This fall, for the first time, the "conflict" class is offered as an "OSU Statewide" course over Ed-Net (broadcast satellite). The course includes students from a variety of Oregon sites in addition to Corvallis; Bend, Coos Bay, Salem, Portland, Newport, and more. We need to all work together to make the course useful and meaningful to everyone.
In the sections that follow, you can learn about the course "rules and regulations," the class schedule, and explanations for the assignment options. Enjoy!
The Teaching Team
Exams. Everyone (both COMM 440 and COMM 540) experiences a midterm. Papers will be written in lieu of a final exam.
Papers. You will write up to four: Optrions include: (1) a conflict metaphor paper, (2) a conflict case study, (3) a conflict assessment, (4) an article advocacy paper, (5) a conflict web site search, (6) a conflict self critique. COMM 540 students will write an analytical paper.
Late assignments. Papers should be turned in on time. For each week (defined as ten minutes to seven days) a paper is late, it loses 5% of its worth. I try to return "on time" papers within one week. If give no assurances about late papers; I get to them when I can. Late papers cannot be rewritten. I tend to apply very rigorous standards to extremely late papers.
Re-doing papers and exams. As long as your attendance is good, you can re-write papers and take a second, etc. version of an exam (if turned in on time).
Grade/task requirements and assignment "weights" are as follows:
COMM 440 Grade Goal Midterm Paper 1 Paper 2 Paper 3 Paper 4 Term Paper Commit
A 35 10 15 15 20 xx 05
B 40 15 15 25 xx xx 05
COMM 540 30 15 20 xx xx 30 05
The Commitment grade represents my judgment of your commitment to the course, as demonstrated by attentiveness, participation, attendance, etc. I use the +/- grading system. Your course grade is computed by multiplying the value of the grade received for each assignment (i.e., 12 for an A+, 10 for an A-, 8 for a B, 2 for a D, etc.) by that assignment's weight and summing the results for all assignments. For example, the weighted grades for a student who received all B's would sum to a total of 8, or B.
Evaluation of performance and achievement involves judgments of quality.
Please note that I view quality of work as significantly different from
(and more important than) quantity of effort.
The A range is for excellent to outstanding performance and superior achievement.
The B range denotes good to very good performance and substantial achievement.
The C range indicates standard, acceptable, average performance and achievement.
The D range is for substandard performance and marginal achievement.
An F is given for unsatisfactory performance and achievement.
An I is given only for documented emergencies or other extraordinary circumstances. An Incomplete is not a "dead" or finals week option as a stress management tool.
9. Office Hours are Mon and Wed 1400-1700. I am available other times by appointment. If I cannot make scheduled hours because of another commitment (e.g., department chair stuff; a committee meeting), I will provide and post an alternate time.
Organizational Conflict Variables: Power, Face, Climate, Structure,
From Assessment to Strategy to Implementation: Competent Conflict Management.
Oct 29 Collaboration versus Competition. Conflict Management Skills. PAPER 2 DUE.
Managing Conflict and Resolving Disputes through Negotiation.
Nov 05 THIS SESSION WILL BE BROADCAST FROM COCC IN BEND.
Week 7 Conflict Management and Culture.
Nov 12 TAKE-HOME EXAM DUE.
Week 8 Third Party Intervention in Conflict. Mediation and Facilitation.
Nov 19 PAPER 3 DUE
Family Harmony and Conflict over Turkey or Tofu.
Social Conflict Variables: Impersonal Conflict, Conflict Complexity, and
Dec 03 Conflict Management Competencies and Skills across Contexts.
COMM 540 - Conflict Assessment Seminar. ASSESSMENT PAPER DUE.
Dec 10 COMM 440 - Paper 4 DUE.
Option A: Personal Conflict
We all experience conflict in our important relationships. Your task is to analyze a conflict you have experienced recently or are involved in currently in one of your relationships or endeavors. The relationship conflict you consider could be one related to work, school, family, church, or any other important part of your life. The conflict should be reasonably substantive and one in which you do matter (e.g., a conflict with a co-worker is substantive, a conflict with a sales clerk at Nordstrom's is typically not significant or enduring). The conflict you address may be interpersonal or impersonal; dyadic, group, or organizational.
