Topic Name Description
Course Syllabus Page Course Syllabus
1.1: Functional Conflict and its Role in Innovation Page Understanding Conflict

Read this text, which defines three different types of conflict: intrapersonal (within oneself), interpersonal (among individuals), and intergroup conflict (among groups of people).

Page What is Good about Conflict?

Conflict can push us to foster innovation by forcing us to ask what is possible and prompt us to generate ideas that resolve a conflict. Read this short article, where the author outlines five ways conflict can benefit the workplace, such as by fostering creativity.

Page Leadership, Conflict, and Conflict Management

Read this text, which explains why certain leadership styles are more effective at managing conflict. For example, a study by Zhang et. al. found that transformational leaders who used conflict management methods were able to influence their teams more effectively to enhance coordination and performance.

1.2: Reasons for Dysfunctional Workplace Conflict Page Four Ways to Deal with Workplace Conflict

Read this paper, which outlines four main reasons why dysfunctional workplace conflicts arise. It offers ways to manage conflict from misinterpretation, competition, different values and expectations, and unrealistic goals. In the next section, we will review these ideas and some other causes of dysfunctional workplace conflict.

1.3: Misunderstandings or Disagreements from Organizational Structure Book Organizational Structure and Change

Read this text which explores different types of organizational structures.

The first section explores four key organizational descriptors:

  1. Centralization describes the role management and organizational leaders play in the decision-making process and the central infrastructure of the company or organization;
  2. Formalization describes whether the company has, and follows, formal policies and procedures (preferably in writing) to help employees respond to questions and situations in a consistent fashion;
  3. Hierarchy describes the arrangement employees follow with regard to decision-making authority, central roles and responsibilities; and
  4. Departmentalization describes the functional boundaries or divisional structures departments within the company follow to delineate their operations and production.

The second section of the reading explores three contemporary organizational models: matrix organizations, boundary-less organizations, and learning organizations.

1.4: Resource Scarcity Page Defining Economics

Read this text, which discusses the economic concepts of scarcity, choice, and opportunity cost. Opportunity cost describes how companies and organizations choose to allocate their scarce resources when they follow one option and not another. In other words, economists calculate an opportunity cost as a numerical amount (a cost or loss) that documents the company's decision.

1.5: Misunderstandings or Disagreement from Task Interdependence Page Teamwork Effectiveness

Read this article, which presents four distinct phases psychologist Bruce Tuckman created in 1965 to classify the group developmental process. The author explains how Tuckman's concept of task interdependence is a key element of the norming phase.

  1. Forming: When team members create relationships with each other and agree to the initial goals and individual work assignments of the project;
  2. Storming: When team members discuss their ideas and opposing views on how to best complete their assignment;
  3. Norming: When team members reshape the hierarchy, define their roles and interdependencies, compromise as needed, and reevaluate their approach to solving the task; and
  4. Performing: When team members come together to complete the assignment or solve the task at hand.

Page Why Teamwork Works

Read this chapter, which describes factors that can help employees work together as a team. Companies foster teamwork by encouraging staff members to depend on and trust each other, realize they work better together than individually, support and promote each other, and find ways to foster a sense of enjoyment working together as a team. Some organizations encourage leadership structures that rotate periodically so each team member can lead and share responsibility with the group.

Page Effective Teamwork and Collaboration

Watch this video, which examines how effective collaboration, holistic approaches, interdisciplinary thinking (collaboration among disciplines), and divergent thinking (exploring many possible solutions) are critical elements for innovative problem solving in our complex environment. Good communication and understanding are vital for success and can help a company avoid conflict.

Page Active Listening and Dealing with Resistance to Change

Watch these three short videos that demonstrate the importance of communication and active listening for resolving workplace conflict.

1.6: Conflicting Personality Types Page Personality Types

Read this article that explores the evolution of theories surrounding personality types and discusses tools businesses use to categorize and predict how individuals will act in certain situations. It compares and contrasts three personality tests: Four Temperaments, DISC, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It cites a case study of Myers-Briggs assessments that concluded two personality types were prevalent among a group of engineering students. The author finds that a mix of personality types can bring out the best in others and enhance the group dynamic.

1.7: Negative Stereotypes and Cultural Biases Page Defining Stereotypes

Review these definitions and examples of stereotypes.

Page Prejudice, Discrimination, and Stereotyping

Read this article, which distinguishes between blatant stereotyping and more subtle biases, prejudices, and discrimination.

1.8: Gender-Based Stereotypes Page Gender-Based Descrimination

Read this article, which discusses gender-based stereotypes, gender roles, gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexism. The authors argue that there are "significantly fewer real gender differences than one would expect relative to the large number of stereotypes about gender differences".

Page Sexual Harassment

Workplace sexual harassment has been in the news. Complaints and lawsuits have included high-profile cases where managers, coworkers, clients, and potential employers have perpetrated or condoned sexual harassment and similar violations of professional ethical standards. 

