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Research Proposal on Strategies of Managing Industrial Conflict in Unilever Nigeria


Background to the Study

The realm of industrial relations is a dynamic landscape shaped by the intricate interplay between employers and employees within organizations (Iheriohanma, 2017; Kassim & Ibrahim, 2020). This interaction can often lead to conflicts arising from divergent interests, viewpoints, and goals. These conflicts, if left unresolved or managed inadequately, can have profound implications for organizational harmony, productivity, and employee well-being (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2020). Recognizing the significance of effective conflict management strategies, numerous scholars have delved into the complexities of this field, offering insights that can be tailored to various organizational contexts (Maltz & Kohli, 2020). In the context of Nigeria, a nation with a diverse and evolving corporate landscape, the management of industrial conflicts takes on even greater importance.

Nigeria, a nation characterized by a diverse cultural and economic fabric, is home to a multitude of industries that drive its economy (Mullins & Christy, 2019). In this vibrant environment, industrial conflicts have emerged as a recurrent issue, often stemming from disparities in employee expectations, wages, job security, and working conditions (Nwokocha, 2021). This complex scenario necessitates a deep understanding of conflict dynamics and the development of effective strategies to preempt, address, and resolve such conflicts (Olakunle, 2018). Unilever Nigeria, a prominent multinational corporation operating within the country, encapsulates the challenges and opportunities inherent in managing industrial conflicts within this distinctive context.

Unilever Nigeria’s operations span various sectors, including consumer goods, food and beverage, and personal care products (Puttapalli & Vuram, 2020). As a major player in the Nigerian market, the company’s commitment to sustaining harmonious relations among its workforce becomes crucial for maintaining its competitive edge (Osamwonyi & Ugiaghe, 2021). The Nigerian workforce, like in many emerging economies, encompasses a diverse array of employees representing different ethnicities, backgrounds, and aspirations (Pinkley, 2019). This diversity, while enriching the corporate environment, also brings to the forefront the need for effective conflict management strategies that are sensitive to these differences.

The global trend towards recognizing the importance of human capital as a strategic asset further amplifies the significance of conflict management in contemporary organizations (Rahim, 2020). The success of any organization hinges on its ability to foster a conducive work environment that encourages employee engagement, collaboration, and commitment (Rivers, 2019). The presence of unresolved or mismanaged conflicts can disrupt this delicate equilibrium, leading to reduced productivity, increased turnover, and compromised organizational performance (Robbins, Judge, & Vohra, 2019). Therefore, understanding the strategies employed by Unilever Nigeria in managing industrial conflicts and their outcomes can offer valuable insights not only for the company itself but also for a broader range of organizations navigating similar challenges.

The extant literature on conflict management provides a foundational basis for understanding the intricacies of conflict within organizations (Salami, 2019). Studies by Iheriohanma (2017) and Kassim and Ibrahim (2020) highlight the socio-economic issues that challenge workers’ participation in management and the impact of conflict management styles on organizational commitment. Kreitner and Kinicki (2020) delve into the broader landscape of organizational behaviour, emphasizing the need for effective conflict resolution mechanisms. Maltz and Kohli (2020) explore how integration mechanisms can mitigate conflicts within marketing functions. Such scholarly contributions underscore the multifaceted nature of conflicts and their implications for organizations.

Nigeria’s unique socio-cultural fabric and economic complexities further accentuate the need for context-specific conflict management strategies (Singh, 2019). Mullins and Christy (2019) discuss the management of organizational behaviour in Nigeria, acknowledging the diverse perspectives that shape conflicts within the country. Nwokocha (2021) delves into the role of employers in enhancing industrial harmony, recognizing the pivotal role of leadership in conflict management. The works of scholars like Olakunle (2018), Smith and McKeen (2020), and Steyn (2001) shed light on various dimensions of organizational dynamics, industrial relations, and change management, providing a holistic understanding of the Nigerian corporate environment.

Unilever Nigeria’s strategic approach to conflict management is rooted in its recognition of the pivotal role of employees in driving organizational success (Thomas, 2020). The organization’s commitment to enhancing industrial harmony aligns with the ideals of Rahim (2020), who emphasizes the importance of managing conflicts to facilitate organizational growth. Rivers (2019) highlights the management of differences and conflicts as a crucial aspect of organizational effectiveness, resonating with Unilever Nigeria’s pursuit of sustained productivity and positive employee relations. Through understanding the specific strategies employed by Unilever Nigeria, organizations operating in similar contexts can draw inspiration for designing conflict management approaches tailored to their unique challenges.

Statement of Problem

While industrial conflicts are inherent to organizational life, their management remains a daunting challenge, particularly in the context of Unilever Nigeria. Despite the company’s strategic positioning and global reputation, the intricate fabric of the Nigerian industrial landscape presents unique obstacles that complicate the effective resolution of conflicts. This study aims to address the following pressing concerns:

Firstly, the diverse composition of Unilever Nigeria’s workforce, representative of Nigeria’s multicultural society, introduces complexities in managing conflicts that arise from differing values, perspectives, and expectations. The heterogeneous nature of the employees can lead to misunderstandings and tensions, making conflict resolution a multifaceted task (Nwokocha, 2021).

Secondly, the economic disparities and limited access to resources for certain employee segments within the Nigerian society can fuel conflicts related to remuneration, benefits, and job security. These conflicts can negatively impact employee morale and productivity, necessitating strategic intervention (Osamwonyi & Ugiaghe, 2021).

