Conflict within the workplace



In any organization one can expect many problems and both employees and employers resort to many protests and counter measures. Some such measures are boycotts, lockouts and strikes. These measures are resorted to by management and labourers as part of anti-impasse weapons. When labourers move forward with a strike or boycott employers defend it with some steps like shutting down the facility, contracting work or employ some other persons to replace the existing workers. Best alternatives available when a dispute arises in an industry or organization is by arbitration, fact finding, or mediation. These alternative measures should always be there in the minds of the HR management team. Because the main duty of the HR management team is to find ways for the smooth working of the organization. The statement in the question that boycott and lockout are two anti impasse weapons is very much debatable because one is the consequence of another and when employee resorted to boycott the employer retaliates with lockout.

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Conflict is inevitable in organizations because they function by means of adjustments and compromise among the competitive elements. Conflict also arises when there is change, because it may be seen as a threat to be challenged or resisted or when there is frustration. This may produce an aggressive reaction. It is an inevitable result of change and progress and it can and should be used constructively.

Conflict between individuals raises fewer problems than conflict between groups. Individuals can act independently and resolve their differences. Members of groups may have to accept norms, goals and values of their group.

Duties and responsibilities of HR Manager

Human resource manger has to deal with so many problems of personnel management like recruitment, selection, training, reward, industrial relations and participation etc.

It is a generally accepted principle that human resource management means having the right number of properly qualified workers and manager at the right time and place and giving motivation and inspiration for the maximum performance. For this performance there should be right material and immaterial instruments. The responsibility of seeking optimum and excellent solutions to the problems of human resource in a company or organization are with the company�s management team as well as supervisors and most importantly with the staff of the personnel or human resources department. Peak performance cannot be achieved without proper motivation and control. There should be proper nexus between work design, motivation, job performance and job satisfaction. Human resource management can achieve this by proper techniques as following.

a. Human resource planning

b. Recruitment and selection

c. systematic approach to training and development

d. Performance appraisal

e. Proper reward systems etc.

Ref: Human resource management in Europe, Sarah Vicker Staff.

Definition of Boycott, Lockout and Strike


To combine against a landlord, tradesman, employer or other persons to withheld social or business relations from him, and to deter others from holding such relations to subject to a boycott.


The closing of a place of employment or the suspension of work or the refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him in consequence of a dispute, done with a view to compelling those persons, or to aiding another employer in compelling persons employed by him, to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment.


The cessation of work by a body of persons employed acting in combination or a concerted refusal or a refusal under common understanding, of any number of persons employed to continue to work for an employer in consequence of a dispute, done as a means of compelling their employer or employer of any other persons or body of persons, or any person or body of persons employed to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment.

Ref: Trade unions ordinance, chapter 332 Section2 (Hongkong)

Some examples of Boycott, lockout, and strike are given below


MRF is a leading tyre manufacturing company in India and it has a plant in Arakkonam near Chennai. It was founded in the year 1947 by a young entrepreneur K.M. Mamman mappillai who opened a small toy balloon manufacturing unit in a shed at Thiruvatiyur, Chennai, India. Even though it started in a shed and without proper machineries, it produced a variety of products ranging from balloon, industrial gloves and contraceptive etc. The company progressed day by day and in 1956 it became the market leader of tread rubber in India. In 1984 its sales crossed INR 2billion.

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In the year 2009 the workers conducted a strike demanding reinstatement of some of the workers who were dismissed following unionization. Reciprocating to this company management announced lockout on 17th may 2009. Strike was conducted by MRF united workers union which claims that majority of workers are with it. And negotiations conducted and at last the parties reached a settlement and as part of the settlement strike as well as lockout withdrawn on 29th December 2009. The expelled workers were taken back and the company also revised the wages.


Tata Motors Ltd is an Indian Company incorporated in the year1947 in Mumbai, India to manufacture diesel vehicles including excavators and it has many plants throughout the country. Its present chairman is Ratan Tata. Telco is one the subsidiaries of Tata Motor Ltd and leading four wheeler manufacturers in India and on 29th march 2000 the employees in the company went on strike in rampage in the factory premises and there was a large scale violence and arson by a section of the workers. The reason for their protest was that the management has not accepted their demand for a hike in their pay. The company declared lockout and it lasted for more than five months. Thereafter negotiations took place and as part of the settlement. 2,000 rupees per month was offered as pay hike. It was accepted by the workers and both strike and lockout was withdrawn.


Hero Honda Motors Ltd is based in Delhi, India, a joint venture of Her Group of India and Honda of Japan. It is referred to as the world�s biggest manufacturer of two wheelers since 2001 when produced 1.3 million motor bikes in a single year. During the fiscal year 2008-2009 the company has sold 3.28 million bikes. Present chairman of the company is Mr. Brij Mohan Lall Munjal.

There was a conflict in the company in the year 2005. The reason for conflict in the company was that there was an alleged hit by a manager on a worker, who was said to be engaged in organizing a union within the plant. After the incident they protested and another four workers were sacked after they expressed their solidarity with their workmate. Some more action has been taken against many workers and they started strike in the month of June 2005. In the end of June 2005 the management officially replied by sacking 1000 workers and locking out the strikers. Lockout lasted for 45 days when eventually the whole problem was settled on 1st of August 2005. The result of the conflict was that the company lost 1.2billion rupees due to strike. As part of the settlement all dismissed workers were rehired under a declaration of good conduct and a promising to abstain from further demand and the workers were granted a wage hike as part of the settlement.`


Bajaj Auto Ltd is a major Indian automobile manufacturer and it is the India�s second largest two wheeler manufacturer and the world�s fourth largest two and three wheeler maker. It is based in Pune, Maharashtra, India and plants in different parts of India. It is headed by Rahul Bajaj who is worth more than US$ 1.5 billion. The company came into existence on November 29th d1945 as M/s Munchraj Trading Corporation Private Ltd. It started off by selling imported two and three wheelers and obtained licence from government of India to manufacture two and three wheelers in 1959.

