Conflict Management in Business

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Organizational behavior within a work environment is a very important concept for managers to understand. Organizational behavior refers to the psychology side of business – understanding how employees think and feel that allow us to actually predict their behavior. That’s a powerful tool for managers to possess.

One component of organizational behavior is conflict management. As a researcher and business professional, I am drawn to conflict situations, not because I love when things are going wrong, but because I have a desire to help employees improve their work environments and their working relationships. When people like where they work, their organizational culture, and seeing their colleagues, they enjoy coming to work every day, which is important for morale and productivity.

However, even in the best work environment situations arise that can create conflict. We are human and there will be times when we break trust. More often than not, trust is broken on accident. People make mistakes and occasionally trust is broken because of those mistakes. For example, someone promises to finish their part of a project, becomes busy, and misses the deadline without realizing it.

Three Ways to Restore Trust in a Business Setting

How can trust be restored? Trust is a niche area within conflict management that I focus on in my research. Within trust, is another niche area, which is trust repair. Three different aspects are associated with trust repair.

Trust repair could come in the form of a payment of reparations. This is very common with companies such as Amazon. For example, if a product is damaged upon receipt, customer service will apologize and may offer 10% off the product, or a discount on a future product. That is considered a payment of reparations. Trying to repair trust by offering something in return.

Another way trust can be repaired focuses on future relationships. It involves putting some sort of agreement into place. It’s usually a contract that states both parties are going to make sure trust isn’t broken again. Those involved put their names to paper signifying they agree on a solution and are going to follow through on what was promised.

The third type of trust repair is the simplest, and interestingly enough, it’s also the most effective. It is offering some sort of verbal statement, like an apology. It’s incredible how often a simple, meaningful, focused apology can repair trust and get things back on track to building those meaningful working relationships needed to make work environments, as a whole, a better place.

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About the Author

Dr. Beth Polin serves as Associate Professor of Management in EKU’s College of Business. She joined the faculty after completing her undergraduate studies in economics at DePaul University and her doctorate work in labor and human resources at the Ohio State University. Dr. Polin teaches concepts specific to organizational behavior and human resource management, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

An active researcher, her work in the areas of conflict management, leadership, empowerment, socialization, and pedagogy has been presented, both nationally and internationally. Dr. Polin has been published in a number of academic journals, conference proceedings, and books. She has been recognized for her accomplishments in teaching, research, and service, most recently being recognized with the Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Business Rogow Excellence in Research and Scholarship Award. She maintains active memberships in the Academy of Management, Beta Gamma Sigma, and the Management and Organizational Behavior Teaching Society.

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