In the text, the authors state, “collusion occurs when two or more people ‘agree’ subconsciously to ignore or deny some existing state of affairs or situation” (p. 44). This is somewhat different than another definition of collusion from the investments industry (where collusion signifies insider trading between parties, which is illegal and immoral). In our “conflict” definition of collusion, we are signifying a state of affairs where people do not recognize a reality that is readily apparent to other people.
This can take an unlimited amount of forms. For example, in a family setting, the larger family may “subconsciously agree” to avoid discussing or helping another family member with a substance abuse problem. In a workplace setting, a top-performing employee may have an infectiously negative attitude and regularly degrade co-workers through verbal aggressiveness. In these scenarios, the reality that is obvious is overlooked because it is either perceived as “easier” to ignore the real problem or because of power or status issues.
When collusion occurs, a conflict (which may have begun as a relatively minor issue) can grow into a “life of its own”. The conflict then becomes part of a person’s identity and is continued subconsciously to benefit that identity. So for instance, the negative and verbally aggressive co-worker may develop some type of “accepted identity”. For example, people may say, “oh, that is Pat just being Pat”. This type of identity is then used to hide away the problem that is subconsciously avoided. QUESTION #2 Staw, Sandelands, and Dutton’s threat-rigidity cycle is explored in the text on pp. 6-70. The cycle works in this order. First, when individuals feel threatened, they experience and increase in stress and anxiety. Second, this increased stress and anxiety fosters emotional reactions like fear, anger, and physiological arousal. Third, these emotional reactions result in restricted information processing (i. e. , an inability to view the situation at hand in a composed manner) and constriction of behavior (i. e. , we are unable to process a full range of appropriate behaviors mentally due to our emotions taking over).
As we discussed in Chapter 2, we are essentially “flooded” with emotion, often leading to some type of knee-jerk reaction that in turn leads us to rely on our hastily made (and often incorrect) attributions. Now, the threat-rigidity cycle can take two different routes. First, if habitual responses (e. g. , verbally attacking the other person, avoiding the situation, stonewalling in silence, etc. ) do happen to be appropriate, the results will be positive and we are more prone to rely on this habitual response in the future.
Conversely, if the habitual response is inappropriate, the situation will consequently worsen and the perception of threat, stress, and anxiety cycles back all over again (i. e. , we return to the first stage, thus the “cycle”). Because the threat-rigidity cycle underscores our tendency to fall back on habitual responses and attributions when confronted with a threatening situation we do consider these as “trained incapacities” (see pp. 68-69). Trained incapacities are important because we become so well trained (subconsciously) in our knee-jerk reactions that we believe we understand what is coming next in the conflict.
Human beings famously believe that we can “predict” others behavior, but in reality, we are really bad at it. So what happens is that we become “blind” to the nuances of a particular conflict situation (often due to the emotional flooding cited above) and then rely on our “standard reaction” (i. e. , our trained incapacity) that we apply it whenever we are upset. This makes trained incapacities hard to detect, and in turn makes trained incapacities a very important aspect of behavior to understand, both for ourselves and for others. QUESTION #3
The confrontation episodes theory outlined on pp. 29-31 is a good guide in many situations for us to go through a “sense making” process regarding conflicts. Of course, if it was fail-proof, we wouldn’t need the rest of this course. The theory, in general, explores co-created rules of conduct that are implied in relationships (i. e. , our generally agreed upon “rules of engagement”). My hope here is that you are able to frame a conflict that you have had in a meaningful way with this guide. Naturally, it will be enlightening for many of you or give you a new perspective.
Conversely, it may already inform some of you as to what you already know or may serve as reinforcement that you “ did things right” in a conflict. I won’t rehash the terms that were in the guide in each step, but I do want to acknowledge the vital importance of understanding the options we are left with at the end. First, reaffirmation is a good outcome because the parties reaffirm importance of rule being questioned (but as a side note, may simply do this to “avoid conflicts”. On the other hand, an outcome with no resolution leads us toward a path where conflict is continued and may expand.
