Reciprocity

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

This is entry 3 in a series. If you would like to read the preceding posts in the series follow the links: I did what now?! and Compliance

Simply said: I do for you and you do for me. On the surface one may feel that the only reason why someone would act within the guide of reciprocity is the expectation of return action. Reciprocity goes much deeper than that. Give and take elements govern the majority of our relationships whether or not you may recognize the subtle exchanges that take place. Exchanges can range from; an emotional fulfillment from a caring friend, assisting in moving, sharing responsibilities, assisting in the completion of errands/tasks, intellectual support and the like.

Although many of the exchanges listed may lend themselves in retrospection, to our more personal relationships they are present in our work life. Ever have a coworker ask for your help in completing a task? Reading over their report? Making those last few copies? Covering for them (insert reason here)? Recovering that lost document? These, along with a myriad of examples bouncing around in your thoughts, are reciprocal actions. We help because we know that at some point we are going to need help.

No man is an Isand, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the belltolls; It tolls for thee.

– A famous line from “Meditation XVII,” by the English poet John Donne

 

If, as individuals, we could handle all that is placed upon us there would never have been ingrained in humanity the division of labor and communal living that has led to our survival as a species. This holds true for the workplace as well. As a community in the workplace we rely on one another’s assistance in both task completion and emotional wellbeing. Harm to either one of these safeties will have far reaching effects. As I discussed in Compliance the repercussions can run deep through an institution where reciprocity is replaced by demand.

 

So what needs to happen?

Be nice!

Communication before action.

Allocate resources to ensure success.

Always help those who need you.

Don’t act with the sole intention of reciprocal action.

Be nice! oh wait did I mention that?

Set personal agendas aside and do what is best in the situation that will have positive long lasting effects (if you don’t know the best course of action then talk with your cohorts).

Realize that people have sought you out because they think you are capable of helping them. Help them!

Make sure that within whatever role you play that you have afforded those you work with every possible opportunity for success.

Lastly… BE NICE! (I guess we just cannot get away from that one).

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Compliance

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Every role places us into an environment of expectations. Job, family, community, and to each of these a specific set of governing rules. In particular I d like to focus on the job and embedded expectation that accompany any workplace.
From a management perspective Compliance in the workplace may be leveraged in several ways; Investment by an employee in the total scope and purpose of the company, positive incentives such as monitary gains as interwoven in benchmarks and successful project completions, or the altruistic sense in assureing the success of your clients and the long term relationship gained. Knowing that the preceding list is far from comprehensive, all that I have mentioned is on the good side of compliance. Good as qualified by those actions that connect to a higher purpose in work and serving the needs of the client.
Now wouldn’t it be nice if we could end there and be happy? If only work life was so rose colored. Alas we too must delve into the mier of compliance as dictated by negative incentives; authoritarianism, threats, personal retributions, the arbitray restructuring of focus and support, and generated instability within the work force.
It is my hope that from those of you who read this post your day to day work life motivation is derived from the list of positives rather than being under the heavy weight of negative disincentives. However, for those fall prey to the latter, the rest of this post is for you…
“DO IT BECAUSE I SAID SO!” A simple utterance posited to nearly every child throughout history in an attempt to gain compliance from a parent. Well, I am not a child!
I am an adult with 13 years of experience in my discipline and have a track record of commitment, creativity, conscience and consultation (along with a little alliteration) to best achieve desired out comes. So why is it that I feel like a child when demands are levied upon me in the fashion of: “Do this, NOW!”
Personality defaults aside we all react in the same way when a higher up levies a demand in this manner and although some of you may be better at hiding your disdain at the time, the fumes of discontent eventually rise engulfing your demeanor and seep into the fibers of your being. As we sit in this fog of frustration along with the recollection of events playing back an ever present “who do they think they are?” Resounds and each echo carrying with it the expectation of respect and the violation held in the exchange.
What to do? Some will continue on doing their job with little to no affect, others may seek an alternative place of employment and others may subtly undermine the system though various forms of malfesient. However something worse may take hold; they just might meet expectations rather than exceeding as they once may have done. This last response, although sounding quite miniscule in retaliation, actually caries with it the most subtle and far reaching act of retribution in non compliance then those preceding it as optioned. I say this as not only has the individual made a conscience choice in opposition to the individual who is at the core of the disrespectful action but too those in proximity and that may request of the individual an extension into action that was once customary. The loss can be compounded depending on the size of the social leverage the new dissident carries as they may inspire others to inaction and a slow down of productivity.
Imagine all of this from an ill formed heiracically based command demanding conformity of action resulting in grotesque obsolescence of employee engagement when there are many other more positive ways to leverage action within the workplace.

