Saturday, October 25, 2014


       It is common for disagreement, discord or some other form of friction to arise among individuals in a group. This is very true, when the actions or beliefs of a given person or more people are resisted by one or more individuals in the group. Conflicts may arise within a group or among several groups. Variation in opinion often leads to disruption in routine group interaction. Such disruption may also be as a result of scarcity of resources and may result to violence as division arises between members of the same group or different groups. I have had an experience of conflict in the workplace during my internship at one of the leading financial institutions. The experience was bad at first with both sides to the conflict, failing to reach a common ground as we sought to find a solution that was, however, achieved at the end of the ordeal.  
       The source of the conflict was a colleague’s mobile phone on which some water had accidentally poured into making it go off. The owner of the phone who happened to be a lady and the firm’s procurement officer was someone we had been very close as we worked from the same office, though serving under different departments. She went by the name Naomi. Naomi was out of the office, but within the premises at the time of the incident. There were some workers who had been hired on a temporary basis to help in sorting out information contained in some old files in the firm and had been stationed in our office from where they did their work. The temporary staff had gone through numerous files which they arranged in stacks that went so high that they did not balance well. At some point, as I was moving out, I closed the door behind me. This caused some light breeze resulting from the action of propelling the door, making one of the stacks of files to come down falling hitting a glass of water on Naomi’s table. I had been drinking water from the glass while at her table as she was away running some errands. The glass fell over splashing the water on the items on the table, Naomi’s phone inclusive.
        When she came back and learnt of what had transpired, she was very furious. It was a Samsung smart phone that meant a lot to her as it contained valuable contacts and information. Her fear was that the phone might not resume normal functioning. This made her angry and she demanded to know the persons responsible for the incident. She was informed by the temporary workers that I was responsible. I came but to be faced with endless questions and accusations. This attracted the attention of other staff members. I tried giving my version of the story, but she was too blinded by fury to listen to whatever I had to say.
       I had to seek the indulgence of two other staff members, Andrew and Dominic whom I respected so much and found to be wise and mature to help us in solving the matter amicably. I knew they would not depict any racial bias considering the fact that I am Chinese while the rest of the people in the room were Americans. They first advised Naomi to take her phone to the IT department where it could be dried and sorted out. She obliged and came back a few minutes later. We all gave our versions and perspectives on the whole issue as the two gentlemen listened carefully. Later, after we were done, they requested for a few clarifications which we offered promptly. They ruled out malice in the incident, calling for new approaches to the way we conducted ourselves within the office. We all agreed that each one sticks to his or her workstation and only moves to another person’s desk after obtaining permission from the relevant person. There was an exception in terms of the senior staff as they had to express authority over their subordinates. 
       Fortunately, the functionality of Naomi’s phone was restored. We also went back to good terms, respecting each other. Looking back, I think that the incident made things better as the staff seem to be more responsible in their actions, taking utmost care of company property and the property of their colleagues. One no longer has to worry about someone disorganizing items on their desk. 
       As highlighted, the experience was bad at first as both sides to the conflict failed to reach a common ground as we sought to find a solution, which we achieved finally. Naomi’s mobile phone incident had been purely accidental with no malice intended. Both Dominic and Andrew handled the conflict maturely. They helped each one of us appreciate the value of respecting other people’s workplace as well as increase our degree of responsibility and accountability when it comes to both the firm’s property and that of other employees. As long as people continue interacting, conflicts are always bound to occur. However, with proper handling of conflicts warring parties are able to resolve their issues peacefully for the better.   


  1. You have written about next week's post. I'm going to delay commenting on this post till next week. But I expect you to next write on the post that actually was due last Friday.

  2. The story you told is interesting an detailed, but if you take Naomi's view she was simply showing her initial reaction when she got angry with you. One's first response to a bad outcome may be frustration and that can get expressed as anger towards others, whether the other person was really responsible for the accident or not.

    This sort of behavior does have negativity to it, but I wouldn't describe it as conflict. Rather it is temporary irritation only. Now if Naomi had already been angry with you for other things before the phone incident, then it might be described as conflict. But in a one-off case, I don't think it fits the description. Conflict is ongoing and typical has the parties vying for control. That was not the case in your example.