The new Russian School is faced with the problem of solving continuous conflict between two of its most important employees. The problem is occasioned by a lack of a clear communication strategy thereby pitting the two against each other. Moreover, the school has had the problem of shortages of teachers and classrooms fueled by the increased enrolment of new children. The infighting between the employees of the school has threatened to bring the school to its collapse as each of the two has set terms if they are to stay.
In solving the problems, the board of directors could choose any of the three proposed solutions. One requires a reconciliation of the two employees thereby retaining both employees in the organization. The next solution involves the hiring of a manager who can manage the implementation of all the school operations. Thirdly, the board could fire one of the two employees to permanently solve the conflict between them. However, this is a hard decision as choosing the employee to relieve of their duty is a difficult one.
The most viable option for the school is the reconciliation of the two employees to avoid destabilizing the organization. The solution ensures that the contribution of the two employees is maintained in the organization. However, convincing the two to drop their hard demands is a difficult task. Moreover, the infighting between the two employees might continue into the foreseeable future thus undermining efforts. Implementation of the solution requires independently talking to the employees before summoning them together.
Part 1 – Case study
The board of directors for a new Russian school finds itself facing a challenging situation involving one of its teachers, Trina, and one of the directors, Sheila. Initially, Trina had threatened to resign from her teaching job because the high intake of students was curtailing her efforts to keep up with her masters teaching classes. This was before she had been given lighter duties and her teaching moved to morning and evening hours. However, after Sheila enrolled four more children into the program, Trina had notified the board of her intentions to resign after the summer session. Faced with this challenge, the members of the board met in Sheila’s absence and agreed to make Trina the director of teachers, an offer that she agreed.
The next challenge came about when Sheila learnt about the new position that Trina was being offered. She lamented about the board’s decision because they had not involved her and because she seemed not to be in the board’s plans. Sheila then expressed her intention to resign if her conditions were not met. The conditions were that she be made a voting member and the overall director. In addition, Trina was to report to her directly if she was going to stay. The new school had faced many challenges since its inception four years ago. There had been challenges with shortage of classrooms and teachers occasioned by the fast growth of the school.
The idea of a Russian immersion program had sprung from the need for families in the neighborhood to teach their children Russian language. The existing School of Foreign languages had failed the parents by prioritizing Japanese classes over Russian ones despite a higher intake in the Russian classes. The parents had therefore started their own school banking on the diversity of talent among them to make the program a success. Indeed the new school had been a success, partly due to the fact that Sheila and Trina had past experience in the School of Foreign languages. This same fact brought about the challenge because the two were known to have been in continuous conflict back in the school.
Part 2 – Analysis
The new Russian school is faced with a problem of finding the balance (Johnson & Keddy, 2010) between two of its best employees, Sheila and Trina. While Sheila is a director whose communication is efficient in enrolling new students into the school, Trina is a teacher who is well respected by other teachers for her communication powers. The challenge seems to stem from the fact that both employees want to outdo each other. Sheila feels more superior to Trina and thinks that any decisions involving Trina should involve her contribution as she oversees the daily operations of the school. It actually comes as a surprise when Sheila learns that Trina has been promoted to the position of director of teachers.
The fact that the new position gives Trina the power to hire new teachers does not augur well with Sheila who feels undermined. The conflict between the two is evidenced by the fact that Sheila suggests that the board let Trina go when she threatens to resign. In the same fashion, the main reason for Trina’s resignation threat stems from Sheila. Trina feels that she is aiming to high in enrolling too many students and thereby overworking the teachers. The conflict between the two employees is not an isolated case but one that faces many organizations that are on a growth trajectory. The development of an organization brings new challenges as people are given more responsibilities (Cushman & King, 1995). The board needs to make clear guidelines on the roles and responsibilities of each employee to avoid the conflict due to duplication of roles. In addition, personal issues should be dealt with early enough before they degenerate into full blown challenges for the organization.
Another problem facing the school is the effective communication between and among the stakeholders in the school. It is clear that there is no clear chain of communication or command from how decisions are arrived at in the school. For instance, Sheila makes a decision to increase enrolment without consulting John who has to renegotiate insurance and building space after the school’s expansion. In addition, the board decides to promote Trina without involving Sheila and it comes as a shock to her upon learning about the same. Although the school had developed in terms of the number of students and the revenue generated from the same, the communication within the school was poor. Communication in growing organizations is a challenge especially to directors that had no prior experience in running a school (Okoronkwo, 2011). The lack of clearly defined channels of communication presents a challenge as the flow of information is haphazard. A possible solution to this problem would be to come up with a clear structure of command that also details the flow of information (Adair, 2009). In so doing, the right people are bound to convey the right information. This situation avoids a scenario where misleading and wrong instructions are passed onto members of the organization.
