The Emotional Connection of Distinguishing Differences Distinguishing among differences and conflict, and managing differences within the realm of functional conflict is a vital role for any manager. This capability is becoming more important for managers to possess. The vision of managing differences is also becoming more important for organizational members to embrace. Carol Parker’s essay on the emotions involved in the socialization process of different people provides insight into the challenges and conflicts organizations must reckon with when adopting a diversity management strategy.
The essay also explains the long term value of a well executed diversity management strategy. The necessary level of conflict that Carol Parker defines as being adequate to successfully harness the advantages that a diverse organization can utilize is a dimension of functional conflict in an organization. The inverted triangle of conflict among and out of differences can be viewed as a gradient between functional and dysfunctional conflict. The type of conflict the diagram deals with is that which results from diversity and managing differences.
The essential tenets of conflict management can be applied to this particular type of organizational conflict. Parker’s essay deals with the individual emotions that construct internal conflict within individual members and among members of an organization. The latent conflict that a diverse organization harbors will eventually manifest itself on the personal level if not properly managed. This latent conflict is broken down by Parker and the source is revealed as being a focus on the differences between individuals rather than on the similarities. My reaction to this thesis is one of complete agreement.
Differences will inevitably threaten organizational members when the differences are first noticed. Once organizational members feel threatened they are unlikely to embrace diversity. They will probably assimilate, but will remain somewhere between the first and second tier of the Escalation of Differences triangle. In order to keep cultural conflict within a functional range, similarities must receive focus as well as differences, that way new ideas and innovation will be perceived as insightful rather than as a product of an individual who is dissimilar from others in the organization.
Parker ends her passage by placing responsibility of cultural conflict on a paradigm perception and value system our culture possesses. Fritzof Capra’s quote is used as evidence for her application. I believe that a strategy of focusing on similarities just as much as differences within an organization protects a diversity management strategy from the theory that only a paradigm shift can foster successful conflict management resulting from diversity. Differences must be managed before they result in a personal conflict episode. It is at this point that the conflict becomes dysfunctional.
In order to be functional conflict must remain only be present on an organizational or medium size group level. When a conflict episode occurs on the personal level the middle tiers of the Escalation of Differences triangle are breached. Parker emphasizes the importance in dealing with emotions during conflict over differences. Focusing on similarities and placing many channels of communication throughout an organization minimizes the risk of conflicts becoming dysfunctional. ———————– Ian Markham MGT 306 12-14-2004