Got Conflict?

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The other day I was with a few colleagues and a representative of a major foundation. We were having a conversation about a collaborative project we wanted the foundation to fund and in the course of the conversation one of my colleagues began taking the program officer to task for something the foundation was doing — or, to be more accurate, not doing.

As I watched my colleague talk in his usual animated, passionate and straightforward way I was struck by the oddness of the situation and inadvertently started to laugh. It was just so unusual to have someone not observe the usual cautions in this kind of interaction.

Knowing this particular program officer, it was clear to me that he would rather hear what people in the field are thinking, than not hear it or only hear it fourth hand. But the latter scenarios are generally what passes for normalcy in this sector. We are, for the most part, a “resource-dependent” bunch and sometimes we act like dependents as a result. Such a disempowered baseline.

Acknowledging serious differences and facing conflicts is not easy for most of us, especially when power differentials exist, but if there has ever been a time for us to get over it, it’s now. Sometimes you must stand your ground and find a way to “fight it out.” To that end, I’ve linked to my old friend Kenny Bailey’s article on addressing conflict.

Our own Dr. Conflict also welcome your questions; you can read his most recent column here. If you send the doctor an example of a conflict in your work life that you need to resolve, he will answer you within days. If we choose to print your question and his answer, we will ensure your identity is protected and that you see the edited copy before it is finalized.

Meanwhile, a shout out to Illinois nonprofits waiting to see what the legislature will do with its Doomsday budget threat. Keep us abreast of what happens!