Victims often remain silent rather than report this workplace conflict because they believe their managers will ignore their accounts. Many employers dismiss the seriousness of these charges and lack the courage to discipline or terminate a perpetrator who may be an otherwise valued employee. Victims are afraid their assailant or manager will retaliate against them and jeopardize their career, such as by moving them to a less desirable work assignment or calling for their termination. This type of workplace conflict is particularly damaging because it creates a hostile environment where employees must work despite feeling hurt, angry, frustrated, distrustful, and resentful toward their employer.

Read this comprehensive definition of sexual harassment in the workplace.

1.9: Age-Based Stereotypes Page Age-Based Discrimination

Read this review of three studies that discuss: 

  1. Stereotypes where employers prefer to hire younger job candidates;
  2. Employers who prefer a younger stereotype profile even for low-status jobs; and
  3. Employers who only hire older stereotype profiles when the job is considered subordinate to a younger stereotype profile.
1.10: Culture-based Biases and Stereotypes File Culture-based Discrimination

Read this guidebook that a state health department in Australia wrote to prevent their health professionals from making incorrect assumptions or decisions regarding their patients and coworkers.

As the manual states:

"Before you can begin to have insight into diverse communities, individuals and groups, you need to understand and know your own culture and identity, whether this is your personal ethnic, spiritual or cultural heritage or your professional or organizational affiliations. Evidence has shown that our attitudes, whether we are conscious of them or not, have a direct and significant impact on the people around us.

It is impossible to know all the different rules that might exist across different cultural groups. However, it is possible to approach your work with the understanding that different and complex cultural conventions exist, and to seek out these conventions in order to both improve understanding, to adapt to whatever cultural codes you encounter, and to avoid incorrectly attributing negative characteristics onto a particular group or person."

1.11: Avoiding Biases and Stereotypes Page Building Culturally-Competent Organizations

Read this short chapter, which identifies how employers can enhance diversity and inclusiveness in their workplaces to avoid biased and stereotypical decisions.

1.12: The Effects of Dysfunctional Conflict on Work Products Page Organizational Conflict: A Review of the Literature

Read this article to learn about conflicts in the workplace, their causes, outcomes (both favorable and unfavorable), and various methods of conflict management.

Page The Leader's Role in Coaching Employees through Conflict

Read this article which discusses how to help employees resolve workplace conflict. The author emphasizes how to use confrontations as opportunities to open lines of communication to understand relevant issues at hand and overcome conflicts by working together for a mutually-satisfactory outcome.

2.1: Five Styles of Handling Conflict Page The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

Read this article to learn how these five conflict resolution approaches relate to the individual characteristics of assertiveness and cooperativeness.

Page Finding Opportunities in Conflict

Read this page to learn how to use the Thomas-Killmann approach to conflict resolution to obtain a positive outcome. Pay attention to the role emotional intelligence plays in guiding our thinking and behavior.

2.2: Methods of Conflict Resolution Page Alternative Dispute Resolution

Read this text, which describes the continuum of types of conflict resolution or alternative dispute resolution. We call the process "alternative" because it takes place outside the courtroom.

2.3 Negotiation Page A Problem-Solving Approach to Conflict Resolution

Read this article to explore how different communities respond to conflict.

Page Conflict Resolution

Read this article for some general guidance on solving conflicts in the workplace.

Page The Nature of Unions

Negotiations can be contentious and fraught with infighting, and can hurt feelings when one party does not believe the other is addressing their concerns fairly. However, the two parties can resolve their differences and restore peaceful operation when they find common ground or understanding.

For example, groups of workers may organize to form a coalition (or union) to negotiate for better working conditions or receive extra pay. In this case, the union steps in to negotiate on behalf of the workers. They may even threaten to strike or refuse to work until the employer agrees to meet their terms. These unions may push employers to create a more healthy work environment, such as by supplying special safety or protective gear or paying workers overtime in exchange for working extra hours. These steps can create a more healthy, productive workforce which benefits everyone.

Read this resource to review how American workers have created unions to fight for a better work environment since the 1860s. Workers' unions tend to get involved in political activities as they strive to promote better working conditions on behalf of their members with local, statewide, and national legislation. The negotiations union leaders undergo with companies on behalf of their members are called collective bargaining.

Page Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining describes the negotiation process workers' unions undertake with employers to regulate salaries, working conditions, benefits, and other aspects of workers' compensation and rights. Read this article for more information and context on collective bargaining in the United States.

2.4: Mediation Page Facts About Mediation

Read this article to learn the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)'s view of the many advantages of mediation. Note the positive review of this informal type of dispute resolution given by two employers.

2.5: Arbitration Page Arbitration

Read this text to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of arbitration as an alternate dispute resolution. The outcome of this type of problem-solving may depend on the arbitrator's interpretation of the terms of the contract, whereas in mediation, the third party is neutral and the participants may or may not reach a mutually-agreed-upon resolution.