Legislation and reaffirmation may serve as the two most positive outcomes, in my estimation. I say this because in legislation, parties rework or reinterpret the rule in question, coming to a shared, agreed upon meaning for the rule. Also, in reaffirmation the parties reaffirm importance of rule that is being challenged. This then provides a clear understanding (hopefully) of what that rule entails. This is a classic example of why conflict is often good, as it serves as an opportunity to clear the air about simple misunderstandings that can fester into giant problems rapidly. QUESTION #4
Central to this question are attribution processes; my overall goal with this question was to see how well you could explain the interactions of these processes as they relate to conflict. Overall, these processes included how dispositional or situational factors are used by people to draw conclusions about their own behaviors and the behaviors of others, the fundamental attribution error, and the self-serving bias (beginning on p. 61 through the middle of p. 62). Then, beginning at the bottom of p. 62, Sillars notes that attributions influence conflict in at least three major ways.
First, due to the self-serving bias, people are more likely to attribute negative effects of conflict to partners rather than to themselves. This heightens resentment of others as negative effects increase, leading to distributive strategies that are damaging to conflicts. Second, again because of the use of a self-serving bias, people often think they use integrative strategies while others use distributive or avoidance tactics. This leads people to believe they are doing more to resolve the conflict than others are, while this may not actually be true in reality.
Third, the fundamental attribution error heightens conflict by encouraging people to see others behavior as planned and intentional (negative attribute) and their own behavior as driven by the situation at hand (positive attribute). In short, we believe act socially desirable in conflict and others act in more negative ways, based on these attribution concepts. It is also vital to note that the self-serving bias and fundamental attribution error are impacted by perceptions of other people’s gender, ethnicity, or other demographic traits and that these two elements are also evident in our relationships with people we already know well (i. . , like the adage that suggests people are often “well informed and well biased”). Lastly, on p. 64, the authors summarize three propositions in this area of research regarding conflict: (1) people choose conflict strategies based on the attributions they make regarding the cause of the conflict, (2) biases in attribution processes tend to lead to noncooperative modes of conflict, and (3) the choice of conflict strategies influences the likelihood of conflict resolution and the degree of satisfaction with the overall relationship.
The correct answer here is really more of a judgment of how well I felt you described the associated concepts and findings above more so than a judgment of whether or not each and every piece of information above was provided in your response. QUESTION #5 This response is fairly cut-and-dried, if you will. The procedure I was looking at here is in Exhibit 4. 1 (pp. 128-131). In your response, I was hoping to see a full discussion each of the 5 “questions” as they related to your example than a quick rundown of the selections you made.
The answer to each question then guides you along the model, ultimately leading to a “recommended” or “prescribed” conflict style. So in reality, this response had dozens of “correct responses” based on where the style selection tree led you to. Lastly, I was looking for you to evaluate the quality of the style (or styles for some of you) that you were guided to in your example. Would it have worked out in your estimation? Did you try that style (without knowing this information, of course)? QUESTION #6
After a fairly thorough discussion of conflict styles in Chapter 4 of the text, the authors describe pairings of conflict styles and how they interact with one another (section 4. 5 on pp. 123-124). They noted, that some conflict style pairings are “ asymmetrical patterns” that did not match each other, such as a demand (compete) / withdraw (avoidance) pattern, a supervisor / subordinate pattern at work, or a competing / collaborating pattern (which interestingly has great potential to work well together).
While at first many of these styles seem “unhealthy”, leading us to believe they are unstable, some are actually quite stable in the short term (e. g. , one dominant role/one submissive role). Although it is noted that these roles may not always be stable in long run due to unhappiness among the submissive individual. Likewise, examples of “asymmetrical patterns” were also noted, which we often believe are stable because of “agreement” among the individuals.
For instance, a relationship often has two “ avoiders” that facilitate conflict denial/collusion, two collaborators that are more productive, but are not perfect, or two “competers” that often reinforce a cycle of escalating conflict or reach a stalemate. What we can see from both symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns is that both types of patterns can be either healthy or unhealthy based on the context in which they occur or the type of pattern being used; in other words, the pairing of styles is not a way to determine the health of a relationship.
