In 1996 I graduated from Michigan City High School in Michigan City, IN. After graduation I was not able to go right off to college since I was a teen mother. So, instead I immediately began working for a clothing store named Ms. D’s Merchandise. There I was responsible for determining marketing strategies, informing customers about new and incoming merchandise, formulating prices, and maintaining store staff. Working for a small business I was able to acquire customer service skills, tactfully deal with customers, numeracy, initiative, ability to work under pressure, and cultural awareness. Those skills prepared me for the many of the experiences that I would encounter at other jobs. After working there for about 8 months I decided to try something new. I began working at the Life Care Center, a nursing home. There I was a full-time dietary aide, assistant cook, and head cook. I was an employee there for two years. My responsibilities were preparing food items and assembling ready foods for patient trays, setting tables for the elderly, maintaining the kitchen area, ensuring proper preparation/portioning/determining quality of food, and supervising dietary aides.
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As you know working in this type of atmosphere conflicts may arise. May it be mistakes made by kitchen staff, staff unsatisfied with hours available or simply employees being angry about staying over when others arrive late for their shift. These all require some level of assertive conflict resolution skills. Responding to the needs of your staff in a timely manner, actively listening, remaining calm and fair at all times worked well in this type of atmosphere. Next, in August of 1998 I began working for the state as a correctional officer at the Indiana State Prison. Since I worked in a customer service setting, I learned from prior experience how to resolve conflicts in the workplace in many ways. This experience formed the foundation for many endeavors in the future. There, I was responsible for the safety and security of offenders, instruct inmates and maintain records of offender movement, check inmate for possible contraband, make periodic patrols of quarters and work areas, initiate count, and be familiar with daily operation of each assignment. Working in a controlled setting staff must work together to reduce conflict among offenders as well as each other. Personal interpretation plays a huge role in conflict within this facility.
Each year the staff received 16 hours of in-service training covering topics like self defense, self control, and how to maintain situations and gain control. Bringing everyone together was the goal since there were many factors separating the culture; like rank, gender, profession, and ethnic groups. Also, documenting daily movement and activities reduced conflict as well. Mainly because documenting helps to avoid any legal action or disputes of judgement. On one occasion I was given an assigned to work in a tower with no heat for several weeks. The control officer had a history of partially do his job. I turned in several work orders to address the heat issue and I also wrote him up for failure to inspect the towers before assigning them. Since he and I could not resolve the issue I utilized the chain of command and went to his supervisor. The supervisor immediately resolved the heat and scheduling issue. In 2001 I became interested in being a hair stylist. I knew living in Michigan City would not allow me to gain financial stability since it was such a small place. So I moved to Indianapolis. After researching the cosmetology schools in Indianapolis I decided to attend Kayes’ School of Cosmetology. There I received a diploma for cosmetology, esthetics, and manicuring in 2004. After graduation I was hired by The Elizabeth Arden Salon, they hired me as a manicurist/hair.
What is conflict? Webster’s Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 1983) defines conflict as sharp disagreement or opposition of interest or ideas. In other words, what I want does not match what you want, or could it be that you are so much alike that you can’t agree on anything? According to David Hardcastle, Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Maryland in Baltimore (Hardcastle, 2004), co-workers who get on one another nerves, don’t clash with everyone at the office, just the ones they’re most like. To discover why conflict occurs, Dr. Hardcastle conducted a survey of characteristics of co-workers that often have disputes with others in the workplace. In conclusion, he found that employees that don’t get along are usually more alike than different and that all conflicts at some level,since people perceive that these are incompatible goals held by at least 2 people who are interfering with what the other person wants. According to (Bell & Daly, 1984), before a conflict is carried too far, people often assure each other that they want the same thing or that they are headed in the same direction. This may be because both parties are trying to find common ground. However, in true conflict people not only want different things but believe that another is interfering with their goal attainment. Here are some core issues that arise in many conflicts:
· Self-esteem underlies all conflicts
In every conflict, someone’s sense of self is at stake.
· People engage in conflict when they feel demeaned, when they try to regain a sense of being a good person and when they’re hurting from a previous struggle. Many people are not interested in winning or losing; they just need to feel better about themselves.
· The most significant conflict is when someone feels as though their being taken advantage of. This can occur when dedication and commitment cause an individual to work later hours, but then they are not compensated for it.
· Lastly, conflict can occur when the employee has unrealistic expectations of what their position entails, or of being misunderstood in the workplace. Dr. Tony Fiore mentioned in an article (Fiore, T, 1999, Business know how, several steps a manager can take to reduce workplace conflict. You will find them listed below:
1) Managers should focus on communication skills, both in terms of how they communicate and how they are teaching their employees to communicate with each other. This would include using I statements instead of you language.
2) Managers need to increase their listening skills. Active listening involves things like trying to understand what the individual is saying, repeat it for clarity and then let communicating to them that you did indeed understand what they said.
3) Establish healthy boundaries, without boundaries, there will be conflict and squabbles, power struggles and all kinds of circumstances. Try being more empathetic and compassionate toward your employees or co-workers, without crossing the lines of being their friend.
4) Emotional intelligence, develop skills to be more effective, by teaching people to combine both intelligence and emotions in the workplace.
5) Lastly, set up behavioral consequences to be used with truly uncooperative employees who are unwilling to change. This means explaining expectations to the employee and the outcome if the problematic behavior continues. Rosemary McCaslin a professor of Social Work at California State University San Bernardino believes in involving the office veterans to assist with the mediation process. Being the seasoned employee, they are usually looked at as the mentors and are able to explain the workplace expectations to all parties involved. By utilizing this process, you are able to resolve conflicts before they escalate. Speak to all parties involved in the conflict. This can often supply the insight you need in regards to the dispute. You also ask others that are familiar with their characters and habits to help give you visualize the full picture. Finding out what each party wants and what their goals are can also give you the full picture of what caused the dispute and how this conflict can be resolved. Helping them to understand one another can alleviate some of the tension. A careful analysis of other people’s interest and values, as well as your own, will require empathetic listening and respectful speaking. Together, when people use dialogue to talk with each other, they will discover new ideas, new possibilities and new potential solutions to create a better working environment.