You should present and analyze the conflict "case" you select. The case should be an important communication experience. You need to:
1. Describe the conflict "case." Tell what happened or is happening and who is involved. What are the tangible and intangible issues in the conflict? Is the content over issues of content, relationship, procedure, or identity? Provide any relevant background information but do not spend to much time on the "description" portion of the paper. Supply enough detail so that someone who did not witness the situation could understand what was/is going on. You do not need to provide dialogue.
2. Analyze the conflict. Drawing upon relevant class materials, explain what is/was happening. You might want to consider the nature of the conflict, the role of power in the conflict, the conflict styles exhibited, etc. What were/are the potential underlying causes of the conflict (e.g., differences in values)? Has the conflict been constructive or destructive, including particular functional or dysfunctional behaviors? Have critical points (sometimes called turning points or crisis events) occurred? What has been the nature, role, and quality of communication in the conflict? Has the conflict demonstrated different stages of "struggle?" Include in your analysis reasons for the conflict behavior you have displayed.
3. Discuss how the conflict was managed or should be managed. What strategies were or could be employed? What problem-solving potential existed? Could the conflict be de-escalated? How? Evaluate the way in which the parties dealt (or are dealing) with the conflict. Suggest alternative means of dealing with the conflict. Prescribe what you consider to be a viable solution to the conflict.
The above "thought provoking" items are designed to give you focal points for discussion. You should take this information and define the assignment and the paper in a way relevant to you.
Option B: My "Conflict" Self: How I Deal with Conflict
This paper is about you and how you think, feel, and deal with conflict in your life. You should focus on interpersonal conflict and conflict interaction. This paper is an introspective "think piece," one that does not require you to cite readings repeatedly or go through the texts in detail (although you should draw upon the materials of the course where appropriate). Rather, the paper is about you and how you deal with conflict.
As you contemplate how you deal with conflict, you may want to consider some of the following issues:
1. What is your attitude toward conflict in your relationships? Do you feel positive or negative about conflict when it occurs? Do you view conflict as healthy or unhealthy? (You might think about your personal metaphors for conflict).
2. When a conflict occurs, how do you generally respond? What strategies do you typically employ? Do you engage or avoid conflicts generally? If you engage conflict, do you do so usually in a contending or problem-solving fashion?
3. Do you feel empowered in conflict situations? How do you deal with conflict when power is an issue?
4. What "intangibles" appear in conflicts you experience (e.g., face saving). How do you deal with them? How do they affect your interaction? Do you deal differently with issues of content, relationship, procedure, and identity?
5. Are you content with how you manage conflict in your relationships? Are there things you would like to change? How might you better handle conflict in your relationships?
6. What are your strengths and weaknesses when dealing with conflict?
7. How do you verbally respond to conflict situations? How do you nonverbally respond?
8. What is your most common "conflict style?" You might discuss how you appeared according to some conflict inventory, such as the Thomas-Kilmann tool discussed in this course.
9. Do you have particular goals concerning your handling of conflict? Do you have ideas on how you might reach those goals?
You may want to consider issues not addressed by the above questions. I do not expect or encourage you to answer ALL of these questions. The questions exist to generate ideas; focus on what is meaningful to you.
As you prepare the paper, you may want to focus your discussion by: (a) discussing how you approach conflict generally, (b) comparing and contrasting a couple of different kinds of relationships in which conflict occurs (e.g., co-worker and friend, parent and "significant other"), or (c) considering a particular important relationship. The key to an excellent paper is explaining WHY. You should clarify WHY you approach and deal with conflict as you do. For example, if you are content with how you deal with conflict, explain WHY. If you generally avoid conflict, explain WHY.
Additional Paper Options . . . Options C, D, E, anf F are . . .
SOME TERMS AND DEFINITIONS: A "CONFLICT" GLOSSARY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Conflict: The interaction of interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals (interests, aspirations, positions) and interference from each other in achieving those goals. An incompatibility. "A conflict exists whenever incompatible activities occur . . . an action that is incompatible with another action prevents, obstructs, interferes, injures, or in some way makes the latter less likely or less effective" (Deutsch, 1973, p. 10). Incompatibility may appear in conflict as different interests. "Conflict means perceived divergence of interest, or a belief that the parties' current aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously" (Pruitt and Rubin, 1986, p. 4).
