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Case Study 11.

TAMARACK INDUSTRIES

Tamarack Industries manufactures motorboats primarily used for waterskiing. During the
summer months, a third production line is normally created to help meet the heavy summer
demand. This third line is usually created by assigning the experienced workers to all three lines
and hiring college students who are home for summer vacation to complete the crews. In the
past, however, experienced workers resented having to break up their teams to form a third line.
They also resented having to work with a bunch of college kids and complained that the kids
were slow and arrogant.
The foreman, Dan Jensen, decided to try a different strategy this summer and have all the
college students work on the new line. He asked Mark Allen to supervise the new crew because
Mark claimed that he knew everything about boats and could perform every job with my eyes
closed. Mark was happy to accept the new job and participated in selecting his own crew.
Marks crew was called the Greek Team because all the college students were members of a
fraternity or sorority named with Greek letters.
Mark spent many hours in training to get his group running at full production. The
college students learned quickly, and by the end of June their production rate was up to standard,
with an error rate that was only slightly above normal. To simplify the learning process, Dan
Jensen assigned the Greek Team long production runs that generally consisted of 30 to 40
identical units. Thus the training period was shortened and errors were reduced. Shorter
production runs were assigned to the experienced teams. By the middle of July, a substantial
rivalry had been created between the Greek Team and the older workers. At first, the rivalry was
good-natured. But after a few weeks, the older workers became resentful of the remarks made by
the college students. The Greek Team often met its production schedules with time to spare at the
end of the day for goofing around. It wasnt uncommon for someone from the Greek Team to go
to another line pretending to look for materials just to make demeaning comments. The
experienced workers resented having to perform all the shorter production runs and began to
retaliate with sabotage. They would sneak over during breaks and hide tools, dent materials,
install something crooked, and in other small ways do something that would slow production for
the Greek Team. Dan felt good about his decision to form a separate crew of college students, but
when he heard reports of sabotage and rivalry, he became very concerned. Because of complaints
from the experienced workers, Dan equalized the production so that all of the crews had similar
production runs. The rivalry, however, did not stop. The Greek Team continued to finish early
and flaunt their performance in front of the other crews.
One day the Greek Team suspected that one of their assemblies was going to be
sabotaged during the lunch break by one of the experienced crews. By skillful deception, they
were able to substitute an assembly from the other experienced line for theirs. By the end of the
lunch period, the Greek Team was laughing wildly because of their deception, while one
experienced crew was very angry with the other one.
Dan Jensen decided that the situation had to be changed and announced that the job
assignments between the different crews would be shuffled. The employees were told that when
they appeared for work the next morning, the names of the workers assigned to each crew would
be posted on the bulletin board.
The announcement was not greeted with much enthusiasm, and Mark Allen decided to stay late
to try to talk Dan out of his idea. Mark didnt believe the rivalry was serious enough for this type

of action, and he suspected that many of the college students would quit if their team was broken
up.
Discussion Questions
1. What are the signs (symptoms) of conflict in this case?
The signs and symptoms of conflict in this case were divided in two. The older works
signs of conflict were; sabotage of the Greek teams work, complaining that the kids were
slow and arrogant, and the fact that the older workers had resented working with the
college students in the past. On the other hand, on part of the Greek team signs of conflict
were; demeaning remarks about the older workers, Greek team finishing their duties early
and then show off their performance in front of the old workers team, and also sabotaging
the other teams work.
2. Use the conflict model to (a) identify the structural causes of conflict and (b) discuss the
escalation of conflict described in this case.
On using the conflict model in the identification of the conflict in the Tamarack
industries case, one could find that the conflict was rotating from differentiation to
ambiguous rules that led to poor communication causing conflict (Robbins, 2012). That is
on differentiation, the two groups were from different backgrounds, the younger and
older employees have different needs, and the different goals between the older workers
and the Greek team. On the ambiguous rules one can say that there were no clear rules
behavioral norms including respectful behavior, again there were no clear rules to execute
wrongdoing of sabotage. Additionally, on poor communication, older workers lack the
motivation to communicate with college workers because they still think that there are
arrogant. In the contrary, college workers also lack the ability to communicate in a
diplomatic manner. Thus, the conflict escalation in this case was based on the verbal
taunts by the Greek team and the complaints by the older workers. The conflict was also
escalated on the sabotage of the company product
3. If you were Dan Jensen, what action would you take in this situation?
If I was Dan Jensen I would have come up with actions that minimize conflict. That is
by setting the behavioral norms and rules that every employee must follow and introduce
a punishment of any sabotage action.