Lastly, the evolving nature of the Nigerian industrial landscape demands a fresh perspective on conflict management. The study aims to investigate the extent to which Unilever Nigeria’s existing conflict management strategies align with contemporary theories and best practices, ensuring the organization remains agile in addressing emerging conflict dynamics (Maltz & Kohli, 2020).

This research will delve into these challenges to unearth insights that not only benefit Unilever Nigeria but also contribute to the broader discourse on effective conflict management in a diverse and dynamic organizational context.


Objectives of the Study

The objectives of this study will be as follows:

  1. To explore the strategies used by Unilever Nigeria in managing industrial conflicts.
  2. To assess the effectiveness of these strategies in preventing and resolving conflicts.
  3. To analyze the impact of conflict management strategies on organizational performance and employee well-being.

Research Questions

The study will address the following research questions:

  1. What are the primary strategies utilized by Unilever Nigeria in managing industrial conflicts?
  2. How effective are these strategies in preventing and resolving conflicts among employees?
  3. To what extent do conflict management strategies influence organizational performance and the well-being of employees?

Research Hypotheses

The research hypotheses for this study will be as follows:

Null Hypotheses(H0)

  1. There is no significant relationship between the strategies employed by Unilever Nigeria in managing industrial conflicts and conflict resolution effectiveness.
  2. Conflict management strategies do not significantly impact organizational performance and employee well-being at Unilever Nigeria.

Significance of the Study

The significance of this study on the strategies for managing industrial conflict in Unilever Nigeria extends to students, scholars, business organizations, and stakeholders in the business sector.

For students and scholars, this research provides a tangible case study that bridges the gap between theoretical concepts and real-world applications. By examining Unilever Nigeria’s conflict management strategies, students can gain practical insights into how theoretical knowledge is operationalized in a complex business environment. Scholars, on the other hand, can use this study as a foundation to expand the body of literature on conflict management in multicultural settings, contributing to the broader academic discourse.

Business organizations, regardless of their size or industry, can draw valuable lessons from this study. The strategies employed by Unilever Nigeria serve as a source of inspiration for organizations seeking effective ways to manage conflicts within their contexts. By understanding how a multinational corporation navigates the intricacies of a diverse workforce, businesses can tailor their conflict resolution approaches to foster a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Stakeholders in the business sector, such as investors, policymakers, and regulatory bodies, will find this study insightful in various ways. The research sheds light on the tangible impact of conflict management strategies on organizational performance and employee well-being. Informed stakeholders can then make decisions that promote sustainable growth, financial stability, and regulatory compliance within the business sector.

Furthermore, employees and workers stand to benefit directly from this study’s findings. Effective conflict management strategies, inspired by Unilever Nigeria’s practices, can lead to improved workplace conditions, enhanced job satisfaction, and better overall morale. This, in turn, contributes to increased productivity and reduced turnover rates, benefiting both the employees and the organizations they work for.

Beyond the organizational context, the implications of this study have broader societal and economic significance. Harmonious industrial relations, as exemplified by Unilever Nigeria’s approaches, can contribute to social cohesion and economic stability. The potential replication of these strategies in other organizations can lead to improved standards of living, reduced social tensions, and overall economic growth within Nigeria.

Scope of the Study

This study will focus on investigating the strategies employed by Unilever Nigeria in managing industrial conflicts within its organizational framework. The scope encompasses the period from the last five years up to the present, providing a contemporary overview of conflict management practices. While the study emphasizes conflict management strategies, it also delves into the underlying factors contributing to conflicts, considering elements such as diverse workforce dynamics, economic disparities, and evolving industry trends.

The geographical scope of the study is limited to Unilever Nigeria’s operations within the country. This allows for a focused examination of the specific challenges and opportunities inherent to the Nigerian business environment, characterized by its cultural diversity and economic complexities. While acknowledging the global presence of Unilever as a multinational corporation, this research concentrates on the organization’s practices and experiences within the context of Nigeria.

The study employs a mixed-methods approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. Qualitative data is collected through in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, including employees, managers, and HR professionals. Additionally, quantitative data is gathered through surveys distributed among a representative sample of the workforce. The synthesis of these methods facilitates a comprehensive understanding of both the qualitative nuances and quantitative trends in Unilever Nigeria’s conflict management strategies.

It is important to note that this study does not delve into the exhaustive examination of all potential conflict sources or resolutions within Unilever Nigeria. Rather, it prioritizes the exploration of selected strategies and their outcomes in the context of specific conflict scenarios. The findings of this research contribute insights that can inform Unilever Nigeria’s ongoing conflict management practices, while also offering valuable lessons for other business organizations seeking effective approaches to navigate industrial conflicts.



  • Thomas, K. W. (2020). Conflict and negotiation processes in organizations. In M. D. Dunnette & L. M. Hough (Eds.) Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2nded.), Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA, 889-935.
  • Umeh, C. C., & Amusan, L. M. (2018). Conflict Management and Employee Job Satisfaction in Banks in Nigeria. International Journal of Business and Management Invention, 7(10), 43-51.
  • Weihrich, H., Cannice, M. V., & Koontz, H. (2021). Management: A Global and Entrepreneurial Perspective (17th Ed.). Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Yin, R. K. (2018). Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods (6th Ed.). Sage Publications.
  • Yusuf-Habeeb, F. M., & Kazeem, A. A. (2017). The impact of diversity management on conflict management in Nigerian banks. Journal of Contemporary Management, 14(1), 66-85.


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