|Type of paper:
|Engineering Aviation Conflict management
Workplace conflict is one of the problems that managers in the aviation industry have had to contend with. The conflict can be physical, emotional, or ideological. Workplace conflict is something that is negative yet should be expected at the workplace. Aviation maintenance engineers (AME) are independent-minded individuals with personal opinions and preferences. Therefore, it should be expected that they would have differing opinions that may or may not conflict with each other. Also, the cultural diversity that is being embraced in the modern aviation workplace means that people from different cultural backgrounds will be working at the same place, causing a clash of cultures (Anbari, 2010). The study by Huhman (2014) identified a strong relationship between workplace conflict and low productivity. Therefore, there is a need to come up with an innovative solution to workplace conflict and reduce the probability of re-occurrence of a similar situation.
Maintenance Resource Management (MRM)
MRM is a management approach in the aviation industry that uses coordination and exchange of information between team members and between teams of airline maintenance crews as a way of improving safety. According to Sian, Robertson, & Watson (1996), MRM is a process that was generally to improve safety in the aviation industry. However, the approach has mechanisms within it that allow for the measurement of productivity (Taylor, 2000). MRM is much more than a training program. It is more of a philosophy that results in a change of perspective of individual employees. A typical MRM program would address up to 12 factors, as identified by Sian, Robertson & Watson (1996), that will reduce errors and improve the efficiencies of the team throughout the organization. However, this research has selected up to eight factors that should form part of the training of aviation maintenance engineers to reduce workplace conflict.
Identifying and Understanding Basic Human Factors and Issues
Human factors and issues are some of the main causes of workplace conflict. Sian et al. (1996) have identified some human factors and issues that lead to conflict, in what they describe as the dirty dozen. They include lack of communication, complacency, lack of knowledge, distraction, lack of teamwork, fatigue, and strain on resources. Some of these factors come from conflicting cultural perspectives and that is why MRM training is the appropriate course of action because it changes the perspective of the employees.
Lack of Communication
Lack of communication is a human factor that is caused by poor communication skills or inadequate communication channels. The lack of communication can lead to workplace conflict through the frustration-aggression theory. The frustration-aggression theory is a concept in the field of behavioral psychology that says people become frustrated as a result of impeding their efforts to reach a goal or goals (Breuer & Elson, 2017). As a result, based on the frustration-aggression theory, aviation maintenance engineers may become frustrated as a result of their goal of communication being impeded. The MRM program would train them to identify such factors and how they can circumvent them to avoid workplace conflict, especially through aggression. For example, they can report the lack of proper communication channels to their superiors so that they can provide such avenues.
Complacency can create workplace conflict through the tension with the rest of the team members. Workplace conflict emerges when one or a few members get uncritical satisfaction with their work when the rest of the team members do not have the same. Team climate is one of the behavioral team skills identified by MRM as part of improving team-related behavior and coordination (Sian et al., 1996). Team related behavior and coordination remain to be the focus of MRM and therefore form the core of solving workplace conflict in the aviation industry.
Lack of Knowledge
Lack of knowledge can be a source of conflict based on the General Aggression Model (GAM). GAM is another concept in psychology that posits that human aggression is mostly influenced by knowledge structures, which in turn affects a variety of socio-cognitive phenomena such as behavior, perception, interpretation, and decision making (Allen, Anderson, & Buhman, 1995). Based on the model, the lack of knowledge would lead to workplace conflict because aviation maintenance engineers would not know how to respond to workplace tensions, differing opinions, and perspectives. The identification of such knowledge structures makes it possible to apply corrective measures that will seek to reduce conflicts at the workplace.
Distraction is another issue in the aviation industry that leads to workplace conflict. According to Sian et al. (1996), distraction is one of the situation awareness failures that can lead to problems because it causes people to miss critical information. Tension can develop when a person or a group of people miss important information due to distraction. The MRM training program would teach the AMEs to identify the distraction risk factors and how to respond to them.
Lack of Teamwork
The lack of teamwork can directly lead to a workplace conflict or exuberate the conflict that is already present. According to Siddiqui, Iqbal, & Manarvi (2012), aviation maintenance is a complex and demanding endeavor whose successful completion whose success depends on communication and teamwork. As a result, any lack of teamwork would most definitely lead to workplace conflict because the nature of the work demands collaboration. The lack of teamwork is an issue in the aviation industry that the MRM program seeks to address to improve safety by reducing workplace conflict and increase productivity.
