In any organization, a “latent conflict” usually exists between a privileged group and a less-privileged group. (Brahm. 2003) In the case of the shoe factory in the case study, marketing is the privileged group because it brings in the money. If marketing fails to sell the shoes for any reason, manufacturing takes the brunt. For instance, if marketing fails to sell because of poor quality, manufacturing earns the ire of management because it failed to carry out proper quality control measures. If marketing fails to sell the product because it did not exert enough effort to do so, manufacturing is still adversely affected since its budget might be reduced and personnel layoffs might follow.
This situation gives rise to the first stage of conflict.
In the case study provided, the conflict between the manufacturing and marketing functions is still in the first stage or what Brahm (2003) calls the “latent conflict” or “unstable peace” because while both parties already consider each other an enemy, the organization “still has a functional structure.
” This is an indication that the “triggering event” needed to move the conflict into the next, or “conflict emergence stage,” has not yet taken place. (Kriesberg. 2003) When the “triggering event” occurs, the unstable peace could be replaced by a more violent situation which could negatively affect not only the workplace atmosphere, but also the production output and finally the financial position of the company. A triggering event could be a mass lay off of personnel and a violent “conflict emergence stage” could be an employee-instigated work stoppage in the form of a strike.
In this situation, management should immediately put into motion a conflict resolution process before events get out of hand. Representatives of both manufacturing and marketing should be brought to the negotiating table to iron things out. It is imperative that management show both parties that each is an intrinsic part of a team, and a fraternal atmosphere has to be established in the workplace. A periodic consultation should be held among management, marketing, and manufacturing to insure that the situation does not backslide to the “unstable peace” stage.