Sheila and Trina are both important members of the school and are visibly responsible, in part, for its growth. However, the lack of team work (Van, 2005) between the two and among the entire players in the school’s management presents a big challenge to the sustainability of the program. Every member of the school management seems to be acting alone and without due regard for the interests of the other members. In addition, there seems to exist personal issues between Sheila and Trina who are said to have been in continuous conflicts even before the start of the new school. The success of the new school will therefore depend on the ability of the board to apply synergy and work together as opposed to working independently (Raines, 2013). The communication channels between the school actors should be enhanced to improve its effectiveness.
Part 3 – Solutions
One solution for the organization would be taking a reconciliatory path (Sims, 2002) for the two employees. Both Shelia and Trina are important for the school’s growth and functioning. While Trina is an excellent teacher, Sheila is good at communicating with parents and bringing in new students. It would be better to bring everyone into a same room and iron out the differences over a face to face meeting. To utilize the capabilities of the two employees, the board should make Shelia to be a voting member of the board like she requested. However it would be suicidal to think of having Trina report to Sheila directly. The board should make this decision clear to both thus giving them a chance to carry out their duties without each other’s interference for short term.
The other option would be to hire a manager who can oversee the implementation of all the operations in the school. Further, the manager would be effective in ensuring appropriate implementation of the curriculum being used in the classroom. Managers could resolve the issues efficiently and in timely manner (Pfeffer, 1992). In addition, a manager would help the new board of directors to build their school vision and calculate the costs associated with the operations of the school. With this insight, the board of directors can then figure out whether they should hire a new teacher or not. However, the decision to hire a manger is costly as it would increase the salary overhead costs. That notwithstanding having a manager is a good long-term idea because the position brings experience on board.
Besides the two solutions, the board of directors is faced with another harsh solution to the problem. The board could make a decision of relieving one of the two employees of their duties and working with one. It is no doubt that both Sheila and Trina are important assets to the school their performance has proven. However, their continued stay is bound to occasion more conflict as their source of conflict seems to be personal. Firing one of the two employees could solve all the drama in the school business thus saving the board enough time to work on making the school better. However, the main challenge in this solution is coming to the choice of whom between the two employees to fire (McWhinney, 1997). The board of directors, who all are parents, should put students’ interest first before anything else.
Part 4 – Discussion and Critical Thinking
The best solution that is most appropriate for the board is to reconcile the two employees and retain both of them. Having a manager is a good solution but should be saved for the long-term. At the moment, hiring another manager would be a burden to the school due to the heavy salary expense. For now, the school should focus on hiring other teachers to cope with the high enrolment of students. Firing either of the two employees is also not a viable option since the school is still young and requires the input of both. Firing one employee would destabilize the school leading to its collapse. In addition, the board of directors’ meetings should happen more often than bimonthly as issues and problems may arise more often in a small growing institute and most of them need almost immediate attention. It is important to deal with them in their early stages and when they are still small. It is also a nice idea to have parents meet with their children’ teacher on a regular basis for feedback as this would improve the students’ performance leading to school’s good reputation and growth. They also need to create a strategic plan so that everyone member of the board of directors and all employees have the same vision, goals and mission (Collins & O’Rourke, 2009). If everyone has a same vision, then there will be less conflict and more effective communication.
The reconciliation process of the two employees requires that each be spoken to independently at first. The board should try to understand the issues shrouding each of the employees separately before taking any action. Sheila’s demands should therefore be looked at more keenly to identify areas of improvement in the organization. Further, Trina should be interviewed ion a view to understanding the problems and challenges that she may face. The input of each of the two employees should be underlined to ensure that they both feel important and respect the other person’s contribution. After this the need for keeping both employees should be stressed to each of the two independently. After the separate interviews, the two should be summoned together by the board and their roles defined to avoid duplication of the roles. In addition, the importance of the school should be emphasized so that personal interest does not shroud the interests of the school and that of children.
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Johnson, C., & Keddy, J. (2010). Managing conflict at work: Understanding and resolving conflict for productive working relationships. London: Kogan Page.
McWhinney, W. (1997). Creating paths of change: Managing issues and resolving problems in organizations (2nd print. [i.e. ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Okoronkwo, S. (2011). Effective communication with children and youth: A guide for parents and youth workers. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Pfeffer, J. (1992). Managing with power: Politics and influence in organizations. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.
Raines, S. (2013). Conflict management for managers: Resolving workplace, client, and policy disputes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Sims, R. (2002). Changing the way we manage change. Westport, Conn.: Quorum Books.
Van, G. B. (2005). Managing workplace conflict: Alternative dispute resolution in Australia. Annandale, N.S.W: Federation Press.
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