The Third Way – 18 Camels

 

I met with a faculty member recently who shared a situation and how they responded. It was explained that when X happened, then the only choice was to do Y. The faculty member was upset, angry about the situation, so I listened. I then summarized what I’d heard to make sure I had the various pieces and to acknowledge the faculty member concerns. The faculty member visibly relaxed (they were heard) and then I said: “Let me make an observation and ask a question. When you shared the situation you framed it as X and then Y, as either or – what’s the third way?”

I have long stated that the idea that there are two sides to every story is wrong; instead, there are six or seven (even if only two people are involved)!  We all carry multiple perspectives within and these show up when we are in conflict. As I think about our multiple sides to every story, I recalled the work of William Ury, one of the authors of Getting to Yes, who has more recently talked about the Third Side of conflict resolution. Ury has an excellent Ted Talk – “The Walk from No to Yes” on the subject where he shares the story of 18 camels.

Here’s the story:

“One of my favorite negotiation stories is about a man who leaves his herd of 17 camels to his three sons as their inheritance. To the first son, he leaves half the camels; to the middle son, he leaves a third of the camels; and to the youngest son, he leaves a ninth of the camels.

The three sons get into an intense negotiation over who should get how many, because 17 doesn’t divide by two, or by three, or by nine. Tempers become strained, so in desperation they consult a wise, old woman.

She listens to their problem and says, “Well, I don’t know if I can help you, but if you want, at least you can have my camel.” Now they have 18 camels, so the first son takes half of them, or nine camels; the middle son takes his third, or six camels; and the youngest son takes his ninth, or two camels. Nine plus six plus two adds up to a total of 17 camels. There is one camel left over, so the brothers give it back to the woman.”

As Ury explains and as I asked the faculty member visitor – what’s the third way to consider the situation? Too often we think in either/or, we polarize situations, and don’t consider some other path.

Thus, next time you are stuck or better yet, before you get stuck, visit the ombuds – let me help you find the third way.

Case Examples

 

People often ask what kinds of issues, concerns, or conflicts come to the NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds Office and I’ve added a page to the website providing some faculty focused case examples. (I’m planning a similar page for Staff issues.) I define a “case” based on a faculty or staff member contacting the office for assistance.  Sometimes there is a specific issue or often multiple issues or sometimes its just to share a more general concern. Check it out – Case Examples

Additionally, as I think back on each case, I believe one result of talking with the Faculty & Staff Ombuds is that the visitor to the office has a better understanding of what brought them to the office in the first place. And, based on this better understanding, there are typically more options to be developed and considered.  These are the two primary ombuds process goals I seek for visitors – a better understanding of the “problem” and potential options for engagement and resolution.

What can the Faculty & Staff Ombuds Office do for you?  Contact the office for assistance.

Thinking about the next chapter – all win retirement planning ??

 

Retirement can be both an exciting opportunity and challenging concept for any NC State Faculty member and perhaps for any and everyone!  The twofold opportunity / challenge dichotomy rang loud and clear in an Office of Faculty Development (OFD) program where several recently retired faculty shared their experiences. My purpose in attending and interest in learning about retiring from a university is based on several faculty ombuds office visits where I heard from some faculty members who had concerns about the retirement process.  The question on my mind was, and still is, how to create an “all win” situation where a faculty member can phase out of a successful academic career while also meeting the needs of a department – this would be the all win!

At the OFD program, one faculty member explained that they spoke with their department head about a year out and came up with a plan that worked for all involved. This was indeed an all win! On the other hand, I’ve heard from faculty that did not feel comfortable saying anything about retiring for fear of being isolated from their department, or for “losing” control of ongoing work and plans for finishing up items, or from feeling that nothing was owed due to current treatment. They gave their department a minimum period of notice and, while they put as much in place as possible, they also left it to the department to figure out the “what next” in many areas.

Additionally, for faculty members, their professional and personal life is often so tied together that the idea of leaving the university is fraught with fear of the unknown.  Thus, there is a range of support for faculty and staff who are thinking about retirement including a great Ready to Retire program here at NC State that goes over the nuts and bolts of retirement.  And, while the logistics matter, I’m still more interested in the the planning and really the potential for “joint” planning that could go on between a faculty member and their department head. And, while there can and are “legal” issues that could arise around a retirement discussion, it also does not need to be that type of conversation. Instead, could a department set up a joint retirement planning process that would seek to meet the needs and interests of a faculty member along with the department?  Can there be a way to normalize conversation about retirement so that it works for all concerned?

So, I’ve posed the question and I believe the answer is in the experiences of faculty that have or are in the process of retiring. What is your story? How did it go? I’d like to collect retirement (and leaving the university) stories to find out what folks believe are the best practices so that these can be shared with a broader audience.