Conflict realm: the social environment in which the conflict resides, defined by both context and process.
TYPES OF CONFLICT
Interpersonal: Goal interference attributable to the actions of other individuals.
Impersonal: Conflicts individuals encounter with a nonresponsive, impersonal entity (e.g., a bureaucratic organization). The individual may experience feelings of powerlessness and frustration. Before these impersonal conflicts can be resolved through direct, constructive communication, the "impersonal" party must perceive interdependence; if not, that party will likely not see a conflict.
Corporate: Conflicts that occur within and between formal organizations. These conflicts are influenced by the nature of the organization and its policies, both formal and informal, concerning change.
TYPES OF ISSUES
Substantive: Tangible (observable, definable, measurable) elements parties perceive: "what to do, what decisions to make, where to go, how to allocate resources, or other externally objectifiable issues" (Hocker & Wilmot, 1991, p. 46).
Procedural: Discussion of procedural issues may need to precede discussion of substantive issues. Procedural issues are generally tangible.
Relational: Intangible, subjective material. "Each party's importance to the other, the emotional distance they wish to maintain, the influence each is willing to grant the other, the degree to which the parties are seen as a unit, or the rights the parties" accede to one another (Hocker & Wilmot, 1991, p. 48). Power, authority, responsibility, control, and leadership may appear as relational issues.
Identity: Identification with a group that shares symbols, meanings, and norms/rules for conduct (Collier & Thomas, 1988). Within interpersonal relationships, people negotiate social role and personal identities (Ting-Toomey, 1986). Identities provide individuals with purpose, meaning, and a sense of worth. They can be broad in scope, like nationalism, or narrow in scope, such as identification with an individual or even personality type. Typically intangible, identity issues can feature concerns about self- esteem (Hocker & Wilmot, 1991), acknowledgement, achievement, reputation, and image or "face" (Folger & Poole, 1984).
TYPES OF PARTIES
Parties are entities (individuals, groups, organizations, governments) capable of making decisions directly or indirectly related to the conflict. They have a stake in the outcome. Three major types of parties may appear in any conflict situation.
Primary parties: Major players in the conflict; perceive that their goals or aspirations are incompatible with one other and interact directly with each other in pursuit of their objectives.
Secondary parties: have a vested interest in or may be affected directly by the conflict and its outcome, but for some reason (such as inadequate resources, lack of access, perception of inappropriateness), are not directly involved. Secondary parties are potential coalition members, and may become primary parties at some point.
Peripheral parties: have an interest in the conflict and outcome but are not affected directly. The media and "general public" may be peripheral parties in a conflict.
Direct conflict party: the party interacts and negotiates for her/himself.
Agent: a representative involved on behalf of the conflict party.
Secondary or indirect conflict party: the party uses a conflict agent; the conflict party advises the agent and may give the agent responsibility, while maintaining decision making authority.
Active engagement: parties acknowledge the conflict and deal with it assertively. Leads to either contention or collaboration.
Distributive/Competitive Negotiation: involves a dispute or problem in which the goals of the parties stand in direct conflict with one another. The bargainers perceive resources as fixed or limited. Driven by self-interest, each party wants to maximize its share of the available resources. Consequently, the disputants employ tactics designed to gain as much outcome as possible (Lewicki & Litterer, 1985, p. 76). Each party seeks power and control.
Integrative Negotiation: incorporates potentially compatible goals and
aspirations. Lewicki and Litterer (1985) explain that "the fundamental
structure of an integrative bargaining situation is that it is possible
for both sides to achieve their objectives" (p. 102). emphasizes the generation
of alternative solutions to disputes through creative problem solving (see
Walton & McKersie, 1965; Fisher & Ury, 1981; Pruitt, 1983).
Bargainers interact in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation, motivated
by shared self-interest; committed to finding a mutually beneficial outcome
through joint decision making. stresses process and means.