Stay tuned for leveraging via resiprosity

I did what now?!

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

On leading…

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are numerous articles and texts that a person can read that may provide guidance in developing leadership skills, unfortunately, this is not one. Rather this is an anecdote illustrating the impact of lacking such skills.

Throughout education training and classroom management skills development, the concept of treating those who enter your classroom as individuals with unique experience and thoughts to share is touted quite vehemently. Support their learning and encourage each individual and success will be achieved, easy enough right? Well, how about this situation? For those teachers out there reading this I would bet a month’s wage, just think you can get yourself a tank of gas and maybe a coke, that you have had this experience… A student is in proximity to other students who are misbehaving. Not fully knowing the breadth of the situation you pull the group together and reprimand them all guilty and not. You may have achieved your desired goal of setting those misbehaving students back on their academic course, however; are you aware of the unintended consequences of your actions?

Through your actions you have created a new dissident among your ranks. That one non guilty student whose guilt lies only in proximity to the event now sees their experience lined with distrust and Machiavellian actions governing their environment. Is there any way to reconcile these new found understandings dwelling within this student? Maybe, however; at its core there is no way to repair the damage done within the relationship. To be wrongly accused of an action and to receive no conciliatory acknowledgement has to be one of the most disengaging acts held between two people. Damaged as it may be a person well aware of the situational power dynamics that govern actions in hierarchical relationships realize that the outcome in action can be narrowed to only one end course of action, Compliance.

To be continued…

Keep an eye out for the upcoming posts:

On Compliance and On Reciprocity 

 

Info graphic on the connection between digital and deep learning

Friday, December 14th, 2012

The Lunch Crew

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Newly switched into a rigorous electives program and my old hallway connections now severed I found myself amidst a new crew of soon to be cohorts. Being one guy in a group of six women was an interesting mix however to my surprise being Canadian, liking musicals and being willing to sit and listen softened my entry into the well established group dynamic. The 20 or so minutes the lunch crew shared each day was time too short in the moment to realize the breadth of impact the smattering of conversations had on viewpoints. Sometimes the conversation was quite focused as all waited patiently to share and balance out the content so to not fall victims of confirmation bias and group think, as other times lunch was a blurred crossfire of a multitude of topics some of which cannot be repeated in fear of HR and other times we solved the worlds problems.
The lunch crew congealed into a cohesive ingroup layered with inside jokes, group secrets, nicknames and shared understandings of varying contexts respected by all participants. At times more serious tones of support through life’s trials led our dialogue and no matter how varied the advice one would always feel listened to and accepted.

As a newly married man I paid special attention to the “husband talk” to see how wives viewed their significant others actions, sorry no secrets revealed here as this is not a gossip column, and how situations were worked out. I may not know or understand all the inner workings of the “wife perspective” nor should one man ever attempt this type of mental gymnastics but the lunch crew did provide new elements of perspective, appreciation and moments of reflection of my own input into my marriage. As an individual not directly involved in the situations discussed this enabled me to hear how situations emerged, were dealt with and the subsequent thoughts derived from the event impacted the relationship. It is this newly gained “wife perspective” more than anything I cherish from my time with the lunch crew.
As this year reaches its end the lunch crew is hit with a double whammy. One member is leaving the workplace for a better opportunity and the schedules of the remaining lunch crew no longer match. It is a solemn time for the crew but the time shared and gains in perspective will never be lost. A life lesson learned: be open as no matter what your thoughts or perspectives may be, listen, speak gently and accept those around you for who they are… a great lunch crew.

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High” by Kerry Patterson delves into a world of high stakes conversations bringing to the readers attention assumptions and narratives that often drive not only our engagement into situations but also our reactions within situations.
A conversation tips into the crucial when two or more people are engaged in high stake, opinionated and emotionally taxing conversation. According to Patterson people respond to these critical situations in one of three ways: avoidance, face the issue and handle it poorly, or face the issue and handle it well. Throughout the remainder of the post I will discuss influences, areas of focus and ways to combat our hardwired reactions.
One of the first steps in reducing the negative impact crucial conversations can have on our relationships is create a shared understanding of the context definition rooted in the act of conversation… dialogue. Patterson defines dialogue as the free flow meaning between two or more individuals (Patterson, p.44) and within this dialogue there lies the potential for conflict. More often than not people tend to avoid stressful conversations, however; no solutions nor growth can be derived from a lack of conversation. In chapter 3 Patterson posits that individuals who excel during high stakes conversations are those who start with heart (Patterson, p.54). Starting with heart requires an individual to be self reflective and examine the motivations they bring to the conversation as they work to remain focused on the facts of the conversation no matter the emerging increases to stress levels. Within this reflection and focused approach participants in the conversation must stay clear from making a suckers choice (Patterson, p. 54).

