Author: Jayna al'Taryn
"It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together" (Star Wars, 1977). No I am not talking about "the Force" (Star Wars, 1977), but about a force called conflict. At first the above quote seems a little over the top and perhaps too dramatic; however, upon closer inspection it does seem more plausible. Conflict does surround us: in our homes, our jobs, and even here in our Learning Teams. Conflict does penetrate us: it forces us to deal with our wants and needs; it forces us to deal with the wants and needs of others. Conflict binds the galaxy together: nearly every process we encounter is in a delicate dance of conflict and balance. In our sky the gravity of planets pulls at the sun, while the sun's gravity pulls at the planets, holding everything in a delicate spinning dance of balanced opposition. On a smaller scale in our daily environments we are often dealing with pulls from our families and our careers, while at the same time pulling knowledge to ourselves to enhance our careers and our life; another delicate dance of balancing the conflicts swirling around us.
The reality is: conflict exists, there is no escaping it. It truly does surround us, penetrate us and bind us together. What is important, however, is not conflict itself, but how we cope with the conflict surrounding us. Do we run and hide from conflict, refusing to face it? Do we deny its impact on us and try to just go with the flow? Do we give up part of what we want to try to find some balance? Do we force others into our way of thinking? Or, do we truly embrace the value of conflict and attempt to establish a true balance by solving the underlying issues? In reality, we employ each of these tactics to a degree, and each is a tool to balance conflict, and like many tools their effectiveness depends upon the situation. The only way to fully balance all of the conflict in our lives is to understand the tools themselves and understand how proficient we are at using them.
The Tools of Conflict Management
The book, Organizational Behavior, written by John Schermerhorn, James Hunt and Richard Osborn (2002), explain each of the tools of conflict management-"competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating" (p. 134)- and offer situations when they are effective to use.
- Competition-My Score: 10/12
Competition involves one side attempting to influence the opposition into giving up their position and accepting the first side's point of view. Competition is not a tool to be used lightly; however, in situations where decisions must be made quickly or the choices are unpopular, it can be an affective tool in achieving a temporary balance.
- Compromise-My Score: 10/12
Compromise involves both sides giving up part of their goals to reach a temporarily balanced middle ground. Compromise is effective in situations where balance must be reached quickly, or if the conflict is complex; however, like competition this should only be a temporary fix.
- Avoidance-My Score 12/12
Avoidance involves both sides ignoring the conflict completely and continuing on as if it did not exist. Avoidance is beneficial if the conflict is trivial and not worth expending the energy to resolve, or if one or both parties need a period of time to cool off and refocus.
- Accommodation-My Score: 12/12
Accommodation involves one party letting the other party "win" the conflict. Often this is used when the outcome means more to one party than the other.
- Collaboration-My Score: 5/12
Collaboration is actual problem-solving. It is the act of all parties involved in the conflict coming together and resolving the issue completely, where everyone's needs are met and the outcome is accepted by all as the best course of action for all involved.
Conflict Management within TarValon.Net
Conflicts at TarValon.Net seem to center a few major areas: policy questions, authority ambiguity, and personal disagreements. The majority of conflicts at TarValon.Net are dealt with indirectly as an initial step toward resolution. Specifically, most conflicts are gently met with reminders of the overall vision and mission of the site: providing a real-life community based on friendship, entertainment, and camaraderie. In the event that this "[appeal] to a common [goal]" (Schermerhorn, et. al., 2002, p. 132) does not work, then the parties are directed to the next level of authority-Head of Ajah or Company, the Captain of the Guard, or the Mistress of Novices-to help mediate the conflict and attempt to resolve the issue. As a final attempt to resolve the issue before bringing it to the Amyrlin, the Gray Ajah-who specialize in the Tower Constitution and negotiation-are consulted in another attempt at mediation. The final and last step in conflict management at TarValon.Net is an arbitrative process with the Amyrlin Seat, in which her decisions are final and uncontested.
The Influential Relationship between TarValon.Net & Myself
My strong tendency to avoid conflicts and accommodate others has always been beneficial in any organization. The message board avenue of communication at TarValon.Net is actually well suited for my styles of conflict management. If I disagree with someone I can choose to ignore it, post my thoughts and walk away from any further involvement, and concession to others is easy in an online environment, not that I have had any reason to utilize these tools. However, I do possess a critical weakness in collaboration. In this day and age, where collaboration is an essential skill in any business environment, this weakness has left me open to unsatisfactory relationships in other environments.
Through TarValon.Net's attempt to resolve all conflicts initially in a collaborative type of manner, I can use this process as a guide to develop a more collaborative management style within myself. The openness of the site design and the encouragement of members to uphold the mission and vision of the tower encourages this skill development.
Just as conflict itself takes the shape of many forms, so do the tools we have to help us resolve or balance conflict. Conflicts existence in every facet of life requiring that we have not only the tools to resolve conflict; but the knowledge of when and how to utilize those tools. The lack of even one tool of conflict management can lead to unnecessary stress and complicate all the areas of our lives, throwing us out of balance with our surroundings.
Lucas, G. (Director, Producer). (1977). Star Wars [Motion Picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox.
Schermerhorn, J., Hunt, J. G., & Osborn, R.N. (2002). Organizational Behavior, 7th Edition. USA:Wiley.