Symmetrical patterns of two competers may be great as workout partners, but bad as romantic partners. As many of us know, a competer and an avoider often work poorly because of the attack/withdrawal pattern, but a competer and a collaborator may work out wonderfully because the book notes how competers (that openly air out concerns) give collaborators tools to work with to find a “win/win” solution in many cases. QUESTION #7 This final question provided an applied conflict management scenario that revolved around the use of reframing/issue framing tactics in the textbook (p. 9 through p. 92). Just to be clear, the discussion of framing in Ch. 2 (pp. 57-59) is secondary for this question and was not the intended area of focus. In other words, I am seeking explicit reframing/issue framing tactics that would help to resolve the issue at hand (pp. 91-92). That is not to say the definition and discussion of framing in Ch. 2 is not important; in fact it is vital to acknowledge that conflict frames are a “cognitive structure based on previous experience, which guides our interpretation of an interaction or event” (p. 57).
So in other words, framing provides the perceptual framework for how we view the conflict itself and the people involved. This is precisely why I created two groups of people in this fictional question that are affiliated with very different “organizational in-groups”; so it is expected that the accountant and sales person will have very (or use) different “frames”, based on what is happening. So this creates a scenario where we must “reframe” to be able to get anywhere in a conflict setting, otherwise we will constantly run into the issue of two people working in two different frames.
Reframing/issue framing tactics are then a part of a “dance” (p. 90 – top). Because each reframing/issue framing tactic will likely produce a different outcome, there is more than one “right answer” here. To be clearer, a correct answer here is one that explains a reframing/issue framing tactic and reasonably explains why that tactic would make sense to use to manage the conflict in the hypothetical scenario. With that being said, here a few thoughts that I had regarding each reframing approach.
Umbrellas: This approach would seem to work poorly here, as the sales staff member already believes the accountant is using this tactic (i. e. , sales person believes the accountant is jealous and is using this “petty” thing to air jealousy) Issue Expansion: This is an interesting approach overall; it is high-risk, high-reward in nature. Given the status of the growing in-group nature of the conflict, I would think the issue expansion approach may actually serve to drive a deeper wedge between the sales staff and the accounting department.
I am open to different interpretations, but this appears to be the most likely outcome. Negative Inquiry: This may provide some traction toward conflict resolution. For example, if the sales staff member is convinced the accountant is jealous of their success, perhaps they need to expand on that thought as it is very vague. Also, it could be asked why the sales staff avoided phone and email communication. It may have simply been a case of having a viable excuse for not replying rapidly, instead of the accounting departments’ perception of ignorance/avoidance.
Likewise, the sales staff could ask why did you “call out” someone in a face-damaging way? The answers here may get the two groups and the two main conflict parties on the right path. Fogging: On one hand, fogging may be dysfunctional as it opens up the door for avoidance issues. However, it also may create a situation where the two parties and the two in-groups can simply work towards the issues that relate to company policy here. Conflict is rarely “forgotten”, but if the accounting department and sales staff find a way to change the protocol to allow for a smooth work environment, time may heal some of the wounds.
Fractionation: Although more than one approach can be right here, as I care more about the way you apply a solution to the problem, fractionation jumps out as the most helpful tactic at first glance. Here, both the accountant and the sales person (or their entire departments) may be able to break down the larger issues into fractioned pieces to address individually. So this means instead of looking at the big issue (inter-group conflict between sales staff and accounting department), the parties would look at each component.
One thing the book does not mention, and this is generally true of all “ textbook” conflict resolution tactics, is that fractionation would probably be very time consuming (especially if you are talking about long-standing, deeply ingrained conflicts). However, this is sometimes the only way to put conflicts to rest; which is something that should be very appealing for two departments in an organization that really need to cooperate with each other. The long term gains would seem to outweigh the short-term productivity losses.
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