A Suckers Choice is a limitation of action as imposed upon by the individual narrowing one’s thoughts to winning or losing, or the either or choice. In order to avoid the suckers choice one must clarify what one wants and does not want to be able to find the pathway back to dialogue. More often than not individuals make a suckers choice when a quick easy descison with high emotional connections is made. When all parties needs are not taken into consideration the intellectual and emotional safety of the participants is compromised. If during a conversation a person believes their safety has been compromised their reactions may manifest in several ways with the first being silence. “Silence consists of any act to purposefully withhold information from the pool of meaning. It’s almost always done as a means of avoiding potential problems, and it always restricts the flow of meaning” (Patterson p. 75). The second tactic a person may employ is masking. “Masking consists of understating or selectively showing our true opinions” (Patterson p. 75). Masking can be delivered via sarcasm, sugarcoating or couching. Thirdly a person may simply avoid the situation or other party altogether thereby never having to address the issue. Finally a person may opt out of the conversation and exit the conversation or the room itself.

One can see that feelings of safety are essential to discussions, however; as safety is compromised and people move to silence others are compelled to cognitive violence. “Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view. It violates safety by trying to force meaning into the pool” (Patterson p. 77). Individuals may engage in conversational violence via actions of controlling the tempo and flow of the conversation, labelling the other party as a means of dismissal, or a person will approach others by attacking with the intent to belittle and/or threaten the other person into agreement.

Becoming a vigilant self-monitor is key to breaking the silence or violence reaction in crucial conversations. Individuals are pre loaded with emotional reactions and unless one takes the time to reflect on what triggers this default reaction one may never be able to restructure their response. Pausing during the conversation and taking a moment to be aware of one’s emotional state is essential as it can allow a person time to refocus and scan the conversation for mutual purpose in an attempt to further dialogue. Mutual purpose is simply the common goal of all parties involved and the investment they carry into the outcome of the decision. Through sharing a mutual purpose tension in dialogue may be reduced as all parties are invested in success. While engaged in establishing or reestablishing mutual purpose one should always make sure that the other party knows that their concerns are being acknowledged and no hidden motives underlie the decision. Patterson suggests employing the CRIB strategy: Commit to seek mutual purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy, Invent a mutual purpose if one is not currently present in the dialogue, and Brainstorm new strategies.

Patterson also suggests to utilize in concurrence with CRIB a listening strategy of Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase, and Prime or AMPP to ensure individuals stories, a person’s narrative which drives their reactions, do not break down dialogue. When individuals Ask they should be looking to see if they understand the context of the other person as it has been presented as this is where mirroring comes in to help a person truly understand the other’s point of view or concern. As a means to further the dialogue within the mutual purpose framework paraphrasing is essential as it allows for the generation of continuity in the conversation. Finally with all other connectivity elements in place it is time to prime the conversation with mutual purpose as an endpoint to achieve the shared goal of all parties.

It is also important to establish clear decision making policies. Patterson cites four ways decisions can be made: command, consult, vote and consensus. All of these pathways reflect the level of involvement of parties connected to the issue or concern in discussion. Each of the decision making approaches carry with them benefits and detriments to the decision making process. It is important to choose which individual or combination of approaches best suits the situation. Command in decision making reflects the least amount of contribution from third party stakeholders and has its place in the deployment of initiative or problem solving. One must take into account the greater the pool of contributions via consultation or voting the longer the decision making process may take and comprises from both sides are an essential element. Consensus contains the most involved dynamics in crucial conversation. Consensus is going to be more laborious in time dedicated to sharing concerns and establishing mutual purpose and the possibility that this in turn may generate more crucial conversations is an element to be aware of.

We all have the ability to keep our emotions in check when stakes are high and chemicals start to run our thoughts as it takes effort and commitment to understanding roles, purpose, expected outcomes and group dynamics that work in times of easier decisions and especially during more difficult decision events. Always remember you have the ability to effect any discussion in a positive way and help stakeholders reach mutually beneficial results.

