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Healthcare: A Hot Bed of Controversy

Healthcare QuestionsHealthcare…a real hot bed of controversy. How important is it? I don’t think there is a debate here. It is significantly important. I think we can all agree on that. Right? However, what we find ourselves in conflict about runs the gamut from patient quality care, patient safety, medical billing errors, insurance denials, healthcare provider mistakes, and now, the Affordable Care Act or “Obama Care.” Most of us are no stranger to healthcare conflict and the exorbitant costs.

Healthcare laws, policies, healthcare insurance contracts and billing statements are often conflicting causing confusion, frustration and downright emotional breakdowns.  There are numerous examples…Money is taken out of you salary for healthcare benefits but your unsure of what they are. You have a doctor’s visit with a specialist; and you do not understand why your health insurance will not cover it. Or, maybe there has been a medical treatment error or you question the perceived mistreatment of a family member in a hospital or nursing home by a medical care provider. It could just be a misunderstanding but allowing this misunderstanding to go unresolved or clarified only leads to escalated conflict. And what you need most right now is good communication between you and your healthcare professional. Here are a few tips to better help you improve communication with your healthcare provider.

  1. Bring a friend or family member. Dealing with complex medical issues can be confusing, emotionally draining and difficult to make decisions. Having a friend or family member as you visit your healthcare provider gives you the extra support you need to listen, ask questions or hear a different perspective.
  2. Ask questions. Your health insurance and healthcare providers are responsible for answering your questions and helping you understand your medical situation. Ultimately, you are responsible for the decisions you make but it needs to be based on solid information.
  3. Seek clarification. It is often hard to take it all in at the doctor’s visit. Maybe you forgot or misinterpreted something your healthcare provider said. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your healthcare provider or their assistants for further clarification.
  4. Take notes. Whether it is a pen and pad or your tablet, bring it with you to take notes. This well help you remember any questions or comments you would like to make regarding future and presence issues of healthcare.

Many of us have faced or are facing these healthcare issues or know someone who is. These situations can quickly escalate and become emotionally-charged, potentially dangerous and life threatening, and possibly result in threats of lawsuits with drawn-out and expensive litigation. Going to court may be the best decision for you depending on your legal rights, your interests and the law. However, court does not have to be your ONLY option for hopes of resolving, understanding and coming to an agreement. What are your other choices? Let’s See!

Alternative Choices for Resolving Healthcare Conflict Early On!

  1. Patient Advocate. This person can be a family member, close friend, social worker or anyone you trust that can speak on your behalf, who can communicate and work well with others.
  2. Ombudsman. An ombuds who specializes in the healthcare industry can assist patients and their family’s healthcare providers and/or the hospital’s organization in resolving conflict that involves quality of care or patient safety.
  3. Mediation. The mediation process utilizes a third-party neutral to help you and your healthcare provider, engage in a constructive dialogue and possibly come to fair agreement.
  4. Arbitration is a legal proceeding utilizing an arbitrator who makes a binding decision based on the facts presented in the case and the policies and laws governing the medical situation.

The Texas Conflict Coach will host a Health Care and Conflict series starting Tuesday, February 4, 2014. Listen and learn from experts in the healthcare industry their best tips and strategies for managing healthcare conflict.

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Pet Wars – Mediating Conflict Involving Man’s Best Friend

Conflict Resolution is a veteran field of study. The use of creative and peaceful ways to handle conflict amongst individuals who waDog with boxing glovesnt to be heard and express their interests gives many people the opportunity to help resolve and manage the conflict they encounter daily with each other. Strategies and methods such as mediation, conflict coaching and other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practices are used often to resolve disputes involving people but, what happens if the issues to resolve are about your pet?  Yes, that’s right I said your pet. Pets are often the source of conflicts for the people that love and own them, more than we would like to admit. Our beloved pets are often considered “family members” and can even be included in your will. Think about it

