conflict resolution 46

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Discussion Topic: Conflict Resolution

  • Use “When Relational Conflict Gets in the Way” (p.239) from the textbook (Adams & Galanes, 2018).

Reference

Adams, K. L., & Galanes, G. J. (2018) Communicating in groups: Applications and skills (10th ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

We often assign our student groups to observe and gather information about other real-life groups. One of our groups observed another group of students working on a project for a marketing class. This group of six included two men and four women, one of whom was lesbian. When other group members talked about their girlfriends and boyfriends, Robin talked about her wife as well. Charlotte, one of the women, snickered and smirked whenever Robin shared personal information—though this behavior was expected and accepted for the other students in this group. Our observing group couldn’t help noticing Charlotte’s disdain for Robin and became really upset when Charlotte’s antagonism toward Robin escalated. Charlotte made fun of Robin and her wife when Robin wasn’t there. She labeled Robin’s ideas for the project “stupid” even though, according to the observing group, Robin had the most creative ideas for the marketing project and was able to back up her suggestions with factual information. In addition, Charlotte forgot to tell Robin about a meeting the group had scheduled. In one particularly hostile instance, the marketing group had planned to meet in one room but decided to change rooms after they got there. Robin had told them she would be a little late because she was coming from work. After the group changed rooms, Charlotte e-mailed Robin about the change but did not tell Robin where they had moved. Robin eventually found the right room, after wandering all over the building searching for her team. Instead of apologizing, Charlotte yelled at her for being later than she had said. Through all this, Robin remained polite, engaged, and friendly. The observing students were horrified! They felt bad for Robin, couldn’t believe how badly Charlotte treated her, and also were distressed that no one in the group called Charlotte on her hostile behavior or came to Robin’s defense. We have discussed in several places how conflict over the task and procedures can turn into relational conflict rather easily. In this case, we see a situation where, from the start, a relational conflict consistently interfered with the effective management of group task work.

1. Although we did not address sexual orientation in the diversity chapter, it is an individual difference that can elicit strong feelings. Charlotte obviously felt strongly opposed to working with someone of Robin’s sexual orientation. What do you think Charlotte should have done, knowing that she felt so strongly?

2. This situation was a no-win one for Robin. If she kept silent about the mistreatment, she seemed to be condoning it. But if she said something, she would have put herself in a vulnerable position—her grade depended on the team’s work. What do you think Robin should have done about being bullied?

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