It has many a number of modern plants. Company�s main concern about selection was to select local people and the company was concerned about the useful role of trade unions and decided to promote an internal trade union. The purpose was to serve a representative body of workers which would be a link for communication between management and employees. Company given training to the selected persons who has leadership qualities and groom them to assuming responsibility of helping workers resolving their day to day problems.

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In the company the workers had complaints of their work pattern. They had to work8 hours. Moreover there was no freedom of job. The eight hours job left them exhausted and they feel like doing nothing than sleeping.

By the end of 1986 management made some changes in the work pattern of the employment. Probationary period was raised from 3 months to 6 months and may extend another 6 months at the discretion of the management. More over go slow work considered as a misconduct and indecent behaviour. Because of some misdeeds some workers were suspended by the company. This has made some displeasure among workers against the union and they organized another union and started strike against the company. Their demand was to increase house rent allowance to 300 rupees per month and education allowance of rupees 140 per month leave travel allowance of rupees 1,500 per year and basic wages at the rate of 1,600 rupees. In response management declared lockout on 7th November. After much negotiation the whole matters were settled.�Bajaj_Auto

There are altogether four examples related to boycott and lockout is given. Actually the boycott, lockout and strike are not mutually exclusive. They are interrelated. When a boycott or strike is declared by the labours, management resort to lockout or vice versa. Hence it can be seen that they are related to each other. There are so many things which lead to conflicts like pay, work environment, callous behaviour of some staff members, and deviation from the promises etc.

Steps to be followed in managing conflict

The first thing an HR manager should do in managing conflict is to analyze the conflict. When analyzing the conflicts the manager should look at the nature and type of conflict, must make an identification of the problem itself as well as the causes of the problem etc. And the second stage is determining the conflict management strategy. When choosing a strategy to manage a conflict involves either confrontation and problem solving or mediation and arbitration. After much deliberation most suitable method should be selected and applied. Then comes the pre negotiation in which ground rules for the meeting are laid down. An agenda is to be made, make amendments and make all other necessary preparations. In fourth stage there comes negotiation and this is the paramount important stage in which conflict is totally managed by discussions and debates and all problems are tackled and amicable solutions are sought. And in the fifth and final stage the decisions are implemented followed by an action plan. More over the progress is monitored through follow-ups.


On the basis of a detailed discussion it can be seen that the management of conflict is a complicated matter and it should be attended to in a proper manner. There are so many reasons of for conflicts in the industry or organization ranging from social, political, economical, cultural, technological etc. Social factors include social attitudes and values, such as attitudes towards working conditions, the length of the working day etc. If the company or the employees are not satisfied with this there is every possibility for conflict. As far as political factors are concerned, if the government has taken some new policies and it affects the firm, there may be some measured to be adopted by the firm and it may have an impact on the workers as well and if it is not comfortable to them either will agitate. Moreover if the political parties find it will give them some mileage they will interfere with working of the firms and that may result to some conflicts. When it comes to economical factors if the workers are not satisfied with their pay or some other allowances it may lead them to call for any strike or boycott. If there are any technological developments firms may try to reduce the number of workers because with the new technology there may not be any need for the existing workers. This will lead to redundancy of some of the workers and there is possibility of agitation. More over if the culture of the company may be against the regional customs of the locality that also may lead to conflicts. The strategy to be adopted in dealing conflicts like boycott, lockout, strike etc is that the strategy should be appropriate. Management of conflict in itself is an ongoing process and it involves co-operative work by the HR manager. Strategy making process has to be made bearing in mind that it is a challenge of coming in terms with the multiplicity of potentially conflicting groups as well as individual�s. Individual�s together makes group and group�s together makes and organization. The manager must have to find best ways to manage differences and conflicts. Sufficient co-operation is necessary to bring the organization into a healthy future. Management-union institutionalized arrangements are necessary to handle conflicts and differences. When we consider the reasons and solutions of conflicts in an organization, like boycott, lockout or strike we can take it in a psychological way. An organization can be compared with a person. A persons mind is always filled with diametrically opposite conflicting thoughts, so does the organization. When a person�s way to achieving his goals is blocked there is every possibility that the person experience frustration. Like that when an employee who expects a promotion or salary hike and it is denied because a different job description is newly introduced and his profile is not suitable for that, he may respond to this in a grievous manner that is by some measures of revenge like destroying tools or something like that when he gets any opportunities. Since conflicts damage the entire organisation an H R manager has to take some remedial measure to overcome the problems with the organisation. Some such solutions are mediation, arbitration, fact finding etc. In mediation, conciliation or fact finding etc. In mediation or conciliation some neutral persons are appointed by both parties and they discuss the matter with the parties in a common platform and try to find out a good solution which is acceptable to both parties. Since this is an out of court preceding it is less time consuming and problem can be solved very easily. Hence it can be seen that the HR manager has to play a leading role in the pursuit of the organization.


Human resource management in Europe, Sarah Vicker Staff.

Trade unions ordinance, chapter 332 Section2 (Hongkong)�Bajaj_Auto