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Abstract

Conflict resolution theory posits that understanding the sources of conflict aids peace making by informing the selection of interventions most likely to support the resolution of conflict. At the workplace level, a common approach to addressing conflict between staff is to treat the situation as a grievance and refer it to mediation or investigation. Such interventions presume the source of the conflict is between the staff who are parties to the grievance. In doing so, the interventions may be limited in their effectiveness, as a focus on individuals does not consider the role that organisational factors can play in conflict. This case study of a grievance is used to explore theories on the sources and resolution of workplace conflict. The case study illustrates what a dispute labelled as being between individuals can reveal about the role of the organisation as a source of conflict. This understanding is used to critique typical Human Resources (‘HR’) responses to conflict, and explore alternative interventions. Fundamentally, the case study highlights what happens when there is a mismatch between the sources of conflict and the conflict resolution intervention, and how this can be addressed by broadening the range of interventions utilised in a workplace environment.

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