Give me a call and share your story!

Weeks – Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution

 

In a previous post, I referenced Step 5 “look to the future, then learn from the past” from Dudley Weeks, Ph.D., “Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution.” With a new semester just underway, Weeks helps us think about resolving conflict as a partnership.  Here’s Weeks approach to resolve conflict while preserving relationships. Happy Fall Semester!

Step 1 – Create an Effective Atmosphere – “The atmosphere is the frame around the canvas on which we paint how we will agree, disagree, and build an improved relationship.” (p 71)

Step 2 – Clarify Perceptions – “If we perceive something to be a certain way, even if we are incorrect, in our minds it is that way,  and we often base our behavior on that perception.” (p 89)  Weeks process asks us to clarify “perceptions of the conflict, or the self, an of the conflict partner.” (p 90)

Step 3 – Focus on Individual and Shared Needs – This is one of those simple yet important ideas as people should think both about their own needs (not wants) and the needs of ones conflict partner.

Step 4 – Build Shared Positive Power – Focus on self, partner, and shared power. Weeks encourages us to think in positive terms.  “Positive power seeks to promote the constructive capabilities of all parties involved in a conflict.” (p 151) My preference is that people in conflict are not parties, they are people!

Step 5 – Look to the Future, Then Learn From the Past –  “Even though the past does indeed matter, we deny our own power and the power of development and change if we allow ourselves to be defined by the past, to be trapped in perceptions that use past patterns to limit present and future possibilities.” (p 165)

Step 6 – Generate Options – This step “can often break through the preconceived limitations we bring with us into the conflict resolution process.” (p 183)

Step 7 – Develop ‘Doables’: The Stepping Stones to Action – “Doables are (stepping stones) specific acts that stand a good chance of success, meet some individual and shared needs, and depend on positive power, usually shared power, to be implemented.” (p 204)

Step 8 – Make Mutual-Benefit Agreements – “Instead of demands, the parties focus on developing agreements that can meet some of each party’s needs, accomplish some shared goals, and establish a precedent in which power is defined as positive mutual action through which disagreements can be dealt with constructively.” (p 224)

American Bar Association – Ombuds Resolution

At the recent American Bar Association annual meeting, a resolution supporting ombuds programs passed without any dissenting votes. The resolution is simple and straightforward yet by its passage demonstrates the importance of the ombuds role today and into the future.

Here’s the full text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION       (103)

RESOLVED that the American Bar Association encourages greater use and development of ombuds programs that comply with generally recognized standards of practice, as an effective means of preventing, managing, and resolving individual and systemic conflicts and disputes.

The NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds program complies with the standards of practice and code of ethics as promulgated by the the International Ombudsman Association (these are the generally recognized standards) and its ombuds’ Roy Baroff is a Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner.

 

How are you today?

Everyday we are asked “how are you?” in some manner shape or form. Most of the time the answer is “ok” with hopefully some “greats” and “awesome” thrown in and unfortunately there are the “lousy” and “awful” as well.
When people visit the NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds Office we always talk about how folks are doing.  That’s the point of the office – to provide a place where people can share how they are “really” doing and explore ways to resolve concerns.  The office is confidential and off the record with only limited exceptions, so you can share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And, the office is designed to be impartial – the ombuds won’t judge you or anything you’ve done; instead, together you will develop, analyze, and consider options to resolve your situation.
I see a lot of different “looks” from people in my office and now you actually get to “select” your look for the day!  Check out “How Do You Feel Today?” from the Conflict Resolution Network of New South Wales.

One Sided Conflict Resolution

 

This was the title that caught my eye – how can you resolve a conflict with someone else without actually engaging that person? At least, that’s what I thought when I signed up for this pre-conference workshop at the recent International Ombudsman Association annual meeting. I was also intrigued by the presenter – Nicole Gravagna, PhD – who has a background as a neuroscientist and in the venture capital world (she wrote “Venture Capital for Dummies”).

So, what’s this all about and how can it help me in my work as the NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds?  I will not provide all the details of the session yet its worth mentioning that we started out by shaping Playdo into parts of our brain with a focus on the ACC  – Anterior Cingulate Cortex. (can you identify these parts of the brain? Hint: brain stem – corpus callosum – amygdala – hippocampus – thalamus)

Gravagna explained that based on neuroscience understanding, the ACC activates in the presence of conflict, when making decisions under uncertainty, when feeling social exclusion, and when feeling physical and emotional pain. Thus, the stronger your ACC the better you are able to observe and consider how to respond. With a stronger ACC you are more able to make choices and be more resilient.

