Conflict a Good Thing? Sigh . . . .

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Ruth McCambridge

Dr. Conflict wants to help you with your conflicts – good and bad.

In the conflict-related fight or flight choice, I used to be a fight kinda gal – but with age I believe I am becoming more of a flight lady.

Most of the time now I get a stomach ache from conflict – a kind of queasy, unsettled, and scared feeling. I am sure it comes from: 1) my worry that I am being irrational and screwed up in the argument, or 2) a concern that I will lose the other person to the fight . . . or both. My kids say this makes me a nicer person but I think it may also make me less a leader.

The fact is that sometimes we have to risk things to break up a bad pattern and when others are, for some reason, attached to it. This takes clarity of purpose and principle and a usually a lot of “chutzpah,” a Yiddish term that can be defined either as boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence or impudent rudeness or lack of respect. It’s not easy sometimes to strictly distinguish between the two.

This week I wrote two newswires about young girls who chose to risk conflict over complacency. One was about a small organization called Reel Grrls which decided to take on – by tweeting with chutzpah – Comcast (a funder of theirs) who had hired a former FCC regulator as a lobbyist. After having their funding withdrawn by Comcast, they produced a video that started, “OMG! I can’t believe you broke up with me by email!”

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The other newswire was about two Girl Scouts who took on their own national organization for its use of palm oil in their cookies. Their concern flowed out of a project on orangutans they were doing for their Bronze Award where they found that the habitat for the orangutans was being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. They have joined with Rainforest Action and other Girl Scouts in a campaign to pressure the Girl Scouts to change the recipe.

Both situations were inspiring – the girls had chutzpah.

Not all conflict is so inspiring or clear cut, however. Many situations in which we have conflict are confusing for those involved. We wonder – are we being unfair? Overreacting? Acting from bad intentions?

Again, Dr. Conflict is ready to help you with these quandaries. Write to the doctor here and we will respond in confidence.nizations we work in and with provides directional signs. Thus establishing organizational culture becomes a powerful act of omission or commission. To paraphrase Mario  Morino, “It’s the culture, stupid.”

So maybe you have a question about the ethical appropriateness of some practice in your organization? Go ahead and ask it or anything else you please. This morning we received a question about an affair between a board president and an executive. The ethicist stands ready to answer it all!

Submit your question here and we will forward it on. You will receive a response within the week. Of course, we will keep your identity secret and work with you to ensure your confidentiality.

The previous column was taken from NPQ’s eNewsletter, written by Editor in Chief, Ruth McCambridge. Click here to have it delivered free to your inbox.