Thursday, October 24, 2013

Are Conflicts Personal or Situation? (HRM)

I guess most people have experiencing conflicts throughout their lives. These conflicts can be between family  members, colleagues at work or friends etc.  I have no exception as well. Conflicts happen around me all the time. Conflict resolution skills are becoming more important when societies enjoy more freedom and empowerment than ever before. 

Conflict of interests happen all the time especially at workplaces. If management can not handle conflicts, it will slowly evolve into office political struggles. Stories always start from one or few individuals' interests crash with others within their company. If no one recognise that conflict and intervene, those individuals would look for other colleagues who share their interests. Then a small group with common interests would be formed. They would try to use their power to achieve their goals. If they still can not get when they want, they will look for another powerful allies to join the group. Or if the group can get want their want, other colleagues would also form their own groups to protect their interests within the company. When management slowly recognise the impact of the power struggle between different interest groups, it would be too hard for them to resolve in the commercial setting. 

This storyline is all to familiar for people who have been worked in highly political companies before. This also happens in the company which I am currently working at. All departments have their own interests. These interests are very often conflicting each other. The engineering department only focuses on getting highest quality products, the sale department only cares about getting the lowest pricing from the suppliers, the marketing department wants to get the most beautiful packaging, the purchasing department only cares about getting the lowest MOQ and shock level, and shortest lead time, The Operational management only concern with increasing controlling power over suppliers. The administration only wants everyone obey processes without exceptions. 

My job as a sourcing officer, I need to satisfy all of these interests to push a product out to the market. Therefore, my main responsibility is to play power game with all these shakeholders everyday to get things done. Of course, there are folktales about who are the bad guys and who are the good guys in the company within our department. 

One question I have been exploring since I started this job, "Are the daily conflicts caused by personal differences or just the nature of their job?" After I have talked to both "good" and "bad" guys, I realised that they just want to do their jobs well. Of course, they also want the company to do well and be respected in the industry. However, their KPIs are all department driven and some of them are conflicted, they can not really do much about it. 

In fact, department driven KPIs are not uncommon among corporations. They can be a very effective way to manage employees. However, powerful leadership who can coordinate all departments to work together is missing in my company. Every department head holds about the same power, of course there no reason for them to obey to other department heads. When collaboration between departments are inherently hard, they need a powerful leader to take responsibilities and coordinate departments to deliver.   

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