Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

This conflict happened a few years ago during one of the many Executive Committee(ExCo) meetings for our Co-Curricular Activity(CCA). This conflict involved the President, myself, the Co-Captain and the Secretary. The main issue of the conflict was the way the CCA trainings and logistics were run under the care and involvements of only the presidents instead of the ExCo.

Before ExCo was formed, there were unsettled disagreements among the team that was mostly swept under the rug. They were mainly; work ethics differences, gender stereotypes in leadership skills and attitudinal barriers. However, these unsettled disagreements were decided mutually amongst us to let bygones be bygones and move forward and to try to work as a team. Fast forward a few months later which is the start of the conflict. The meeting was an intervention proposed by the president in order to know about the reasons behind their consistent absence and/or lateness during most trainings.

The intervention got heated up when myself and the president were being blatantly accused for being the sole reason for their reluctance to come for most of the trainings. Two of my committee members had raised their voices and was pointing out that the training set up, attendance marking process and the leniency towards the juniors were not acceptable and it had been different from the way the seniors had done them. The anger in their voices were very distinctive to hear as they stated their accusations.

The president and myself were obviously shocked by what has been said. We tried to compromise our positions by trying to find out why they thought so and our fault so that we can improve ourselves and also the committee as a whole. Unfortunately, they became more aggressive. They started to point fingers stating that our incompetencies and our lack of trust in them caused the low attendance rate among the juniors. However, the fact was that the semester finals were in 2 weeks time and juniors would rather have more study time. It was a baseless accusation since we were the ones that had a lot of interactions with the juniors outside, during and after trainings.

In rebuttal, we pointedly state their faults and the reasons why things were done so and our lack of trust in them in dissatisfaction. This led to accusations increased and old disagreements were brought up. Not long after, the meeting room was filled with arguments. Since the intervention had gotten nowhere, the intervention had gone into a truce. We agreed on the terms of each of the ExCo members had to come for trainings at least 4 times per month and everyone has to be involved in the paperwork. Also, every ExCo member is to inform everyone what goes in and out of the CCA, be it good or bad, and everyone has to put trust in each other work ethics.

At that point of time, calling a truce was the best solution for the conflict. This was because as an ExCo, we needed to manage our differences and meet in a middle where everyone is able to work with each other peacefully in harmony. I do believe there are other ways of settling this conflict as I thought back given the situation of being the accusing party.

What do you think should’ve been done before or during the intervention without blowing things out of proportion and how would you play in this type of heated conflict? Do let me know.

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4 thoughts on “Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

  1. Hi, Zu, that was really a rough conflict you had experienced there with your ExCo members. A conflict is a common phenomenon especially in the Co-Curricular Activity (CCA). However, there is a way to handle the conflict well in order to not get the matters to be escalated much further since the conflict was not the problem but it was poorly managed.

    For instances, in your situation, I believed the conflict is a result of perception, miscommunication, and misunderstanding. This was not a bad conflict after all, in fact, it was a good conflict. It showed that there were still opportunities for improvement. Having said that, it seemed that the problem among the ExCo had not gone away as the previous or old conflict had not been resolved properly. If I were in your shoes, I would apply the conflict resolution techniques of smoothing also known as accommodating. Since you had tried to compromise but it failed and gotten worst.

    It is important to provide a temporary relief from the conflict or buy time until you are a better position to respond or push back. Noting that the conflict started off by an accusation and the two committee members raised their voices despite giving any fair chances to provide your explanation. Hence taking this approach, since you had no other choice or when continued competition would be detrimental.

    In this cases accommodating will help protect more important interests while giving up on some less important ones. It also gives an opportunity to reassess the situation from a different angle. Do take one step backward and consider the negative air floating around the room. Access the root caused or the main problem that sparked a conflict. It is not the situation but the perspective on the situation that causes anger to fester and ultimately leads to a shouting match or other visible and disruptive evidence of a conflict.