Perception is everything…

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Rory Sutherland’s TEDx presentation on perception lays a framework and explores the circumstances of our lives in relation to the meaning we impart about those situations. Rory states that the event itself may matter less than how we see the event.  Rory makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness. Watch the video below…

Perception is Everything

Educational Association

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

A thought on Educational content associations…

The creation of resource stacks presents an opportunity to apply ones ability to associate content for the purpose of support in a variety of subject areas. This is followed closely by a reflection on the numeration of total links required to generate legitimacy in the specific content area. Time pressures associated to educational disciplines tip quantitative estimates to the lower end of the spectrum as a continuum of like minded articles and resources reinforce pedagogical view points and stacks the deck quite easily in favor of one idea to the next.

As an educator one must work diligently to avoid confirmation bias and continually be open to new ideas and approaches in the classroom. Favored practices may no longer meet students where they are nor provide academic currency in reaching students academic needs. New and varied approaches may need to be implemented as one works to connect with students. Reflection on pedagogical approaches, content delivery and data sets from test scores are all valuable tools to a maturing educator and should not be looked at individually as a whole child picture is required to best understand the specific needs and approaches needed to ensure student success.

Crucial Confrontations (Literature Review)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Crucial Confrontations, tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian, and Al Switzler prescribes a six step approach when dealing with conflict in the work place. For the purpose of this literature review the two stakeholders in the conversations will be referred to as management, the person initiating the conversation and labor, the individual being confronted. Although crucial confrontations can take place not only between management and labor it is important to qualify these labels as to not narrow the scope of application crucial confrontations presents.

The first part of crucial confrontation guides management to focus on two initial elements: 1. What? This initial part explores the motivation and/or ability of labor to carry out a given request. 2. If? Will the social system support their effort (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 43)?

The second part explores how ‘stories’ influence perceptions of others prior to engagement in a confrontation as well as during the confrontation. Three elements of attributes emerged that provide a guideline for contextual understanding of people and situations. The authors point out that we all have perceptions of people’s actions and when one tries to contextualize the motivations of stakeholders within the situation greater understandings emerge. Most often management focus’ on dispositional attributes as a source of conflict. Dispositional attributes are viewed as uncontrollable personality factors that influence individuals. The authors add in parallel to dispositional attributes, situational attributes. Situational attributes allows for the exploration of environmental forces which influence behavior. Exploration of the situational attributes can reduce the influence of the Fundamental Attribution Error. The fundamental attribution error assumes others actions are based on personality characteristics while ignoring other motivations. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p.60) Two ways to reduce the influence of assumptions is to ask humanizing questions to refocus dispositional aspects of the situation.

The third part of crucial confrontation describes the gap where problem acknowledgement and solutions enter the conversation. The pathway set forth by the authors is to make it motivating and easy. When management engages labor in crucial conversations the discussion must start with safety as management must find a way to state the concern illiciting the least amount of defensiveness from labor. If required management may need to restate concerns in order to reduce defensiveness. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 100) As management and labor work through the issues it is important for management to share her/his path. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104) Management needs to be clear about her/his focus, stay external, explain what and not focus on the why, and gather facts rather than deal in obscure vagaries of detail. Management must stay clear of absolutes as absolutes only share conclusions not emerging facts. Finally end with a question as this allows labor to state her/his response and share her/his story. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104)
Management also needs to consider labors action in relation to motivation. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 114) The authors state that people act based on consequences she/he anticipate and labor may be under the influence of multiple consequences and as a result act on perceived consequence bundles. As a means of motivation management would want to explore natural consequences or those elements that are embedded into the situation labor would be aware of and are not imposed by management (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 126).

The next step in this part is to match the problem solving method to situational circumstance. Concrete solutions help management and labor to finish on a positive note. A crucial aspect of finalizing the crucial confrontation is to detail expectation, review accountability, and set a timeline for follow up. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 139) However, if motivation is not the issue then management needs to explore ability barriers of labor in the initial event(s) that led to the crucial confrontation.

Part five of Crucial Confrontations pays particular focus on management staying flexible and focused. Often when dealing with problems other problems may arise. When this happens put the original problem on hold and deal with what is most urgent. Once that element of the situation has been resolved both parties may refocus back the original problem. Management does not need to overkill labor by hammering at more than one issue, especially if the confrontation has been emotionally taxing (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 173).