The idea is that you can resolve (or perhaps at least better manage) conflicts from one side – your side. You accomplish this by responding differently to the situation and by making informed decisions as opposed to reacting in the moment,  According to Gravagna, you strengthen the ACC through “noticing” activities like meditation that taps into two of three brain inputs – sensation, emotion, and thought. When you sense something and think about it you notice in a way that strengthens your ACC.

With this in mind (pun intended), part of the message I now share with people coming to the ombuds office is that they can take “one sided” steps to address the situation. We identify and discuss the underlying concerns and interests that are important to the person and then try to identify options within the person’s control that could impact the situation. One sided conflict resolution indeed!

So, the next time you are in a conflict situation – you might want to think – what can I do on my own? And, if you want to learn more about the ACC, then check out Gravagna’s recent book – “Mindset your Manners:  Master Conflict and Change the Rules.”

 

 

NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds Obtains Certification – Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner – CO-OP® 

 

The International Ombudsman Association (IOA – uses the Swedish term “ombudsman” that includes all genders) supports the certification of organizational ombuds through its division – The Board of Certification for Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioners – CO-OP®. The requirements for certification include completion of a written exam that tests knowledge of conflict management and effective communication skills along with IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice among other topics. There is also an education requirement and work experience including office practices that follow IOA Ethics and Standards.

With this background, we are pleased to announce that Roy Baroff, the NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds obtained Certification on June 8, 2017. Roy is now a Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner – CO-OP®. Roy scored a 499/500 on the exam (pretty good result!), met the educational and work experience requirements, participated in a one-on-one interview with a member of the Board of Certification to discuss ombuds practices, and was then approved by the full Board of Certification.

To maintain the CO-OP® certification, Roy must complete 60 hours of continuing education credits over the next four years. Obtaining certification now and with these future recertification requirements, Roy demonstrates his commitment to the field and best practices in his service as the NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds.

Do you have an issue, concern, or conflict on your mind and you’re not sure where to turn?  The NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds is confidential, independent, informal and impartial. Get a head start this summer on resolving your situation – don’t wait!  For all NC State Faculty and Staff, find out what Roy can do for you – call 919-935-0922.

Working with Differences – Getting to Yes

 

How do we address differences in the workplace?  What can we do as managers/supervisors/leaders?  One answer can be found in a post from Yvonne Wichtner-Zoia, Michigan State University Extension and Ombudsperson, with some great tips for dealing with differences. Yvonne shared insights based on the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Roger Fisher and William Ury).  This is a great negotiation primer that can help you with your daily interactions both in the workplace and at home!  Here’s Yvonne’s post from 2016 reposted with her permission.

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It was 4:30 am and once Sam started thinking about tomorrow’s meeting, he couldn’t fall back asleep.  He really didn’t want to experience another uncomfortable episode with this assigned work group.

His heart began pounding as he thought about how to protect himself and not feel threatened. Every time he participated with this particular group he felt critiqued or that he didn’t understand some unnamed group norms.

Now he was wide awake!

Sam is a leader in his company and enjoys being part of a project-based work team. He participates in a number of different groups that have and continue to produce many successful projects. But, the group he is meeting with tomorrow has never seemed to click like the other teams.

Just then a thought popped into his head! He jumped out of bed, ran down the hallway and began searching the bookshelf for that book! The one he still attributes to helping him negotiate a good starting salary in a job he loves, almost 20 years ago.

The book Sam pulled off his shelf, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, was written in 1981. He wondered if the advice offered by Fisher and Ury would still be applicable today. The more he read, the more he realized just how applicable it was. What a great resource!

Sam began to take notes that might be useful for his upcoming meeting:

• There may be more than one valid explanation or concept.
• Put yourself in their shoes.
• Speak about yourself, not them…use “I” not “you.”
• Face the problem, not the people and separate the people from the problem.
• When an option arises, ask yourself why…..and then ask ‘why not’?
• Be both firm and open.
• Talk about where you’d like to go, not where you’ve been – expect the same from others.
• Recast an attack on you as an attack on the problem.

The book provides this example, “When you said that a strike shows we don’t care about the children, I hear your concern about the children’s education. I want you to know that we share this concern. They are our children and our students. We want this strike to end so we can go back to educating them. What can we both do now to reach an agreement as quickly as possible?”

Although Sam’s work group meeting was not perfect and a few times he could feel his heart rate begin to increase, progress was made. Whenever the conversation began to focus on what people had done or not done, he remembered to bring their attention back to the problem or situation. He noticed the rest of the group started to do the same. He was both firm and open with his contributions. All voices were heard, collective interests identified and everyone’s dignity was maintained.

As a result of this experience, Sam decided to keep the book on his desk, where it would be more easily accessible in the future. Sam is a fictional character, but there are many people who experience the situation that Sam was in. They can benefit from this same resource. The next time you are feeling like Sam remember to implement the tips from this book.