Have you ever been in a divorce? You split up all the furniture, other belongings and the money but the dog you brought with your partner is stuck in the middle. Who gets the much-loved dog, cat or even the horse? Or maybe, your hyperactive dog loves to play outside, chase squirrels and bark at everything it sees keeping you up at night. The nice neighbor reports you to the city for nuisance noise and you get a warning to control your pet. Another example is the next door family farm with so many clucking chickens that the noise and smell make you ill.  A common conflict involving animals is the person with disability(s) who has a service animal. The service animal is very important to the owner as the service animal assists the owner in activities of daily life. The person with a disability often encounters challenges and conflict as they enter public facilities, service establishments and the insensitive individuals unaware of disability-rights and the laws that protect the person with a disability.

The most extreme example of conflict escalating to violence involving someone’s pets is the recent Dog-Poop trial in Dallas, Texas. If only this situation had been handled through community mediation much, much sooner people’s lives would have been saved. Imagine all the people in conflict that involve animals.

So, how do you resolve sticky issues regarding animals?

  1. Have an honest and constructive conversation about your concerns without attacking the other person. If nothing changes, then
  2. Find a professional conflict practitioner or even a mediator that is neutral regardless of whether they are a pet lover themselves. Someone who can respect the non-pet owner as well as the pet owner.
  3. Identify your resources and how to handle situations involving animals. For example, know what your city’s ordinances are and the fines for nuisance noise and barking dogs. Understand your rights and the rules when it comes to community space such as dog parks, apartment living and pet-friendly restaurants. Learn about disability rights and how to fairly treat and engage with people who use service animals.

Be courageous! Do not be afraid to exercise and use your resources to prevent further escalation. Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes focus on all participants’ needs. In these cases, the needs revolve around animal conflict.

To learn more about Pet Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution visit Hamilton Law And Mediation, PLLC and Dispute Thy Neighbor: Hire A Mediator. Also check out our recent podcast Another Arrow in Your Dispute Resolution Quiver: Animal Conflicts and Alternative Dispute Resolution or Nipped in the Bud, Not in the Butt.

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program



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Creating Peace One Step At A Time with Kenneth Cloke

How important is conflict resolution to you? What are you doing to prevent, manage and resolve conflict in your daily life…your neighborhood, community and throughout the world? Conflict resolution and peace building are important tools for effective communication in order to assure clarity and acknowledge the interests of all individuals in a dispute. These tools allow us to examine ourselves and the language we use in conflict. The impact of language in conflict affects us, the people around us and the diverse world we live in. In a special episode, The Language of Conflict, Kenneth Cloke will join us to share his thoughts, experiences and expertise about how our language can easily escalate conflict or if thoughtfully used can deescalate and expand our understanding of each other.

Kenneth Cloke is a highly regarded conflict resolution professional and practitioner. His continuous work and personal journey through this field are important as he explores the ways in which to create a non-violent world. Cloke’s global work, teaching, research and overall knowledge has lead him to write numerous books on conflict resolution including his latest book The Dance of Opposites. This book focuses on a new vision for conflict resolution a “conflict revolution” that examines the language of conflict and how the brain responds to conflict. In addition he has authored and co-authored 11 books including Conflict Resolution-Mediating Evil, War, Injustice and Terrorism, The Crossroad of Conflict-A Journey Into the Heart of Dispute Resolution, and Resolving Conflicts at Work: Eight Strategies for Everyone on the Job. Cloke has served as mediator, arbitrator, attorney, coach, consultant and trainer and specializes in resolving community, grievance, workplace disputes, collective bargaining, organizational and school conflict, sexual harassment, discrimination lawsuits and public policy disputes.

Most importantly he has taken his teachings and shared them around the world in Universities, colleges and other training programs at schools like Antioch University, Occidental College, Pepperdine University School of Law and Harvard University School of Law. Teaching in subjects such as; law, mediation, conflict studies, urban studies, political studies and other social sciences that can help create change in the community you live in.