Page Analysis of the Arguments about Arbitration in the Supreme Court

Employers often include mandatory arbitration clauses as part of their employment contracts to limit employees' ability to bring legal action against their employer in a court of law. These clauses are controversial. While they can prevent companies from receiving lawsuits from disgruntled employees that damage the company's public image, many argue that employees who must sign these agreements to get hired are forced to waive their rights as citizens to obtain due process remedies to unfair work practices in a court of law. By signing these contracts, employees give away their ability to sue their employer to protest discrimination, sexual harassment, being terminated without cause, and other grievances.

Read this article, which presents some controversial aspects of mandatory arbitration agreements from the arguments presented before the United States Supreme Court in October 2017.

2.6: Litigation Page When to Bring a Lawsuit

Read this article, which describes two aspects of litigation that are important to consider: legal standing and class-action lawsuits.

Page Trial Procedure

Read this article, which describes how most trials proceed.

2.7: Understanding Each Party Page Resolving Conflict

As you read this article, pay attention to the section on the phases of conflicts. Taking preventative steps during the potential conflict and gestation phases can help you avoid conflict escalation and barriers that could become insurmountable. The article also discusses barriers to conflict resolution. Differences of opinion may remain, but interest in the common good should prevail and help participants surmount real or perceived roadblocks.

2.8: Working toward a Common Goal Page Ensuring Teams Work Effectively

In the workplace, the shared goal may be to work together to benefit the company for "the good of the order". Using our problem-solving skills to create new solutions that benefit everyone are components of creativity and innovation that can help our company thrive. Read this article, which provides some best practices for effective teamwork.

2.9: Planning to Reach a Common Goal Page Project Completion

Read this chapter to review the project life cycle to ensure stakeholders are satisfied with the project's progress and how it is being completed. Are the project members fulfilling their responsibilities and accounting for resources properly? When the project is finished, team members should conduct a post-project evaluation to reflect on lessons learned, recognize positive ideas, and discuss ways to avoid mistakes during future projects.

2.10: Grievance Procedures Page Five Reasons to Tell the Hard Truth to Underperformers

Watch this video to learn five reasons managers should talk openly with employees they consider poor performers.

Page How to Have a Performance Conversation

Read this article for advice on how to have a conversation with an employee who is not contributing to the organization as well as expected.

Page Progressive Discipline and Termination Processes

Many companies have a policy of progressive discipline to respond to employee misconduct. Managers usually begin the process by discussing their expectations and asking for feedback from their underperforming employees. If this conversation does not lead to improvement, they may need to document the negative results and collect the required legal documentation to discipline or terminate the employee. Read this chapter, which details this process of escalation.

3.1: Laws to Protect Workers Page Federal Employment Discrimination Laws

Read this article, which describes legal action that can result from discrimination in the workplace.

3.2: Hostile Work Environments Page Legal Rights for Union Members

Read this article, which gives examples of letters for seeking help in union-related matters. See sample letters three and four for examples of formal grievance letters.

3.3: Fear of Retaliation Page The Role of Whistleblowers in Protecting the Safety and Integrity of the Food Supply

This article describes protections governments have put in place to protect whistleblowers in the food industry from retaliation. "Whistleblower" is a term that workers' advocates coined to describe individuals who report unethical or illegal wrongdoing at an organization or company.

3.4: Not Meeting Expectations Page A Sample Case of Workplace Hostility

Read this text for the definition and the tenets of workplace hostility.

3.5: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Page Laws, Regulations, and Assessment

The EEOC also details ways companies should comply with relevant laws and regulations, which often includes training employees to work ethically and responsibly. This chapter reviews various employment laws and some steps organizations can take to comply with them. Most organizations have human resources professionals who are well-versed in these laws.

4.1: Managing Conflict Resolution Page True Collaboration Embraces Conflict

Read this article for ideas to help employees manage conflict effectively and openly.

Page A Primer on Conflict Resolution

Read this account of a personal experience with resolving conflict. The author offers advice for facilitators to build trust, identify core issues, and help resolutions.

4.2: Example Policies and Procedures File Grievance Procedures

Review this employer's toolkit for examples of topic areas and language you might incorporate into your conflict resolution policy. The document offers advice for how employees should make a complaint, responsibilities and job descriptions for those in charge of managing complaints, and sample procedures.

Page Whistleblower and Anti-Retaliation Policies

Review this example of a whistleblower protection policy from the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

Page Disciplinary Policies

Review this example of a disciplinary policy and grievance procedure.

File Managing Employee Complaints

Review this example of a procedure employees should follow to make complaints. The accompanying flowchart details the actions the organization will take when responding to a complaint so employees know what to expect.

Page Preventing Workplace Violence

This article discusses how many employers have created workplace violence policies to help employees recognize and prepare for instances where conflict resolution procedures have failed. The author identifies warning signs, recommends policy language, and advises employers to consider providing training to help employees detect behaviors that could indicate the potential for violence. Employers should include a formal reporting mechanism, an employee assistance program, a crisis management/trauma team, and a roadmap for law enforcement.

Course Feedback Survey URL Course Feedback Survey