Saturday, August 28, 2010

Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

Below is a hypothetical scenario, which I believe is one classic example of an interpersonal conflict.

Mark and Henry were colleagues working under the same section in a business company. Mark was a veteran, having served the company for more than twenty years, starting from the lowest position and working his way up steadily. He was very hardworking and had a traditional mindset that believes hardwork will always pay off one day. Henry, on the other hand, was a much younger employee who had just joined in only a few weeks ago. Despite his inexperience, Henry was very talented. As Henry had entered the company as a fresh university graduate in business studies, he had been promoted to the same position as Mark within the few weeks since his entry into the company. Of course when Mark had heard about Henry's promotion, he was not happy to see someone so young and inexperienced to be promoted so quickly, whereas it took years for him to achieve his current position.

Mark was still a bachelor, mainly because he was so hardworking that he had no time for romantic relationship. He was always serious in his works, so his superiors often entrusted him with alot of projects. Due to his always serious attitude, he was not very popular to his colleagues, but he was well respected for his experience.

Henry, on the other hand, was a rather relaxed and carefree individual. He was very friendly with good sense of humour, making him a very popular and well-liked person among his colleagues, except for Mark who felt that his carefree attitude was a sign of laziness. He was also married, and recently, he became into a father.

Mark and Henry had been tasked into working together on a very important project. As usual, Mark treated this project very seriously. However, when the deadline was closing in, Mark realised that he was having trouble in finishing the project within the deadline. He already had a handful of other projects to finish. To make matters worse, Mark felt that Henry did not have his fair share of his work in the project. Very often, he would leave the office early and head straight back to home, unlike Mark who worked overtime almost everyday for the project. The truth was; Henry also took the project seriously and tried to contribute as best as he could, but he had just became into a father and he had to rush back to home everyday to take care of his wife and baby.

One evening, Henry was preparing to rush back to home as usual. There were only five days left before the project deadline, and the project was only half done. Finally fed up with Henry's actions, Mark snapped and begin to shout at and accuse Henry for his lack of commitment in the project. In his rage, Mark also insulted Henry that he should never have deserved his promotion and he was nothing but an arrogant and lazy brat. Henry was shocked by the sudden outburst by Mark, and was left speechless for half a minute.

This is just one classic example of an interpersonal conflict. There are many factors that have caused this above conflict.

One of the main factor is generation gap. Mark belongs to an older generation of workers who have been taught of the traditional moral value of working hard to earn a living. When he saw that Henry managed to get his new position within the few weeks since joining the company, Mark would have felt envious and thought that it was unfair because Henry did not work as hard as he did to earn the position. Henry, on the other hand, would have felt that it was alright for him to earn his new position, since he had proven himself with his talents and he had already studied hard in his university and earned himself a good testimonial through his degree. The generation gap and the difference in mindset between Mark and Henry would have been the first spark of this conflict between the two individuals.

The generation gap would have caused the two colleagues to misunderstand each other, which in turn becomes the next factor for this conflict. As Mark always had a discrimination against Henry and was only paying attention to his own work, Mark did not bother to know more about his younger colleague. If he had known more about Henry personal life, he would have learnt that Henry was married and there was a reason why he had to rush back home everyday.

If I would to be one of their superiors who had happened to overhear their argument, I would first meet each one of them one by one to know more about the incident in their own individual point of view. From each of their own point of view, I would figure out the root cause of the incident, which in this case is the misunderstanding between the two of them, especially Mark. I would later advise them to meet each other face to face so that they can both settle their misunderstandings and hope they will learn to understand each other so that they can work better with each other in the future.

What about you, readers? What would you do if you are to resolve this interpersonal relationship.


  1. Thanks Riyan for the long post! It is truly a good idea to do case study using blog ^-^
    Most of the time, we were discussing about the skills of effective communication. But for this case, I think Henry and Mark did not even bother to communicate! I am unable to conclude that both of them are poor communicators, but I doubt that they recognizes the importance of quality relationship between each other and put enough effort to build team spirit to accomplish their shared task.