His dedication and passion for peaceful tools for resolving conflict has pulled him in a direction to do amazing things. He has worked internationally in over 20 countries including Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, and China just to name a few. He is the President and Founder of Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBB). MBB is an organization dedicated to building a peace “Able” world, promoting skills of peace and mediation worldwide. They offer primary services to include:

  • Mediation (e.g., commercial, community, court, organizational, narrative, peer, evaluative, facilitative, transformative),
  • Mediation advocacy,
  • Dialogue,
  • Restorative justice (e.g., restorative circles; peace circles), and
  • Process design & facilitation.

MMB also has current projects in Colombia, Israel, Kenya, Liberia and other places to promote and use conflict resolution as an effective tool for peace.

Kenneth Cloke is the Director of Center for Dispute Resolution, which is a private center that offers a variety of services with a broad range of experience from multi-disciplinary professionals. The Center has been operating over 15 years. Kenneth Cloke is like many of us. He is dedicated to helping and creating change using effective tools for people all over the world. Remember any and every effort to resolve conflict non-violently makes a difference.

To learn more about Kenneth Cloke, listen to the upcoming show, January 14th at 7pm CT The Language of Conflict.

Written by

Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore, Dispute Resolution Program

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Make This New Year A Conflict Resolution Knockout

New Year Conflict Resolution

The time has come and the New Year is here! It’s fine, get excited. I’m sure you have great things in store.  I also know the New Year can overwhelm many of us with unresolved conflict. You go into the New Year with the same drama from the previous year, with unclear solutions and past grudges. You make new resolutions but with no steps to get you there.

Conflict is important in our lives because it is an opportunity to communicate our unmet and unheard needs. Think about how unresolved conflict affects your life and the people around you. Why are you dragging existent conflict into the New Year? Do you have a family member you never made up with? A negative situation that happened during Thanksgiving which you haven’t addressed? An ongoing feud with a coworker? Or even a problematic neighbor? All these situations create conflict in your life and you deserve to address them in the New Year, with a new or more effective approach.

So, what are your plans for managing and resolving conflict in the New Year? Each year you make a promise to yourself, you set goals…to do something better, less, more or implementing something you never did before. Most of the time you make these decisions because you want to improve yourself, your life or the situations around you in hopes of positive outcomes. You make the common New Year’s Resolutions like lose weight, stop smoking, less drinking, eat healthier, get a better job, save money and spend more time with family with friends. While all those things are very important, what about the conflict in your life or surrounding it? What will you do differently to change the way you handle conflict in 2014. Any goals?

For Starters…

  • ·         Be willing to communicate. Extend the welcome that you are committed to something different.
  • ·         Prepare to listen.  Listen for feelings and important information from the other person.
  • ·         Do not assume anything.  Ask the person you are in conflict with to explain their intention or motivation.
  • ·         Utilize your resources. . Ask for help from a mediator, Human Resource professional, or even a mutually trusted friend
  • ·         Accept differences. It’s okay to have different opinions and interests.

Tips for managing and addressing Conflict for the New Year (Adapted from Beyond Intractability)

  • Actively Listen. Pay attention to what the person is saying and ask for clarity.
  • Speak directly to the person who needs to receive the message. Give that person your full attention.
  • Speak from your perspective. If the message involves addressing your co-worker’s many long breaks, let the co-worker know how that impacts you or your work environment
  • Speak for a purpose. Plan out what you want to say and focus on it. This will keep you from rambling when you deliver the message.

 Conflict is often due to misunderstanding, ineffective communication and having different interests or needs. This New Year you can learn how to improve those things. Make this New Year a conflict resolution knockout! For more information listen to our past podcasts How to SOLVE Your Conflicts and Become Conflict Competent: Your New Year’s Plan.

 By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore



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Breaking Bad: The Decision to Change Holiday Traditions

holiday-traditionsBreaking away from family traditions during the holiday season can be difficult.  Regardless of the reason or the explanation given to your family, friends or spouse, it rarely goes well. Why is that? The fact is that traditions are traditions for a reason. Traditions hold a symbolic or significant meaning to your family, friends and yourself. Your absence from a tradition is more than just, “Hey, sorry we won’t be there this Christmas ”. Your absence from a tradition means the loss of chances to hear family stories or to connect with distant family members who you probably will not see until next year. Tradition is a sensitive topic especially when it involves holidays or large family gatherings, and it can create unpleasant feelings and conflict.

