Hr Paper on Conflict in the workplace: Unilever Plc case study

Conflict in the workplace: Unilever Plc case study

Background and setting

Conflict in the workplace typical of any organization. As a matter of fact, it is symptomatic of divergent opinions within the work (Bodtker & Jameson, 2015; Cook, 2005). In this case, we look at a conflict encountered at Unilever Plc. Unilever is a leading multinational company that produces multiple household products. In this incidence, a group of workers working in the R & D department had for over 3 years been working on developing a new product. Finally, a breakthrough was made and the product was ready for testing and subsequently, be forwarded for possible production. Nonetheless, during the final testing phase, without consulting the R & D department that had worked towards the product’s development, the Product Development Manager unilaterally formed a team to oversee the testing. More sadly, no representative from the R & D department was assigned to the newly formed team. Subsequently, the R & D department, on feeling that the credit was about to be transferred to another group and angered and the lack of consultation, refused to hand over useful documents that would facilitate smooth testing. The result was a stand-off between the R & D staff that overseen innovation of the new product and the newly formed team and the Product Development Manager. As a matter of fact, the R & D team threatened to quit unless the team was disbanded and they are let to run the final testing of the product.


Following the stand-off, the matter was brought to the attention of the Managing Director. Subsequently, the manager summoned the Product Development and the R & D team that worked on product’s innovation. Initially, he met the manager and group separately, following which he summoned a joint meeting in which the newly formed team was also invited. At the meeting, the manager was tasked to explain why he deemed it necessary to form a new team to oversee the final testing, in which case he argued that he felt the need to have the original team embark on other research objectives as the product was fully developed. To counter the argument, the leader of the R & D team emphasized that no team would be more conversant enough with new product to be able to make a final test. After a series of exchanges, and with both parties agreeing that consultation should have taken place in the first instance, it was agreed that the team be reconstituted with the R & D appointing 4 representatives, one of whom will lead the entire testing process. Further, it was agreed that any changes henceforth, will be subject to consultation. The Product Development Team on his part apologized to the R & D emphasizing that he meant to bad intentions in appointing the team. On its part, the team also apologized for not earlier allowing the Product Development Manager to explain himself. Indeed, the MD, as the neutral player played acritical role in facilitating the parties to listen to each other. One key issue that emerged was that none of the parties was willing to listen to the other. With the MD’s arbitration, both parties listened to each other, made concessions and eventually an agreement was arrived at.

My possible action as the arbiter

Indeed, there is nothing much that could be done that differs significantly from what the MD did in his arbitration. However, as Brookins (2013) states, arbitration within an organizational setting must give precedence to organizational structure and regulations, I would have emphasized the need to respect the organizational structure and hierarchy and hence channeling grievances through these channels. It is my belief that in this manner, valuable time would not have been wasted.



Brookins, M. (2013). Potential sources of conflict within an organization. Retrieved on August 14, 2013 from

Bodtker, A. M., & Jameson, J. K. (2015). Emotion in conflict formation and its transformation: Application to organizational conflict management. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 3 (2), 259–275

Cook, C. (2005). Conflict and negotiation.  Retrieved on July, 8, 2013 from