The final step in crucial confrontation is to create a plan. The plan as agreed upon by both management and labor needs to make sure all details and expectations have been resolved in the situation. Both management and labor need to know where she/he stand after the confrontation has been resolved (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 205-8).


Bibliography

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2004). Crucial confrontations: tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior. (p. 284). McGraw-Hill Professional.

Conflict Resolution

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The following post was done in collaboration with Ryan Boughen and Brent Chadwick:

The first of my interviews was conducted with a school principal. The issue presented is one that is common within the school setting taking place between a parent and an administrator. The confrontation begins with an irate parent coming to school because her/his child was suspended. The parent didn’t understand why their child, who acted in self-defense, was given a consequence. The parent entered the office cussing and demanding to see the principal.

As the principal made contact with the parent she/he greeted the parent smiling extending her/his hand to shake hands. They both walked back to her/his office where the parent was offered a seat. The principal took out a notebook and asked for the parents permission to take some notes so they could then talk. The principal began by writing the parents name and her/his child’s name on the top of the paper. She/he then asked the parent what he had heard, and what concerns he had about this situation so she/he can make sure they were on the same page. The principal was sure not to ask what story the child told the parent. The principal took notes and wrote down tidbits of what the parent said and was engaged in active listening. The principal then asked to get up so she/he could get the child’s written statement. The principal allowed the parent to read the statement written by their child, and they were able to see some discrepancies in the story. Following this, the principal showed the parent the policy which addressed the situation which outlined the consequence that could have been a five day suspension, but under the circumstances the child only received two days of ICS (in class suspension) so she/he did not miss any schooldays or work. The parent inquired about the consequence for the other student, which the principal was unable to give, and they understood. The principal then asked the parent how his child liked school and how their grades were. When the parent didn’t know the principal was able to pull up his child’s grades and get him information to access SPAN (grades on the computer from home).

The meeting concluded when the parent left and everyone was on good terms. The parent had an understanding of the fairness of the consequences and was informed about her/his child’s grades. The two parties shook hands and the parent thanked the principal. The principal felt the parent contact was a success and as it is a familiar situation within the school setting she/he feels confident as to the conflict resolution.

The sources of the conflict within the situation stem from a lack of knowledge on the part of the parent as to the school policy regarding discipline. The parent was under the impression that if their child was not the instigator then why the consequence? According to Godard the principal is in a position of authority and the parent is unaware of the guidelines dictating discipline decision making. (Godard, 2011 p.52) When the principal shared school policy it was key to redirecting the focus of the parent and setting a common understanding within the situation. Also the parent perceived the situation quite differently as her/his child was involved which places into the situation an objective interest conflict. (Godard, 2011 p.54) There may also be elements of broader social inequities as the school is in a lower socioeconomic setting and as a result perceptions of inequalities exist even though neither players in the situation present them within the context of the situation. (Godard, 2011 p.55)

The sources of cooperation stem from the generation of a common understanding of situational equity in the discipline of both students. According to Godard consent, in this case by the parent, concedes to the right of the principal to exercise authority. (Godard, 2011 p.64). Accompanying the right to exercise authority both parties are engaged in a negotiation of order via engagement in a give and take between the principal and parent supported by the psychological agreement helping to focus the conversation. The principal did a good job at focusing the conversation and creating a common understanding so no ill feelings arose and respect was reciprocal. (Godard, 2011 p. 63-4)

For my second interview I was able to speak with a grade level administrator. The issue she/he had to deal with involved two staff members who worked in the same physical space, but did not get along with one another. They were very different people in their personalities and were often at odds over simple things. One staff member had been at the school for almost twenty years and the other was new to the school. The new staff member was taking the place of a much loved individual who retired and the new staff member was in a leadership role over the veteran staff member. Conflicts emerged and spanned every aspect of their jobs and interactions. The situation deteriorated until the two teachers had an argument in front of students and staff in which they were screaming at each other and making threats to do physical harm to one another.