There could be many reasons why you decide to break from a family tradition. Here are a few that I came up with…

  • The growth of personal relationships (marriage). You and your new spouse want to start a tradition within your own home to celebrate the holidays. This can make your family or your spouse’s family upset.
  • The ignorance to diversity and difference within your family. For example, the fear to introduce a new spouse, college friend or co-worker from a different religious, racial, or economic background. These situations can create tension for all parties involved. See clip Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
  • The strained relationship with in-laws. The constant offenses or verbal attacks from each other during traditional holiday meals can discourage your attendance at those dinners.
  • Personal lifestyle choices. For example, you are now the raw vegan or vegetarian who no longer indulges in meat and/or dairy products. Yet your family still makes those traditional holiday favorites ham, deviled eggs and mashed potatoes, which you cannot eat.
  • Simple boredom. I will not sugar coat. I know family traditions can become stale and boring; so, you stay home or seek another place to go instead of attending the traditional holiday festivities your father or mother have hosted over the years.

Whatever the reasons are, do not brush them off. Don’t wonder if you are the bad guy because you want to break with tradition. Remember your reasons are just as important as the tradition itself! If you want to start your own family tradition say that, but say it respectfully, explain why and say it early. Don’t wait until the day of Christmas dinner to decide you want to break tradition. If the religion or the race of your significant other worries you, speak to your family ahead of time, don’t bring your significant other into the chaos. If in-laws are purposeful grouches, tell your spouse and speak to the in-laws privately before the family affair. If you are the vegan or vegetarian at the traditional meat-loving family dinner, bring a dish for the family to try. If a particular family tradition is boring, talk with mom or dad to change it up a bit. Just remember to be respectful, show that you still care and speak up early.

To learn more about the break from family holiday traditions visit Breaking With Tradition: How to Navigate the Delicate Subject of Changing Family Holiday Rituals or listen to our recent podcast, When Cultural Expectations Collide During the Holidays: Strategies for Multicultural Families.

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student
University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Holiday Travel Mayhem – Reducing Stress and Conflict

Preparing for TSA during the holiday season

Preparing for TSA during the holiday season

Many of us are not strangers to conflict that occurs during the holiday season. This is especially true for those of us who travel by plane to visit our family and friends out of town. If you cannot manage your stress and anxiety or take steps to prevent conflict, your holiday travel plans are sure to be negatively affected.  The conflict that appears is not solely based on airport security, delayed or cancelled flights. Your behavior, attitude and approach will influence how the conflict transpires.

Let’s look at an example. Its December 22nd, you and your 2 children arrive at the airport. You will depart from Texas to visit your mother and father in your Maryland hometown. You are going through the checkpoint with the wrapped gifts as the carry-on items. Included in one of the wrapped gifts are 3 bottles of perfume for your mother. In addition, your favorite cranberry sauce and holiday juice are in the bag as well. Security prompts you to stand aside because your liquid items exceed the 3-1-1 policies for carry-ons. You have also been asked to unwrap your gifts. The liquids are not allowed through checkpoint. Therefore, you must get back in line and place them in a check bag or dispose of the items. You are upset and begin to shout and point at security personnel. TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officials ask you to step to the side because your behavior has become inappropriate.

Your reaction to a situation might be a key factor in why the conflict manifested. Did you fail to think before you reacted? Yes! Don’t beat yourself up about it, I am guilty of this as well! Especially during the holiday season, you want everything to flow perfectly. Therefore, one mistake or uncontrollable situation such as a delayed or canceled flight could change your entire mood. It’s okay. Understand that unexpected things happen. The way to lessen the stress and anxiety is to learn how to manage conflict constructively. Think about the things you can control…such as carry-ons and checked luggage to prevent further conflict…here are some tips.