  2. Hi Riyan!

    After reading the story, I feel that both Mark and Henry is at fault for not communicating with each other and understanding each other's position and difficulties.

    This problem could have been resolved if both Mark and Henry came up with a schedule or timeline for the project and stuck to it.

    Individual responsiblities should have been spelled out at the first meeting so that both parties get their fair share of work.

    Jealous had also clouded Mark's judgement of Henry's actions. Mark could had took a step back and reflect on the situation before flaring up.

    See you around!

  3. Hi Riyan!

    Mark should have talked to Henry and listened to his explanation before he made the judgement on Henry's attitude. Although he is more experienced, he is lack of empathy. Your solution is great! Anyway, here is another solution, under an assumption that no third party can be involved. To resolve the conflict,I think Henry should explain to Mark that he is carrying the responsibility of being a father and a husband. In the meantimes, Henry should assure Mark that he would be serious for accomplishing the project.

  4. Thank you guys for all your suggestions!

  5. I think such scenarios are not rare in workplaces. In fact, there have been friendlies debates about the workloads of the singles versus the married ones.

    I don't have statistics to back this, but it was claimed that singles worked longer hours than those who were married. While some did it out of goodwill because they empathize on the family responsibilities of their married colleagues, some singles complained that superiors expected them to work longer hours simply because they were supposed to have more 'free time'.

    Not long ago, a teacher actually wrote to the Straits Times and said that teachers who were single were always given the task of overseeing the orientation or CCA camps overnight, while their married colleagues could happily return home after office hours.

    His argument was that singles often stayed with their parents and they needed to take care of them too.

  6. I like your proposed scenario. I agree that both Mark and Harry have lack of communication, which leads to their argument. The initial problems were their generation gap and different lifestyles.

    I feel that Henry might know Mark's dissatisfaction with him since Mark had shown quite a lot of obvious signals. If Henry had talked with Mark earlier to clear their misunderstanding, the final argument would not have happened.

    In this case, I think Henry needs to be calm when hearing the wrong judgment from Mark and explain to Mark what he has actually done. The conflict might not be solved after such a short talk. Henry still needs to give more try to convince Mark regarding his working attitudes. When Mark understands, the conflict will disappear, I believe.

  7. I think you are an excellent story teller.The plot of the story is very clear, and the story is very interesting. I also agree that they both do lack necessary communication.
    Henry is new here and he gets fast promotion.Maybe he ignored to maintain good relationship with seniors like Mark as he is still short of working experience. I think Henry should know the bad condition between he and Mark, but he just doesn't do anything to change. Maybe, he should also give more chance to Mark, then Mark can get more success. He may be grateful to Henry. Humility is necessary to get on well with others.
    As to Mark, I think he doesn't have a effective control of his emtion, which may be the reason why he gets promotion slowly. What he does is also a kind of human nature. I think he should have better control of his mood and learn more from others. The project is not the real reason why Mark got angry.If there is no project this time, Mark may come up with other excuse to blame Henry. Communication is important, but I think understanding of each other and human nature is also significant in this case. :-)

  8. Thanks, Riyan, for the serious effort you made in putting this post together. Without even reading it though, I looked at the length and gasped: 877 words. Ouch! Three times the prescribed number.

    Like your classmates mention, the scenario is related beautifully in your fluent prose and active story telling style. You've painted a clear portrait of both Mark and Henry, of the workplace and of their conflict.

    I appreciate your analysis as well, but that seems to go against the parameters of the assignment. It would have been better to pose a question so as to encourage the reader to offer possible explanations. In this way you could also reduced your post's length.

    Do you see my point?

  9. Please how do i call this type of interpersonal conflict, and what are the perception s of this conflicts. Thank you pls I need the answer pls your views friends.