The principal asked the administrator to try to resolve the issue. She/he met with the two people individually so they could share their side of the story. She/he then met with both staff members together along with a counselor. Rules for the discussion were established and agreed upon. The administrator told both teachers that she/he had heard their concerns and complaints about the other individual and the purpose of this meeting was to determine how all parties involved could finish the school year as well as continue to meet the needs of the students. The administrator acknowledged that feelings were hurt, that neither side was at fault and they were all working towards common ground of how everyone could move forward. Each person was afforded the opportunity to state what she/he needed from the other individual in order to maintain a safe working environment for the remainder of the year. The administrator took careful notes to document the boundaries and guidelines for their work environment. When they would began to talk about what had happened in the past, the administrator reminded them that everyone was aware of past issues and the focus was on how to move forward. When the meeting was over, the administrator typed the notes in the form of an agreement and sent them to each individual. The teachers were to let the administrator know if any corrections needed to be made. Both teachers agreed to follow the guidelines;  1. If someone violated the agreement, they were not to address the individual, but were to see the administrator or the counselor to intervene. 2. They agreed to meet again three weeks later to see how things were going and if any adjustments were needed in the agreement.

The administrator felt the process was successful. No one violated the agreement and after three weeks the teachers were back on speaking terms. The teachers finished out the year without further incident. The most important thing was to let both sides be heard and acknowledge that they were wronged. The teachers also heard from the administrator that they were important to the school because they brought different skills and areas of expertise to the school. It was also important that they both had input in the agreement and neither teacher was allowed to vent in the meeting by pulling from the past.

This was the first time the administrator had conducted a mediation with such strong, hurtful feelings involved. She/he felt they appropriately kept the disagreeing parties focused on moving forward and putting the past behind them. The administrator ended with her/his belief that the conflict management was very successful and would not do anything differently.

According to Godard the sources of the conflict in this situation are based on the nature of employment relations. (Godard, 2011 p. 52) Two aspects of the teacher relationship are important while discussing a source of conflict. The first being the seniority of one teacher and the newness of the other. The second being that the new teacher was placed into a position of power over the more senior teacher. The power dynamic between the two teachers is referenced by Godard when he discusses how managers are not held accountable by those who work for them by virtue of an authoritarian position (Godard, 2011 p. 52-3). With the less senior teacher being the one in an authority position this alone is enough for conflict to begin.

The nature of employment contract played a role in the breakdown of communication and the generation of ill feelings between the two teachers. Often contracts are vaguely worded and the nature of the work may be hard to measure. “…much remains unwritten, consisting of expectations and understandings that have developed over time”. (Godard, 2011 p.54) With nothing specific written down as far as authority guidelines between the two teachers along with the unspoken psychological contract, the expectation of seniority over authority, conflict was bound to surface. (Godard, 2011 p. 54)

The sources of cooperation are the closely related values each of the teachers has in relation to their work. They are both held to the psychological contract in education and “… workers tend to believe that they have a duty to live up to…” (Godard, 2011 p.64). With a shared purpose the two teachers would be more likely to find common ground within the work itself and be able, at least during school hours, to set their differences aside for the student centered duties they perform at school.

Seniority is the key when one examines this situation under Godard’s manifestation of the conflict as this scenario is directly connected to the negotiation of order. The dynamics of a senior teacher being supervised by a less experienced teacher and a new teacher to the school is ripe for conflict. Seniority in education as based on the psychological contract within a staff holds a tremendous weight for some. The more experienced teacher may have felt slighted by the administrators as to not being placed in the supervisory role and thus harbored resentment towards the newer less experienced teacher that then manifested itself via insubordination and dissension of the supervisors authority. (Godard, 2011 p. 67-8)

The third interview was with a grade level administrator and centered around her/his end of day bus duty. One of the buses returned to school because a group of students were clapping, stumping and rocking the back of the bus while in motion. One student got up out of her/his seat and approached the driver. The driver told the student to sit her/his ‘ass’ down. The student got upset and began cursing at the driver.

When the administrator walked out to meet the bus, the driver was upset and had kicked about five students off the bus. The students were upset and loud and were directed to sit on the steps. Each wanted to tell her/his story immediately. The administrator first wanted to hear what the driver had to say. The students were quite excited and the administrator was able to get them to do what was asked of them by speaking to them in a calm voice repeating her/his expectations. The administrator also approached the driver in the same manner for a couple of reasons; 1. There had already been a conflict with this specific bus driver last year dealing with students and 2. The administrator wanted to model to the students how to handle a heated situation. After talking to the driver the administrator exited the bus and calmly talked with the students giving each of them a chance to explain her/his side of the story. Within the discussion it was explained to the students how they should have handled the situation. First off they should not have been stomping on the bus and two if the bus driver cursed at them they should have went home, told their parents so the adults could handle it. It was then explained to the students why they had to exit the bus and call a parent to come pick them up.