Fatigue is not very much of a behavioral issue or a perception issue, but it is still a risk factor for workplace conflict. People respond differently to fatigue, and that is what leads to workplace conflict. It can be explained using the psychological concepts of drive theory. According to drive theory, specific human actions are motivated by internal tensions that develop as a result of specific unmet needs (Bjørkly, 2006). Fatigue reduces the capacity of AME to meet their needs, such as repair of the aircraft. That creates an internal tension that may cause them to lash out at other people or on themselves. The MRM programs should, therefore, train the AME to recognize fatigue and take necessary action to prevent them from creating workplace conflict.
Strain on Resources
Inadequate resource and allocation will affect every organization at some point. The response that the AME will give to the shortage of resources is what can create workplace conflict or avoid the same. As a result, resource strain is one of the main causes of workplace conflict, and one that MRM is designed to address. MRM considers employees as a resource. Therefore, even a shortage of AME will be considered as a shortage of resources. The course of action is designed to respond to the resource shortages, rather than avoid it.
Design for the Course of Action
The MRM training programs for the AME should concentrate on social skills training, which can enable them to establish and maintain productive workplace relations. Based on the study by Zia & Syed (2013), most workplace conflicts are a result of miscommunication, inadequate resources, and poor interpersonal skills. Therefore, the AME will be trained on proper communication protocol and skills. The employees would also be taught appropriate response mechanisms for arguments and conflicts in a way that does not inflate the situation, so that rather than aggravate the conflicting parties, the rest of the team members diffuse the situation.
The employees would also be trained and assessed on their interpersonal skills to ensure they have good social skills that create a conducive environment for teamwork. Good interpersonal skills can help reduce conflicts by evoking proper responses to the various challenges that the team might encounter in their line of work. The training program cannot entirely prepare for all alternative situations that the employees might face at work. However, it can prepare them to respond to most situations, especially the ones that involve personal interactions.
Evaluation of Intervention Measures
The program needs to come up with different scales to measure social outcomes. According to Taylor (1998), some of the scales used for the evaluation of the MRM training program includes the attitude scales and opinion scales. The measurement variables in the attitude scales are sharing command responsibility, communication, and teamwork, managing stress, assertiveness. As for the opinion scales, they are made up of items such as communicating and sharing goals (Taylor, 1998). Also, the program shall use the number of workplace conflicts, and individual unit coordination to evaluate the impact of the intervention measures.
The research has indicated that unmet needs are one of the main causes of conflict in the workplace. Therefore, the organization needs to conduct an organization and employee needs assessment to determine the needs of AME. That way, they can get to remove the organizational elements that prevent them from reaching such needs.
There should be fair resource allocation for every sector of the organization. Resource allocation includes organization fairness, such that the distribution of work should consider the resources available to a particular team to complete the task (Hoel, Giga, & Faragher, 2006).
The organization should establish proper communication channels. Having a robust communication network and structure has been proven to work in other sectors, such as healthcare (Marshall & Robson, 2005).
The dangers of workplace conflict in the aviation sector can be fatal. The organization needs to address workplace conflict and install measures to prevent or limit the amount of workplace conflict between AME. The possible outcomes of the proposed course of action are reduced conflicts between AME. However, the following intervention measures cannot eliminate workplace conflict. They are only designed to reduce them. The main limitation of the proposed course of action is that the program’s impact may be limited to organizations to organizations that have not installed any of the measures mentioned above.
Allen, J. J., Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (1995). The General Aggression Model<!–< RunningTitle> The. structure, 102, 246-268. http://www.craiganderson.org/wp-content/uploads/caa/abstracts/2015-2019/17AAB.pdf
Anbari, F. T.-H. (2010). Cultural differences in projects. Research Conference: Defining the Future of Project Management. July: PMI. Retrieved from https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/differences-projects-multicultural-culture-leadership-6478
Bjørkly, S. (2006). Psychological theories of aggression: principles and application to practice. In Violence in Mental Health Settings (pp. 27-46).
Springer, New York, NY. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-0-387-33965-8_2.pdf
Breuer, J., & Elson, M. (2017). Frustration–aggression theory. The Wiley handbook of violence and aggression, 1-12.
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