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Can’t We All Just Get Along?: Conflict Management

By Alexandria Wisker

Dean Sue Faerman provded an excellent workshop for those who attend the Fall 2010 UNYSLA Meeting at SUNY Albany. Dean Faerman, the Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education at the school, discussed Effective Ways to Manage Conflict.

She began be addressing the fact that for many, the idea of confronting conflict is not an easy thing to do. Dean Faerman admitted that managing conflict is not something you can learn to do overnight, but that it can be done.  There is also information which can be gathered when manageing conflict, and often times a solid resolution can occur. This led to a discussion on how people with different experiences, ideas, backgrounds, etc. work together, more complete information and knowledge can be brought to the table, new ideas can be proposed, and higher quality decisions can be created. However, decision processed can take more time, individuals with expertise may not contribute, and consensus can become the overall goal, as opposed to making a good decision for the organization. Dean Faerman discussed that conflict can be good, as long as there is not too much of it.

Collaboration is one of the methods for solving conflict which she addressed. There are many steps in the process. They are:

  1. Face the conflict. (This can be the hardest step. Recognizing there is a conflict and being willing to address it are often times separate steps within themselves.)
  2. Plan to meet in a neutral environment.
  3. Allow each person a chance to state his or her personal feelings about and views of the conflict in a clear, non-threatening way. (Each person who speaks needs to speak with the other person completely listening. There should be no interruption. A distinction is that listening is not agreeing, it just means you are willing to listen.)
  4. Work to develop a mutual definition of the conflict in terms of needs. (What is actually going on?)
  5. Try to generate potential solutions.
  6. Each person should then identify some preferred solutions, thinking about why these solutions best meet their needs. (Are there potentially collaborative solutions already on the table?)
  7. Determine whether any of the preferred solutions coincide or what sorts of compromise are required to allow them to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.
  8. Once the solution has been identified, decide who will do what and when it will be done.

Another reason conflict occurs is because two people can see the same event in two completely different lights. Compounding this can be that expectations, rules, and behaviors were not completely outlined. Being aware of this can help make solving conflict easier. Ask, what are you expectations? What do you do and don’t expect? What do you see? By being clear about all of this, everyone’s position can be seen in a clearer light.

The ladder of inference was also discussed by Dean Faerman. It is a way that we go from an event occurring to an idea that may not be correct. (An example would be someone is late for a meeting and doesn’t say why. The end inference would be that the person could not be counted on because they are irresponsible.)

Ultimately, Dean Sue Faerman presented quite a lot of information in her two hour presentation. She gave information that will help lead to consensus building in many aspects of our work. It can take time and energy to create an answer which everyone has taken part in, but the result is worth it. Her information was valuable and will be used by all who were attendance.

Alexandria Wisker is currently in a dual masters program at SUNY Albany. She will be graduating in May 2011 with her MSIS and an MA in History. She received a BA in History from there in 2008. She is open to a lot of different library work, and is looking forward to working full time in the field.

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