at work, most likely his direct manager prefers hands-off policy towards this employee and wouldn’t be willing to escalate and discuss the conflict, for example, during voice/video conference, having both parties (SA and CSM) involved.
To my opinion, best choice in this case would be Collaborative or Principled Negotiation strategy. Since both employees work for the same Company, they are supposed to have mutual goals, aimed at achieving Company’s benefit. The relationships between these 2 employees are also important and should be maintained on a friendly basis, in order to ensure efficient collaboration and problem solving, should the same situation occur in the future.
As soon as System Administrator would have solved that particular Database problem, I would suggest him to have voice/video call or at least message chat in order to collaborate on a plan for how to deal with such cases in the future and prevent them from happening.
Additionally, I would try to involve Humor strategy during the discussion, in order to make the atmosphere friendlier.
In case System Administrator would have refused to have a verbal discussion or would have tried to avoid it, I would have to involve 2 more people as mediators – Client Support Representative’s direct manager and System Administrator’s direct manager. Still, the main strategy here would be collaboration and working on a plan of solving the problem and preventing it from happening in the future.
Thus, in this situation I would have used a combination of 2 conflict management strategies: involving a Third Party and Principled Negotiation.