    However, do not keep in the dark for too long, when the appropriate time comes, quickly reached out to the leader that you are comfortable speaking with. Access the emotional intelligence so that you have your stand and your opinion is voice out. Provide your own solutions to resolve the conflict and stop fighting. Start cooperating and that means steering the discussion away from finger pointing and toward ways of resolving the conflict.
    Taking the approach at one step at a time and solving the conflict one people at a time, resolve the past conflict and meet a closure. Be prepared and be accepting when you are in wrong hence provide an apology quickly to put the matters at peace. There is a risk to be abused. The opponent may constantly try to take advantage of your tendency toward accommodating. Therefore, it is important to keep the right balance and this requires some skill.
    Having conflict or dealing with conflict can be stressful. This approach may negatively affect your confidence in your ability to respond to an aggressive opponent. Eventually, this conflict may be managing effectively although it makes it more difficult to transition to a win-win solution in the future. However, do take note that there may be some of your supporters may not like your smoothing response and be turned off.

    KhairulanwarAR

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  2. Hi Zu, CCA is like the place that conflict easily happen. Cause everyone have that own thinking within themselves and ego is something that naturally build in us. Some of them with big ego will tends to never let things go off easily and they will find way to stir matter worse or make up stories. By doing so, they will end up pointing the finger on to you again saying that you are the issue to all this matter.

    For me, I have seen many and experience in many this kind of issue. I would not say that I not a culprit in this kind of issue also but what goes around come around. Once you got hit by someone you surely have higher chances that you are doing it to other people as revenge.

    To your issue, the best is step back and take a look on what they are doing. There is a saying “the greatest victory is that which requires no battle – sun tzu”. This is because we jump into the trap of the other group who is going against us, we triggered our angry and trying to retaliate back to them with no plan and idea. While they have planned and ready to let you start the issue, they will eventually be in the wining spot. This will simply happen before the meeting and everything behind would not happen. Of course your step don’t stop there, as this still draw the line between you guys 2 group of people. Try to make some bonding games, make some activity to pull relationship between both group to bond together. I believe that strong friendship in CCA is the move to keep your member coming for training even how tired you are. I learn this from my secondary school cca as a captain of the judo team, we train at least 3 times a week and about 3hrs a training. Everyone have the idea of skipping but knowing that everyone is coming up for training, we never fail to turn up to have fun even training don’t start officially until we finish running around the school and stairs for few round.

    In conclusion, I think that we may have different in life or view, but once we keep us together close we can make the difference to similarity. From Sun Tzu again “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”, if things goes well, the title “enemies” will be gone and friendship is born from there.

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  3. Yo Zulaiha! It is quite unfortunate that this has happened to you in your CCA. Students join CCAs to have a place to go to in school, that takes the student away from school work doing what they enjoy.
    Initially, the you mentioned that the issues exist in the committee, are normally pushed aside. And since this was a mutual agreement to have these issues ‘under the rug’, shows that everyone was willing to be cooperative and chose to collaborate by not speaking about the problem that they share. Instead, the problems were “settled” by not doing anything about it at all.
    However, the situation only got worse after the bottling up all these unaddressed matters and eventually having them being blown up all in one incident which led things to be worse. With your two angry committee members displaying their anger with raised voices, showed that they wanted to be heard, maybe because they have not been able to bring up their thoughts. In the heat of the moment, things got aggressive, people became competitive and everyone was uncooperative towards solving the problem at hand.
    But in the end, the issue was solved and settled amicably. But after classifying the main cause, which was to bottle up the issues, you pose a question to avoid the situation.
    I believe in resolution through conflict. If a conflict arises, it is an opportunity to test the group or team on their relationship. The group who manage to solve the conflict, are normally the ones to have been able to build a stronger relationship between each other. Culturally, in a social aspect, we are taught to talk about our problems between each other so the perspectives can be seen and understood between one another. So if the previous issues were addressed earlier, it would have not blown up that way because they would have understood each other a lot earlier and work towards a solution faster each time.
    Again, in your experience, I honestly feel that the situation was settled the way it should. Calling a truce would mean that they are willing to continue to work together and let the issue be passed. I think that they have agreed that meeting the task at hand, which is to get resolve the low attendance problem. This is a good example of a cooperative team.

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  4. Hello Zulaiha,

    If I were you, I would have done the same way as you have explained. Your scenario is quite similar to the one that I have experienced and also was written in my blog except that yours has a higher stake as this concerns the CCA as a whole and also there are many different people of power who are in play. I also like the idea of having the truce as this would have a win-win situation as the result. As ExCo, responsibilities are very high and this is very important to uphold as the other members of the CCA look up to the committee for leadership. A disunited committee portrays a bad vibe in a group and I am glad that a solution was done swiftly to prevent further escalation of conflicts.

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