Strategies to reduce stress and prevent conflict from escalating include:

  1.  Step back and think before you react! Your goal is to remain calm and choose how you will respond to the TSA agent’s request so that you can move through the   checkpoint quickly and onto your gate.
  2. Be aware and prepare. Visit the TSA or airport’s website before you begin to pack for a flight as there could be changes in procedures for holiday gifts and food.
  3. Ship Gifts Early. Consider the option to ship the gifts ahead of time. The fewer carry-on items mean that there is less to worry about at the checkpoint or for that matter to worry about having your carry-on not fit in the overhead bins and being forced to check it in at the gate
  4. Arrive early. Give yourself enough time at the airport to deal with  larger crowds,  last minute changes such as he switch of items from carry-on to your checked bag  or flight delays or cancellations due to weather.
  5. Check out TSA’s Blog on their 2013 Holiday Travel Tips Refer to TSA’s website to see which types of foods are allowed through checkpoint.

To learn more strategies for holiday traveling, please visit Helpful Hints for Holiday Travelers and Traveling with Food or Gifts.

Listen to our recent podcast Surviving Holiday Travel .

By Tierra Henry

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Naughty or Nice: How to Handle Holiday Neighbor Conflict

STOP the music!

STOP the music!

Conflicts with neighbors can be some of the worst disputes you can encounter. With the holidays approaching, family parties, festivities, holiday decorations, loud music and unruly guests who blocked driveways are some of the many things that fuel neighbor conflict. These types of irritations can turn into unexpected arguments and are the start of an unhealthy conflict if not discussed constructively with your neighbors.

For example, your neighbor has family and friends over for a pre-Christmas dinner. Your lights are out and your car is not in the driveway.  A few people from your neighbor’s house are parked along side the street and you are blocked from your driveway entrance. Your neighbor believes it’s okay because he/she thinks you’re out of town for the holidays. However, later that night you arrive home after a long day of last minute holiday shopping you are furious because you cannot get into your driveway and your neighbor has music playing loudly. Your initial reaction is to get out of your car and bang on your neighbors door to give them a piece of your mind. Take a breath to weigh your options.

Often times these disagreements come from unmet expectations and can cause you to react in a not-so neighborly way. In order to productively approach the neighbors, ask yourself some questions before you address the conflict with your neighbor.

  • What exactly is the situation you are upset about?
  • What does your neighbor do or say/not do or not say that irritates you?
  • What do you need? (e.g. quiet time, ability to get in and out of your home)
  • How will you say it and with what kind of tone or attitude?
  • Where will you have this discussion? At your place, your neighbor’s home or at a coffee shop? Wherever it is discussed, remain calm and explain how it is affecting you. Remember, people get defensive when you bring up a conflict or they feel they are being attacked.  

Consider these strategies for how to prevent conflict or manage it with your neighbors.

 1.)   Know your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or apartment rules pertaining to large parties, outside decorations, and parking to prevent receiving a warning notice or having cars towed.

 2.)   Inform your neighbors of an upcoming holiday party.

3.)   Discuss your needs such as parking, loud music and partygoers.  This allows your neighbor and you to discuss potential areas of irritation and to come to an understanding and prevent potential conflict.

 4.)   Never assume that your neighbor knows what he/she is doing is bothersome to you.

 5.)   If you become triggered or irritated by a situation, remain calm and practice what and how you will approach your neighbor. Be clear about how the situation is impacting you and what you need.

 6.)   If a neighbor has been difficult in the past or communication is not effective consider other options such as mediation.

 To learn more about how to prevent and deal with nuisance neighbors, visit Conflict with Neighbors- Suggestion for Preventing Conflict and Neighbourhood Disputes or listen to our upcoming podcast Neighbor Nuisance Brings You Holiday Annoyance to prepare for the holidays.

Written by Tierra Henry, Graduate Student

University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Don’t Let Greed Breed Conflict And Interfere With Your Holiday Cheer

Overwhelmed by gift exchanges.