The administrator feels a key aspect of solving the conflict was the constant refocusing and calm demeanor she/he maintained during the conversations. The administrator never raised her/his voice despite many opportunities to do so. In the end the students did not think it was fair for the driver to curse at them and they were correct however, the students did concede to how their actions contributed to the situation.

In this scenario the source of the conflict lies in the nature of the relationship. “In a society that values individual freedom and democracy, workers can generally be expected to resent their position of subordination, and this can, in and of itself, serve as a source of conflict (Watson, 1987 p. 219). Students may not see bus drivers as having similar levels of authority and therefore resent rules set forth by the bus driver and in holding this perception be more likely to engage in conflict.

The source of cooperation in this scenario is based in the psychological agreement the students have with the administrator as a representative of the school. With the administrator being able to mitigate the conflict a calm was maintained and reinforced through the equitable treatment of all parties involved. Godard draws on Karl Marx’s view that a persons job is central to one’s identity. “It seems, then, that most workers want to able able to do their jobs as well as possible and are generally loyal to the person they work for” (Godard, 2011, p. 65). This is evident in the resolution of the bus issue as the administrator held both parties accountable and in response both parties accepted responsibility for their part in the situation.

The manifestation of the conflict is apparent in the students misbehavior. The students resent authoritarian aspects of their relationship with the bus driver and as a consequence repeated incidents of horseplay took place. “This may involve pranks against co-workers, or it may involve mock fighting, or even actual play fights with paper clips, tape balls, or whatever is at hand’ (Godard, 2011 p. 68). In this scenario the generation of loud noise and the rocking of the bus took place in opposition to the authority held by the bus driver.

Literature Review

Crucial Confrontations, tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian, and Al Switzler prescribes a six step approach when dealing with conflict in the work place. For the purpose of this literature review the two stakeholders in the conversations will be referred to as management, the person initiating the conversation and labor, the individual being confronted. Although crucial confrontations can take place not only between management and labor it is important to qualify these labels as to not narrow the scope of application crucial confrontations presents.

The first part of crucial confrontation guides management to focus on two initial elements: 1. What? This initial part explores the motivation and/or ability of labor to carry out a given request. 2. If? Will the social system support their effort (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 43)?

The second part explores how ‘stories’ influence perceptions of others prior to engagement in a confrontation as well as during the confrontation. Three elements of attributes emerged that provide a guideline for contextual understanding of people and situations. The authors point out that we all have perceptions of people’s actions and when one tries to contextualize the motivations of stakeholders within the situation greater understandings emerge. Most often management focus’ on dispositional attributes as a source of conflict. Dispositional attributes are viewed as uncontrollable personality factors that influence individuals. The authors add in parallel to dispositional attributes, situational attributes. Situational attributes allows for the exploration of environmental forces which influence behavior. Exploration of the situational attributes can reduce the influence of the Fundamental Attribution Error. The fundamental attribution error assumes others actions are based on personality characteristics while ignoring other motivations. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p.60) Two ways to reduce the influence of assumptions is to ask humanizing questions to refocus dispositional aspects of the situation.

The third part of crucial confrontation describes the gap where problem acknowledgement and solutions enter the conversation. The pathway set forth by the authors is to make it motivating and easy. When management engages labor in crucial conversations the discussion must start with safety as management must find a way to state the concern illiciting the least amount of defensiveness from labor. If required management may need to restate concerns in order to reduce defensiveness. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 100) As management and labor work through the issues it is important for management to share her/his path. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104) Management needs to be clear about her/his focus, stay external, explain what and not focus on the why, and gather facts rather than deal in obscure vagaries of detail. Management must stay clear of absolutes as absolutes only share conclusions not emerging facts. Finally end with a question as this allows labor to state her/his response and share her/his story. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104)

Management also needs to consider labors action in relation to motivation. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 114) The authors state that people act based on consequences she/he anticipate and labor may be under the influence of multiple consequences and as a result act on perceived consequence bundles. As a means of motivation management would want to explore natural consequences or those elements that are embedded into the situation labor would be aware of and are not imposed by management (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 126).

The next step in this part is to match the problem solving method to situational circumstance. Concrete solutions help management and labor to finish on a positive note. A crucial aspect of finalizing the crucial confrontation is to detail expectation, review accountability, and set a timeline for follow up. (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 139) However, if motivation is not the issue then management needs to explore ability barriers of labor in the initial event(s) that led to the crucial confrontation.

