Yuvi Panda

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UCI Conflicts Class: Notes from Week 1 – Part I

I’ve started taking a Coursera class on Conflicts from UCI.

Just dumping notes from me going through the video lectures here. I’ve a bunch more videos to go through for Week 1, but dumping what I have for now.

Types of Conflict:

  1. Constructive
  2. Destructive
    1. Caused by lack of flexibility, getting interpersonal things get in the way and the sureness that ones way is the right way
    2. Leads to stiffling of anything new, resulting in ‘this is the way things have always been’ being used as an actual legitimate reason for things

Sources of Conflict

  1. Economic Conflict. Resources are scarce, people tend to hoard them. Individuals stand by and watch as other members look for resources and can not find them, without helping. Dysfunctional.
  2. Value Conflict. Ideals / Principles / Preferences. Very difficult to sort out. Some values you hold very dear might be opposite to what the environment supports. You bring your own definition of values, and expect others to be compatible with it, conflict ensues. Individuals expect everyone to behave / believe / follow same philosophy they do.
  3. Power & Control. Power some people decide who they are. Titles are important. Individual takes power in always being first to speak, forcing their decision on rest of their team. Nobody’s appointed someone to a position, and they decide they are the one who takes the lead role, even though they have not that much support from elsewhere.
  4. Interpersonal conflict. Just between two individuals who can just not get along or not have civil interactions. They might’ve been friends at some point even, but something happens and splits them off. This can also be very dysfunctional for the team they work in.

Levels of Conflict 5. Role conflict – without clear definition who plays what roles (leader, decision maker, etc). Defining a team requires outlining responsibilities and what role they play. (This can probably lead to 3, 2, 1, 4, if not handled properly) 6. Intergroup. Inter group can be same as 1-5 but as groups, but can also be about respect. Example: Sales and Marketing fighting over who is the reason their product sucks. Groups can be silo’d can can think they are only responsible for their own success / failure, without thinking of cross-team stuff. 7. Multiparty. In M&A, the ‘surrendering party’ will have individuals who will be emotional and not like that this is happening. This is a lot of (5, 3, 2, 1) – freefall for everyone! 8. International. Diverse work force, cross cultural. Far more complex

Case study: Overtime

Manager asks you to work overtime, not get paid, cites projects being overtime etc.

Multiple options – such as: 1. suck up to him. 2. ask him to fuck off. 3. report him to his own boss. 4. Say you understand his perspective, but do not want to go against company policy.

Now, the course suggests you pick (4), which is an interesting choice – I would’ve picked (2), but that is not going to decrease teh amount of conflict, only increase it. (4) is bullshyt (in the anathema sense of vague euphemism that doesn’t actually say what the person means), but is something that leads to the least amount of conflict. However, I don’t know if that really is the best way to handle this shitty situation – since that’s just going to lead to bullshit all around. It does, though, AGF on part of the manager – which depending on what you think, might or might not be a good idea. Hmmm..

Bullshit vs Conflict? Maybe you have to have one or the other. OSS projects that consider (4) to be just bullshit do indeed have more amounts of conflict.

Of course, the real solution is to be not in such a place at all, and make the environment be that way through some form or way. So maybe (4) is an acceptable answer…

Very fascinating!

Case study: Dominant team member

Putting down everyone else, making everything not go well.

  1. Why is this individual behaving this way?
  2. What do you need to do to bring the team back together in one cohesive unit?

Has even more what-I-would-call-bullshit suggestions. “Setup roles for meetings, have a discussion about norms”, etc. However, they all could possibly work, which isn’t true for what I would’ve done – which is to PM the person and talk to them.

I guess there is a difference between ‘doing the right thing as you think it is’ vs ‘doing the thing that has highest probability of getting you to objective’. Now, with corporations said objective is easy to define – make more money, I guess – while for movements it it is much harder…

Case study: Convo with coworker

You had a conversation with coworker, and didn’t feel it went well. What do you do?

  1. Explore what your feelings are, and what it is that you specifically feel didn’t go right. When you do this, you clear away emotions that could possibly be clouding ways for solutions. Focus only on the facts.
  2. Go to actual peer, be open to receiving their position / feedback. LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND BEFORE BEING UNDERSTOOD.

Interview: Brent Rasmussen

Everyone assumed they were responsible for some part of the website, and everyone had different ideas for what it is. Need to explicitly figure out who is responsible for what and who is in a ‘consultive’ role.

Positive conflict can raise the bar, for things that other people did not think are possible.

For destructive conflict, figure out when is the right time to discuss it.


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