New Year’s Resolution = Conflict Resolution

 

It’s the end of 2017 and, of course, it’s time for 2018 resolutions!

What are your plans for 2018?

Here at the NC State Faculty & Staff Ombuds Office, we are working on our own resolutions (drink less coffee, eat a more balanced diet, get more sleep, help people solve more problems – the list goes on and on!!) yet there is one resolution we can make together.

Let’s choose an issue in our work life that’s causing us some difficulty and let’s do something about it!

In a program I present called “Conflict Leadership” I ask participants to think about how each of us approaches conflict using a framework developed by Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilman (Thomas Kilman Inventory of Conflict Styles) that includes five approaches – avoid, accommodate, compromise, compete, collaborate.  All have merit and are absolutely good choices depending on the circumstances of the situation and the outcome desired.  At the same time, we often don’t stop and think about our choices – we don’t anyalyze and think strategically about what our choice should be –  we have a default preferred style and we go with it even if it doesn’t really fit our situation.

And, as you probably already know – the most popular conflict style is to avoid it! Again, this can be the right choice when the issue is trivial or it needs time for folks to calm down or if given time it will resolve itself.  So, I’m not “anti” avoid; however, when we avoid work place issues these can grow to much bigger and more impactful problems.

Thus, make the following resolution for 2018 – pick a “smallish” work place issue that you’ve been avoiding, think about it, and decide if there is a way to do something about it – preferably to resolve it!

And, if you want some help contact the faculty & staff ombuds office and we’ll work on this resolution together!

 

It’s all a matter of perspective – Going South !

 

I recently attended a gathering of NC ombuds and we had an excellent meeting with far ranging discussion. These are great meetings for ombuds to share ideas and ask for input on issues and ombuds processes.

At one point we were talking about how each visitor to the office usually comes in with only their own perspective and that part of our role is to help folks consider multiple perspectives. While we’ve all heard the phrase “there are two sides to every story” I’ve decided that this is not correct and that there are more like 6 or 7 even with only two people involved! And, as I’ve said many times in my mediation career, when asked about a situation, the answer always depends on which chair you are sitting in.  Thus, I think from the start of any visitor meeting that for each issue, dispute, or conflict there are multitude points of view and my hope and effort is to help people gain broader perspectives on the situation.

And, while we were on the topic of perspectives at the NC Ombuds meeting, someone brought up the use of the term “south” as in “things going south.” This is a phrase most are familiar and generally holds a meaning that things are not going well. We wondered why those of us who live here in the south, don’t instead say “things are going north”!!

I did a little research (not very scientific) and the thought seems to be that “things going south” as a negative statement is fairly recent in origin coming from business settings where a chart showing a decrease was headed down, the same location as “south” on a map; hence, “things going south” connecting with bad news.  Apparently in England, the phrase was “things going west” for a time although “going south” has made its appearance.

In any event, as we ponder how we consider a situation, including even language choices, an important step for those seeking to resolve issues is about shifting perspective or at least examining a situation from many vantage points. When such shifts occur people remove boundaries from their thinking, the constraints come off, and solutions may appear.  One significant perspective shift is the idea that the issue is not me versus you; instead it is “us” against the “problem” and together we can move forward.

Contact the Faculty & Staff Ombuds office if you want to consider how you think about a situation and then we’ll head south for a good outcome!!

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.

Dealing with conflicts – do you want or need a bridge ?

I recently saw an Ansel Adams exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art and along with iconic shots of the west, I was captivated by a 1932 photo of the Golden Gate before there was a bridge (the bridge opened in 1937). Adams lived in San Francisco, in the Baker Beach area, and apparently spent a good bit of time in and around the bay taking pictures and exploring the Marin hills. Here’s a print of the photo that is now up in my office.

So, what does a conflict look, feel, and sound like without a bridge?  How do we conceptualize and build such a bridge? Or, do we really want or need a bridge? These and other questions speak to me in this photo and, while as the Faculty & Staff ombuds, I certainly don’t have all the answers; I will work with you to figure out if you want or can build or perhaps find a bridge across a conflict.

Maybe the bridge is a referral to existing services or a facilitated conversation or it might just be the time in my office where you share an issue with the knowledge that it stays in the office unless you decide otherwise (with a few exceptions).  My experiences to date suggest that spending time reflecting on and discussing an issue or conflict provides clarity to the dispute and often generates some options for next steps. Sometimes you can envision a bridge that does not yet exist. Thus, I invite you to come by, enjoy the print, and we can also talk about some issue of concern.

Resolving Conflicts – the Present, the Future, and the Past

 

As you may know, the NC State African American Cultural Center is in the midst of its 25th Anniversary year (1991 – 2016) (Congrats!) and I was on the Center website recently when something caught my eye. It was a banner showing the West African Adrinka Symbol Sankofa (“learning from the past” or “return and get it”). I wanted to learn more and found another version to share in this post.

Adrinka are visual symbols developed by the Ashanti people who are native to the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The presentation is of a bird turning around to catch its lost egg with the meaning that it is never too late to turn around and start on a new path once a mistake is recognized.

This idea fully resonates with my work in the conflict resolution field and as the NC State Faculty Ombuds as people can get bogged down in the past. Sometimes people are unwilling to recognize a mistake or are just stuck and, in either case, are not willing to start a new path. Connection with the concept of Sankofa, as I listen to faculty members share situations, I often encourage people to not fully discard the past in order to move forward; instead, use the past and learn from it in order to create a new path.

Thinking about the past and future is also part of the “The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution” by Dudley Weeks, Ph.D.  Weeks thinks of people in conflict as people in a partnership and that in order to resolve issues, people must work together. He outlines 8 Steps that focus on resolving conflicts and preserve relationships. Step 5 is “look to the future, then lear from the past.”  Weeks takes the idea of Sankofa and turns it around. He asks people and groups in conflict to first consider the present and the desired future, then go back to the past. Weeks explains: “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)

Taken together Sankofa and Weeks’ Step 5 provide a great tool to resolve conflicts. I encourage you to be in your present, then look to the future, and then check-in with the past. What do you want your future to be? Can the past help guide you or do you need new patterns? Good luck and let me know how it works out!