Workplace Conflict in the Educational Environment The Term Paper

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workplace conflict in the educational environment. The selected organization is a large educational institution, specifically its independent learning department, where there is tension and workplace conflict among the staff members. Specifically, there is tension between the full-time staff and part-time student staff, due to mismanagement and misunderstandings. One manager favors student staff over the full-time staff, since she was once a student worker herself, and it has driven a wedge between staff members, and several staff members have left or transferred to other departments.

First, it helps to define leadership, and what a good leader hopes to accomplish. One author notes, "Leadership means influencing people beyond routine compliance with directives and orders" (Levinson, 2005). Organizations employ leadership in many different ways. Author Levinson continues, "Leadership provides the key dynamic force that motivates and coordinates an organization to accomplish its objectives" (Levinson, 2005). Good leaders are examples to their staff, and they are effective because they know how to motivate, empower, and encourage their staff members to attain goals and objectives, and they mentor and coach their employees, as well. Author Levinson notes the qualities of a good leader. He writes, "Psychologist Daniel Goleman's extensive research indicates that most effective leaders share one essential quality. They have a high degree of Emotional Intelligence (EI) -- the ability to manage one's emotions and one's relationships effectively" (Levinson, 2005). On the other hand, poor leaders manage by less successful techniques, such as favoritism or intimidation, and that can ultimately be harmful to the organization and its morale.

Many classic motivational theories apply to this situation. For example, classical conditioning indicates that natural responses occur when certain stimuli invigorate and direct the desired behavior. When there are incentives, the desired behavior increases. Thus, a good manager could use a form of classical conditioning that stimulates and motivates the employee to complete tasks effectively, such as rewarding the employee with a gift or other type of reward when tasks are completed effectively. This classical conditioning stimulates the employee to complete the task successfully, because they expect a reward if they do. It is similar to the Pavlov experiment where the dog began to salivate when Pavlov rang the bell, because it anticipated the food reward coming after the bell. The staff member anticipates the reward at the end so they complete the task.

There are also many cognitive theories that apply to motivational leadership, as well. One is attribution theory. This theory believes that individuals will use certain "attributions" in an attempt to explain their successes or failures. The attributions can be external or internal, and they can be in control or not in control. A good leader helps their staff members gain internal control through effort and determination when completing tasks. If the leader leads effectively, staff members will feel they have control over their own actions and will complete tasks more effectively, and stay motivated longer.

Regarding organizational leadership in this specific situation in the educational setting, it was limited at best. Specifically, the department manager handed over most day-to-day leadership to her assistant, a newly hired assistant manager who had recently been a part-time student worker. The assistant managed the office staff, including full-time and part-time employees. She made it clear that she thought student workers had been "mistreated" by a previous manager, and that she felt they were "equal" in all respects to full-time staff members, many of whom had been with the department for many years. This angered the full-time workers and alienated them, which drove a wedge through the department. The part-time workers banded together, the full-time workers banded together, and it became a very tense and uncomfortable situation. There was very little display of organizational leadership, as the department manager sided with her assistant. In fact, they became friends and often socialized outside of the workplace, while they did not socialize with the full-time staff members.

This was a dysfunctional workplace, rather than an example of organizational leadership. In fact, it could be used as an example of what not to do as a leader. In an example, the assistant devised a system where she would leave "points" around the office in locations where there was a task to be accomplished. If the staff found these points when they completed a task, they could save them up for rewards, like gift cards, or a day off. One staff member accumulated points and was saving them for a day off, and then was told she "had" to use them by a certain date, which negated getting enough points for a day off in time. This is the exact opposite of motivation and empowerment. Author Levinson notes, "Empowerment refers to managers sharing decision-making authority and responsibility with group members. Most people consider it a positive force that liberates workers to act with more motivation and focus on tasks without certain organizational constraints" (Levinson, 2005). This manager did not manage by motivation; she managed by intimidation and favoritism, and it created friction and hard feelings throughout the staff. Many people left the department entirely, and others transferred to other departments.

In addition, the department manager allowed the situation to continue, which further alienated the staff. The situation was extremely uncomfortable, with many staff members confessing that they "hated" to come to work any more. Another writer notes, "The truly effective leader knows he or she is an active member within the team and always works to better the team. Real leaders have a forward-looking orientation and work to build the culture of their group" (Adamchik, 2007, p. 11). In this situation, the culture of the group disappeared, indicating a lack of organization leadership and understanding. It is interesting to note that the assistant manager had no formal management training, nor did the department manager. The manager had recently been promoted to manager after serving as assistant manager for several years, due to the retirement of the older department manager. The new manager had been promoted several times during her tenure, always without any management training. This was common throughout the organization. They employed educators as managers, usually without any formal management training.

In this specific example, power and influence played a distinct role in the situation. Because the staff knew that the manager and her assistant had a personal relationship outside the office, they were afraid to complain or discuss the situation. This created more tension in the staff, and illustrates the lack of organizational leadership in the department. Author Adamchik continues, "In making the choice to lead, you take responsibility for yourself first, which means you must commit to working on your own personal and professional development. If you cannot, or will not, lead and develop yourself, you cannot lead and develop others" (Adamchik, 2007, p. 11). The manager was responsible for the staff and the staff reaction to events and situations in the office, but she did not take responsibility for the deteriorating situation throughout the office. She did not lead and develop herself to recognize that her relationship was helping fuel the fire, and this helped the assistant develop more power and authority, which was undermining the office. She had more influence with the manager than the rest of the staff, the staff knew it, and resentment grew. The power and influence in the office was not balanced, it was skewed, and it helped make the situation worse.

Ultimately, the department began to develop a very bad reputation throughout the organization, where it once had enjoyed a very favorable reputation. Before the management changes, it was viewed as one of the "better" departments to work in on campus, and people from other departments would often try to transfer into the department. That all changed after the new assistant manager took over, and the department's reputation began…[continue]

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