Overwhelmed by gift exchanges.

Holidays, Holidays, as Andy Williams said “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” and I’m sure it is for many. Unfortunately, it can be stressful with unrealistically high expectations and unforeseen conflicts ending with nasty arguments, disappointed family members and friends. Gift-giving exchanges among our growing extended family and friends causes some of the most anxiety and frustration. Why? Unmet expectations, values we place on others or ourselves about gift giving, and the need for love and affection that often gets tied to the gift and gift giver.

Have you ever been unsatisfied with your gift? Thought your husband, wife, best friend, sister or someone close to you didn’t spend enough on you?  Were you expecting something different? The hair dryer was not on your “expected” gift list. Could you not afford to give everyone a gift due to the growing size of your family? These unmet expectations create conflict. Hurtful comments are made. You feel the tension, the awkward silence and the anxiety.

The truth is we have all been there in that same position. You are not alone. Every year you tell yourself “I’m going to plan better next time” or “I will stick with a budget” but it never works out. Mentally you are drained and you haven’t prepared yourself for the chaos that will come when your family, best friends or unexpected guests arrive at your home for holiday festivities and gift exchanges.

Imagine, it’s Christmas day at your home and your family is exchanging gifts. Your aunt opens her gift and her facial expression goes from a smile to a face of concern. You ask her if she likes her gift and her reply is “yes”. Later that day you find out she is upset because the gift you got her is entirely too expensive.  You spent way more on her than what she spent on you. Yes, people get upset if they receive a holiday gift that they believe is too “pricey”. In addition to your upset aunt, you also find out that your cousin is saddened because you didn’t get him a gift. Unfortunately, you did not have enough money to buy him a gift.   You believe in spending within your means or budget. Right? That’s exactly right! Your cousin goes off on a tantrum and believes that favoritism within the family is the reason he did not receive a gift, not the fact that you did not have enough money. The conflict begins.

Here are some tips for how you can keep money and gifts from creating family conflict.

  • Create a budget and STICK TO IT! Don’t spend what you can’t afford.
  • Try creative ideas like “Secret Santa”. Decide on minimum and maximum costs. Explain the rules CLEARLY!
  • Be honest. It does not hurt to explain to family and friends why you decided to change the gift giving process.
  • Use Gift Cards.  Relatives and friends can buy whatever they want! Even giving the same gift can eliminate conflict then no one complains about favoritism.
  • Communicate effectively…be open and transparent about your expectations and hopes for the holiday season.
  • Show appreciation for the thought and action behind the gift.

To learn more on preventing conflict around gift giving this season, visit How To Avoid Money Arguments During the Holiday Season and Communication Currents.

Listen to our podcast archives to help you prepare for the holidays.

       How To Manage Financial Conflicts Within Your Family During The Holidays

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore

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Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: Speak Up, Speak Out, Speak Now!

Cultural Diversity

Cultural Diversity

Religious wear, cultural dress, racial identification, hairstyles, food, tattoos and piercings are examples of cultural diversity. There is a strong possibility that people in your workplace possess at least one of the aforementioned identities. Unfortunately, different expressions of cultural diversity can be unintentionally offensive to some or intolerable by others in your workplace.  According to Power of Culture,Culture is indeed everywhere. It forms our belief systems, frames perceptions, formulates understandings, and guides behaviors.” How do you address an aspect of cultural diversity that becomes a conflict? What are your company’s policies regarding cultural diversity issues? Who do you discuss this concern with in your organization? Was the form of cultural diversity intentionally offensive? These are questions I recommend you ask.

