Philosophy of Conflict Management Final Paper 001

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Andrea Gaw Dr. Bridgesmith ICM 5003 February 09, 2010

My Personal Philosophy of Conflict Management

Conflict is a fundamental and inescapable fact of human life. From the beginnings of recorded history, conflict has shaped people, events, and societies in deep and significant ways. In fact, two of the best-known Biblical stories of conflict - (1) Adam and Eve and (2) Cain and Abel - are both found in the very first book of the Old Testament, which clearly shows the central role of conflict in human relations. However, just because conflict plays a prominent role in human affairs does not mean that it is well understood. Quite to the contrary, conflict management falls into that category of subjects that is so pervasive that most people do not realize that one can study, formalize and practice it as an art and science. All people experience conflict in their respective lives, and they handle these experiences in different ways, so they naturally

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conclude that they know how to manage conflict. Of course, this conclusion is incorrect. A systematic approach to conflict management can improve anyones ability to manage conflict in a more efficient, successful, and positive manner. My personal philosophy of conflict management took shape in a class I am taking. I am learning useful theoretical models, formal systems, and empirical-based processes that show repeatedly that they produce the best outcomes for all interested parties. The remainder of this paper will focus on four of these pieces of information: (1) the STAR Approach to facilitated conflict resolution; (2) the formal System Designs approach to planning and conducting conflict management processes; (3) the Going Below the Line process for addressing the deeper issues found in any negotiation; and (4) the importance of knowing ones own natural tendencies so that they are manageable and produce unbiased outcomes. The four pieces combine form the important foundation to my personal philosophy of conflict management. The first important concept that shaped my personal philosophy is the five-stage STAR Approach to facilitated conflict resolution, which is an ordered process for conducting a mediation or negotiation session. The acronym STAR stands for Stage, Task, Action, and Result, and each of these categories breaks down the different stages of the conflict management session into small, manageable steps. Each stage has its own associated Task, Action, and Result, and the goal of the STAR approach is to accomplish the specific result of each stage before moving on to the next stage.

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Facilitating conflict resolution, may move seamlessly through the five-stages much like a baseball game. Sometimes the mediator can move quickly through the bases to reach home plate, other times it takes a little longer, and regardless, starting over doesnt automatically guarantee a win. The final goal, of course, is to build these small positive results into a successful negotiation. The first stage of the STAR approach is Convening, which intends to accomplish the task of gathering all the interested parties involved and committed to the process. This task is achieved by creating a safe environment. This can be accomplished by informing the parties and inviting them to engage in a positive constructive process. Ideally, the result of this stage is to have won willingness from all the key decision-makers to work toward a negotiated solution to the conflict. At that point, the next two stages of the approach - Opening and Communicating, work to open and improve dialogue between the parties. The mediator uses techniques and skills to help the disputants work toward an agreement or settlement, as opposed to accepting an imposed settlement by a third party. The ultimate scenario is that the parties start to have a feeling of hopefulness and are expressing their concerns and needs in a constructive mature manner. Additionally, it is important for the mediator at this stage, to convey a genuine and sincere interest in the person and what they are saying, as well as to avoid the appearance of being bias. The fourth stage of the approach - Negotiating, calls for the mediator to be flexible and innovative. This stage

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seems the most challenging and exciting. Knowing within a split second the appropriate dispute resolution technique to employ or which, way to move the next chess piece, takes practice and skill which is an ongoing learning process. The last stage of the approach is Closing. If the mediator has met the parties objectives and concerns, then they are ready to make an informed decision. Consequently, closing requires mastering the other four stages. The second concept I found to be interesting, and informative, is the formal System Designs approach to planning and conducting conflict management processes in the workplace. This tool is designed to help leaders and managers be pro-active in implementing systems to deal with the complex ethical issues that can occur in the dayto-day realities of leading and managing people. With the current legal system becoming too costly, employees and employers are recognizing the importance of creating and fostering a safe environment for raising concerns in a neutral environment. The System Design process should also include encouraging employees to share in the decisionmaking process at the lowest possible level, provide a positive feedback loop to foster ideas, and promote a cooperative spirit to problem solving. System Design establishes a sufficient structure and accountability to ensure issues are addressed and resolved within an organization. This approach enables an organization to build trust, foster communication, routinely take advantage of ideas and information, even unwelcome information, from throughout its ranks. In effect, this approach requires management to

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normalize the act of raising a concern and shifting organizational culture toward managing rather than avoiding or suppressing conflict. This is done through a systematic approach to conflict management. Additionally, the System Design implementation and initial assessment to managing an organizations disputes, consist of five consecutive steps. These components are the fundamental process to resolving complex problems within an organization. They include: 1. An assessment and examination of the types of conflict they are experiencing; 2. informing key decision makers about various conflict resolution options and tools, and then proceeding to design the system that they deem to be appropriate; 3. start implementation of the detailed System Design; 4. evaluate the process of the System Design; 5. modify the design based on the results from the evaluation; Moreover, conflicts and disagreements are a fact of life for most communities, societies and organizations, and for the people who live and work in them. Disputes may be among or between departments, employees, and supervisors or the company and its customers or other members of the public. These examples are only a few reasons for having a comprehensive understanding of how to manage disputes and bring them to a successful resolution.

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The third concept I found to be enlightening, is the Going Below the Line process for addressing the deeper issues found in any negotiation. The following four steps resonate with me the most from class discussions, speakers, and role playing. I believe that the four steps below provide the mediator with a solid foundation to begin their role in various disputes. They Include: (1) A successful mediator begins with preparation; (2) clarify the problems between the parties; (3) seek areas of agreement that are allowed to be shared between the disputants; (4) problem-solve finding solutions to resolve conflict through positive reinforcement, (Mirroring back what they say in a non-judgmental way). I want to take the opportunity to share some of the information, I learned through my experiences in a Conflict of Management Survey class. Each of the lectures and speakers reinforced the need for adequate preparation for a successful mediation. Preparation provides the parties a level of comfort that the mediator, at least outwardly, shows confidence in addressing their issues. This initial first impression is very important because the first part of a mediators job is to build trust. The opportunity to build trust starts when a mediator introduces herself, and continues to describe in detail her role, how mediation works including privacy and confidential issues, and the ground rules of the session, which each party agrees upon. One of the

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responsibilities of mediators is in the way they present themselves. Their tone of voice, their body language, and the words they use, can affect the parties involved in a calming or distressing manner. The second responsibility of a mediator is to clarify the problems between the parties. A skilled mediator, understands the way to collect information is through asking open ended questions. The role of the mediator is to discover what has happened, from the point of view of each party, and why the conflict occurred. By asking the parties open-ended questions, the mediator enables disputants to go below the line of what happened and how they feel, and allows the parties to speak about the raw issues at the root of their disagreement, thus allowing them to begin resolving their conflict. By gradually gathering information, the mediator can help the parties have a clearer understanding of each others interests and needs. When the mediator has reached the parties interests and needs, they have moved below the line of fact finding, and to the meat and potatoes of the conflict. If the involved parties stay in the area of arguing about their respective

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