Case Study #1:
Conflict in the Office
Ramya Roa and Ann Scheck McAlearney
Trisha Olsen has been an assistant director at Liberty Research Hospital for the past seven years. She currently manages eight people in the protocol department, which is responsible for ensuring that all research studies are compliant with research regulations and institutional review board requirements. Unfortunately, the protocol department has a reputation for high turnover rates, and many workers are rumored to have left because of how they were treated bu their boss. However, two of the protocol specialists have been with the department for more than ten years, and these two specialists have been promoted to team leaders within the past year.
Recently, the department changed its approach to quality control, requiring greater involvement and oversight by different employees. Whereas the former process required circulation of work only among the protocol specialists, workers now must circulate their work, and have it reviewed by all coworkers, including team leaders. This new approach has introduced some tension within the department and raised issues about work quality that had not been raised in the past. Team leaders have become particularly critical of others’ work, and tl1ey have also been unhappy when their own work has been returned to them with others’ criticisms that needed to be addressed.
Yesterday, tension within the department was particularly high. Trisha was away at a meeting at the tin1e, but apparently Stephanie, a protocol specialist, and Bella, a team leader, were overheard arguing about whether a comment should be made in a database about a minor change in the research protocol. The argument was heated enough that coworkers started to pay attention, and Trisha heard rumors about the incident after she returned from her meeting. To make matters worse, both Stephanie and Bella then e-mailed Trisha to describe the situation and give their points of view.
Trisha wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. She knew that Bella had a history of getting into arguments with coworkers and could hold a grudge for months. The department would certainly suffer if the tension remained, and Trisha could not handle further turnover among protocol specialists.
What should Trisha consider prior to addressing the conflict?
How can she help resolve the conflict?
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