Diversity is a sensitive issue, and plays a key element in conflict. Because cultural diversity is a part of your individuality, it is symbolic of your identity and it is important for your workplace and employees to understand and respect it. Don’t be afraid to access your power! I too encountered a conflict at my job that involved my cultural identity. I was told by my supervisor to remove my headwear. I was not given a reason as to why I had to remove it. When I approached the supervisor privately and asked why it had to be removed, my supervisor replied, “It just couldn’t be worn here”. The reply was neither respectful nor accurate. I decided to access the employee handbook and refer to the dress code section. The dress code guidelines in regard to religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds did not correspond to the directions I received from my supervisor when I was asked to remove my headwear. I discretely brought this to the attention of my supervisor and showed that my headwear did not have to be removed. Although my supervisor did not apologize for being wrong or offensive, I was now aware that referring to the Employee Handbook is a valuable resource.

Education and awareness are the most respectful ways to inform yourself and others about cultural diversity and to be culturally sensitive to these differences. For example, you make a comment about the smell of your co-workers food in the break room. Your intent is not to harm but the smell to you, is foul smelling and now your co-worker’s reaction is defensive, as they perceived your comments as offensive. Although you did not intend to hurt his/her feelings YOU DID! It is best for you to address this and for you understand why it is culturally inappropriate.

Here are tips on how to respond to conflict as it relates to honoring your cultural identity.

  1.  Acknowledge your feelings. Remember it’s okay to feel offended and hurt.
  2.  Respond immediately to the conflict privately and professionally. Don’t let the issue linger.
  3. Have a copy of the Employee Handbook and reference it during your workplace conflict.
  4. Communicate. Start with the person who you felt offended by first. Then, if you believe this warrants going to your supervisor or Human Resources for a violation of your rights. There is also the option of accessing mediation services either from within your organization or outside sources such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

 To learn more about cultural diversity and conflict visit Beyond Intractability and The Power of Culture.

 by Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Don’t Let Misunderstandings Leave You Misunderstood! Tips for Delivering Messages

imagesMisunderstandings –don’t you just despise them! They ruin many conversations from the personal to the professional. Your delivery of a message (s) can often times be perceived differently than what you intended. For example, an employee might over hear a supervisor say “I GOT HIM!” The employee understands the message as something negative. The supervisor’s intention however, is “I finally understand him.” Many times messages are perceived as negative when considering how it is delivered, and this can create a great deal of conflict. This mostly happens when your boss or your team leader has to deliver an unpleasant message in the midst of an existing dispute. Delivering a hard message can be harmful if it is not presented in an effective and constructive way.

According to author Heidi Burgess, all communications have two valuable roles, the sender and receiver. The sender is the person who delivers the message and the receiver is the one who accepts and interprets the message. The interpretation is when your conflict will most likely occur. However, interpretation is not solely dependent upon the receiver. The sender can frequently provide you with reasons to believe that the message has an undesirable intent. His/her posture, tone, level of empathy or the type of space chosen to deliver an unpleasant message could be the reason why you interpret it as rude, impolite or offensive. If your boss or team leader is delivering a difficult message to you, the characteristics aforementioned should be considered and valued.

Picture this! You’re a team leader/manager and your boss just gave you bad news. The news basically states that if the customer service numbers don’t improve substantially, company layoffs will occur. You now have to deliver this tough message in the clearest and most understandable way for your co-workers and team. If the message is delivered as a threat, ultimatum or blame, any person in your department could take this as a personal attack. Maybe this past month his/her numbers were low. It’s challenging…right? Exactly!

Here are few tips to lessen misunderstanding (Adapted from Beyond Intractability)

  •  Actively Listen. Pay attention to what your co-worker or boss is saying and ask for clarity.
  •  Speak directly to the person who needs to receive the message. Give that person your full attention.
  •  Speak from your perspective. If the message involves addressing your co-worker’s many long breaks, let the co-worker know how that impacts you or your work environment
  • Speak for a purpose. Plan out what you want to say and focus on it. This will keep you from rambling when you deliver the message.

The bottom line is that unresolved misunderstandings in communication creates conflict! Ongoing conflict can create a destructive work environment. To learn more about delivering difficult message visit these links 10 Tips For Delivering Bad News and How To Deliver Difficult Conversations.

 by Tierra Henry, University of Baltimore Graduate Student



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