Part five of Crucial Confrontations pays particular focus on management staying flexible and focused. Often when dealing with problems other problems may arise. When this happens put the original problem on hold and deal with what is most urgent. Once that element of the situation has been resolved both parties may refocus back the original problem. Management does not need to overkill labor by hammering at more than one issue, especially if the confrontation has been emotionally taxing (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 173).

The final step in crucial confrontation is to create a plan. The plan as agreed upon by both management and labor needs to make sure all details and expectations have been resolved in the situation. Both management and labor need to know where she/he stand after the confrontation has been resolved (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 205-8).

Literature Application

As a group, we decided to apply the knowledge we gained through our literature review to Brent Chadwick’s conflict situation. First, by analysing the conflict through the lens of Crucial Conversation, it became obvious to Ryan, through conversations with Brent, that the superintendent did not begin the process in dialogue. Perhaps if this priority was clearly articulated to all teachers through dialogue (creating a shared pool of knowledge), the situation may have been avoided. Further, the fact that there was no prior discussion led Ryan to believe that the superintendent began the supervision process in silence, specifically, in the form of avoidance, as he chose to not engage in prior discussion regarding this initiative. However, after realizing the teacher’s discontent, the superintendent reflected on the situation and changed the supervision report to exclude the statements regarding dress. Ryan can only assume, because he was not able to discuss this matter directly with the superintendent, that upon reflection, the superintendent started with heart to clarify his intent, and made it safe by examining his motives and focusing on shared purpose.  Last, Ryan believes the superintendent also explored the teacher’s path by first seeking to understand their position.

Through the lens of FIERCE Conversations, the issue between the Superintendent and the teacher can be analyzed. Firstly, both parties need to interrogate reality and be able to see where each side was coming from. The Superintendent needs to explain where the division is heading with the professional dress issue and the teacher needs to be open to the fact that they may have to change something from this domain of the professional evaluation. Secondly, the superintendent needs to promote the learning of both himself and the teacher by making the priorities of the division clear to all employees and then, by being transparent, allow him to learn how to make a major change in a less disturbing way. Thirdly, the Superintendent needs to tackle the tough challenges by examining the individual employee’s report and possibly changing it to fit the situation rather than grouping all into one basket. Despite the fact that the Superintendent wanted to make this change, he will find he will move people a lot quicker towards the desired result if he does so in the right way. His decision to change the written report may gain him more in the end. Lastly, enriching the relationship will put the two parties back to a basis where they can once again be productive in their roles. The superintendent needs to gain back the trust of the teaching body when they do supervision. This trust will make change easier in the future and can go a long way in making staff progress. On the other side, the teacher needs to show everyone they are back to being a team player and open to future professional development. Without progress in the relationship, future attempts to work with this teacher will only fall on someone who is once bitten, twice shy.  

In this scenario the Crucial Confrontation stems from the superintendents initiative of enforcing professional dress code via teacher observational reports. Although the teacher was aware of the superintendent’s intent of dress code enforcement she/he knew that there was no situational relevance to her/his ‘needing improvement’ in this area and therefore would not sign off on the report. The teacher was clear about her/his focus, stayed external, explained what and did not focus on the why during discussions with the superintendent. The teacher also kept focus on the facts rather than dealing in obscure vagaries. The teacher stayed clear of absolutes as absolutes only share conclusions not emerging facts. Finally the teacher ended with a question, ‘how does the professional dress initiative concern me?’ By asking this specific question it allowed the superintendent to state her/his response and share her/his story (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 104). The final step in this crucial confrontation was to agree on how to proceed. The plan as agreed upon by both the teacher and the superintendent made sure all details and expectations had been resolved. In this scenario the superintendent recognized her/his error in dress code enforcement via teacher observations and the lack of communication prior to initiative enforcement. After numerous discussions the teachers report was changed to reflect the individual situation. In the end both the teacher and the superintendent knew where she/he stood after the confrontation has been resolved (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, 2004 p. 205-8).

Reference

Godard, J. (2011). Industrial relations, the economy, and society. (4 ed.). Concord, Ontario: Captus Press Inc.

Watson, Tony. 1987. Sociology, Work and Industry, 2nd Ed. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Scott, Susan. (2002). Fierce Conversations; having success in work and life one conversation at a time.. Manhatten: Leadership Lane.

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2004). Crucial confrontations: tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior. (p. 284). McGraw-Hill Professional.