Mixed negotiation: When issues singularly or in combination involve significant elements of conflict and considerable potential for integration (Walton and McKersie, 1965, 161-162). A complex combination of integrative and distibutive bargaining.
(This information is adapted from: Walton & McKersie, 1965; Lewicki & Litterer, 1985; Pruitt, 1983; Fisher & Ury, 1981; Tracy & Peterson, 1986; Peterson & Tracy, 1979.)
Fact-finding: The use of an impartial third party individual or panel to investigate the dispute. Via hearings and other means the fact-finding party assembles all information pertinent to the dispute. The information is subsequently presented to the parties in conflict, with or without recommendations.
Arbitration: The intervention into a dispute by an independent, private,
and impartial third party individual or panel who is given the authority
by the disputants to make a decision concerning how the conflict will be
settled. Arbitration may be binding or non- binding, single or multiple
issue, and conventional or final offer.
Facilitation: The use of a impartial third party to provide procedural assistance to group participants or disputants in order to improve information exchange and promote effective decision making. The facilitator may or may not be a member of the group involved in the discussion.
Mediation: An intervention by a neutral and impartial third party into an existing dispute in order to facilitate joint decision making (integrative) negotiation. The mediator does not resolve conflict for the parties, has no authority make decisions for or control the actions of the parties, and can work effectively only when all parties participate willingly in the mediation.
Negotiation: A joint decision-making process involving two or more parties who bargain to resolve a perceived conflict of interest. The disputants join voluntarily into a temporary relationship to educate each other about their interests, goals and aspira tions; to exchange specific resources; or two resolve intangible issues such as the nature of their future relationship.
Process Consultation: An intervention by a neutral and impartial third party into a conflict in order to teach the disputants how to manage conflict constructively and to create a foundation for productive dialogue over substantive issues. Like facilitators, process consultants focus on procedures rather than outcomes.
Conciliation: The psychological and substantive preparation of disputing
parties such as a mediator or counselor to discuss gnificant, tangible
issues. Conciliation involves improving communication, building positive
perceptions, and promoting trust.
American Bar Association (1990). Legislation on Dispute Resolution: Federal andState Laws and Initiatives Pertaining to ADR. Washington D.C.: ABA Standing Committee on Dispute Resolution.
Fisher, R., and Ury, W. (1991). Getting to Yes, 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
Folberg, J., and Milne, A. (1988). Divorce Mediation: Theory and Practice. New York: The Guilford Press.
Folberg, J., and Taylor, A. (1984). Mediation: A Comprehensive Guide to Resolving Conflicts Without Litigation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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TABLE OF CONFLICT DEFINITIONS IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Author(s) Definition Key Terms
Social conflict is a struggle between opponents over
values and claims to scarce status, power and resources. struggle, opposition, scarcity
Conflicts that are strategic are essentially bargaining
situations in which the ability of one participant to gain
his ends is dependent on the choices or decisions that the
other participant will make. strategy, bargaining, dependence
Deutsch 1973 A conflict exists whenever incompatible activities occur . . .
one party is interfering, disrupting, obstructing, or in some
other way making another party's actions less effective. incompatibility interference ffectiveness
1985 Conflict is a process in which two or more
parties attempt to frustrate the other's goal
attainment . . . the factors underlying conflict
are threefold: interdependence, differences
in goals, and differences in perceptions. goals
1986 Conflict means perceived divergence of
interest, or a belief that the parties' current
aspirations cannot be achieved
1990 Conflicts are communicative interactions
among people who are interdependent and
who perceive that their interests are
incompatible, inconsistent, or in tension. communication
van de Vliert
1994 Conflict--incompatible activities-- occurs
within cooperative as well as competitive
contexts . . . conflict parties' can hold
cooperative or competitive goals. incompatibility
Stutman 1997 Conflict is the interaction of interdependent
people who perceive incompatible goals and
interference from each other in achieving
those goals. interaction
As Table 1 reveals, these definitions have much in common. First, they indicate
the inevitability of conflict in human affairs. Second, they reveal key features of conflict
situations. Many of the defninitions, for example, stress that conflicts involve
interdependent parties who perceive some kind of incompatibility between them.