OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

Using Communication to Limit an Intraorganizational Conflict

by Paul Wehr

Consider the following scenario:

Ruth is a senior manager in a government department. Her deputy, John, was one of the applicants for the position she holds and he was very angry when he was not appointed. John treats Ruth in a formal, unfriendly but polite manner. He carries out her instructions precisely, but never does more than she explicitly tells him.

Ruth decides that the tension between them is destructive, both for her and for the workplace, and decides to meet with John in an attempt to clear the air. Although he agrees to the meeting, he insists that there is no problem, that his treatment or her is entirely appropriate, and that he has no wish to have any sort of informal or personal relationship with her. (Tillett 1997, 31)

How might Ruth communicate in her upcoming meeting with her deputy to reduce tension between them? First, she would ask herself where it should take place? The physical setting can help or hinder communication. His coming to her office would emphasize the status difference and the related resentment already blocking communication. Her visiting his office might seem contrived. As neutral and businesslike a setting as possible would be recommended here.

Second, she would describe the tension she feels between them, and ask him what he thinks might be done to reduce it. Such an approach might induce him to disclose more of his own feelings. The "I" messages and active listening methods she would use would tend to personalize their communication sufficiently but not to a degree that would be uncomfortable for him. Finally, she might ask him to design a program for improving communication generally in the department. In so doing, he would become a resident specialist in it and a thus a deputy with special status.

Supporting Literature: Joyce Hocker and William Wilmot, Interpersonal Conflict , Dubuque IA: William C. Brown Publishers, 1991; Gregory Tillett, Resolving Conflict , New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu