Conflict Resolution - 1991

Shared by Twin Oaks Community
Tags: Process, Committees, Conflict Resolution, Manager-Planner System, Expulsion

Conflict Resolution
Twin Oaks

Conflict Resolution TO-G1

Process Team's Proposal for Our Involvement in Addressing Conflict

(a procedure for dealing with differences, getting issue clarification and working on resolution. Fomerly called the "Feedback Proposal") - REVISED: JULY 1991, by SYD

The Process Team has not been, and does not want to be delegated authority to make binding decisions as part of the government of Twin Oaks, but instead functions as a procedural support and advisory group available to any individual or group of Twin Oaks. We think there is a need for the community to recognize and discuss together issues that do not necessarily deal directly with business decisions.

What the Process Team Is Offering
We are proposing here a standard way that the Process Team would be involved in issues not being resolved elsewhere. Having a way to address conflict and knowing how to get help in resolving it can maintain members' morale and therefore community morale.

When the Process Team's assistance in interpersonal conflict is requested, it can be fore facilitation, mediation with settlement, liaison(s) appointed to present feedback and/or conduct SERES interviews, to conduct a small "private" feedback, or to test for community support of a public feedback.

Our definition of a feedback:
A structured communication for the purpose of one or more people expressing-- in as a constructive manner as possible--their thoughts and/or feelings on another person's behavior(s) about which they have serious concerns, and which they do not believe to have been responsibly acknowledged by the person(s) for whom the feedback has been called.

It is said that a feedback is "for" Fulano if Fulano is the intended recipient of the views to be expressed. A feedback will generally be open to the whole community membership, and to that membership only.

It is the desire of the Process Team that feedbacks be entirely constructive in intent. They are recommended in cases where we see long term potential benefit for the community by addressing the issue(s) at hand, and when there has already been an attempt to resolve the matter in other, less formal and less public ways which proved unsatisfactory. We hope that we can formulate a way of looking at the situation constructively, not assuming condemnation. We advocate a practive of giving feedback based on subjective experience of another's behavior, not judging the character of the person for whom the feedback is called or even finding some "objective" good or evil in a particular behavior being discussed. A feedback is intended as an important step of realizing our common goal of living together. Most community issues are resolved with less formal efforts.

It is the Process Team's belief that it is the responsibility of each member to provide other members an avenue through which they can send constructive criticism and ask questions about perceived violations of community agreements and norms. Having and using these forms of informal interpersonal communication will help to avoid the need for more formal and structured means for giving feedback.

Who Calls Feedbacks
THE PROCESS TEAM DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CALL A FEEDBACK; ONLY THE PLANNERS AND--FOR ISSUES RELATING TO MEMBER-SHIP--THE MEMBERSHIP TEAM HAVE THE POWER TO DO SO. The Membership Team, the Community Planners, and individuals voluntarily asking for a feeback can call, and have in the past called, feedbacks for their own purposes. In these cases, the Process Team need not be involved, but could be consulted or asked to help organize. In each case, the decision making body that calls a feedback decides the format and solicits the help of a willing facilitator to help realize the intent and structure of the feedback.

However, when the Process Team is asked to facilitate an interpersonal conflict that has not been resolvable elsewhere, the PTm can recommend to the Planners that a feedback be called. The Process Team will not recommend that a feedback be called unless the following conditions are met:
--the PTm is convinced that all other reasonable and appropriate channels of communitcation have been attempted and proven unsuccessful.
--the PTm agrees with evidence that the concerned members have not been adequately responded to.
--the PTm deems the weight of the concerns sufficient to warrant a feedback.
--all of the steps will expressly involve full opportunity for input from the intended recipient(s) of the proposed feedback.
--there are reasonable prospects for offering sufficient support and safety for those ` concerned in the prospective feedback.

When You Have A Conflict: Steps Before A Feedback
Following is an outline of process steps leading to a feedback. All steps need not be taken, where there is little or no expectation of effectiveness. These are steps to try after a person finds a behavior objectionable. The process would terminate whenever satisfaction is reached by all parties, or the bodies attempting to facilitate this satisfaction declines a request to continue. If you are botherd by someone else's behavior, we suggest these steps:
1. Approach the person directly (face-to-face or in writing).
2. Get help to communicate directly. (This could be having one or more persons perceived to be neutral in the matter and to the peole involved be a third person facilitating. The third person may help them reach a mediated settlement. This person can be someone from the PTm, or other.)
3. Approach an organizational entity within the community which has responsibility for or designated interest in the behavior (or consequences of the behavior) that is the object of concern. Such an entity may not exist, or may be unwilling to engage in this work. Also, the behavior may overlap several areas. In these cases, the Process Team can help advise. If your concern is not dealt with satisfactorily, repeat your attempts, moving up the organizational chart of the community, until the planners are reached.
4. Consider doing a Self-Examination Response (SERES) interview. You may choose to do this anywhere along the line, and it can cause changes in the way you view the conflict and resolve the issue. It may still mean that further intervention may be called for. Anyone can refuse a SERES interview. Refusing to do a self-evaluative interview can make it more likely that a feedback will be necessary, or at least that it will happen sooner. We think that doing a SERES is a good preparation before attempting conflict resolution, promoting better understanding and empathy. In some cases, it could prevent a feedback.
5. Formally request the Process Team's assistance. PTm reviews the history of the conflict and options explored. It then suggests what, in its view, is the most constructive course. It will aim to recommend a process that will be the least invasive approach consistent with the greatest good for the community. The PTm will expressly consider the history of behavior or communication concerns with the intended recipient as a factor in its deliberations. If appropriate, it will test for support in the community for a feedback. NOTE: While the PTm is, by definition, primarily concerned with process, it reserves the right to initiate a test for community interst in a feedback without a formal request from a community member outside the Process Team. (We are thinking of instances where there may be an accumulation of objectionable actions, or a persistent behavior pattern that warrants further attention, but for which no one member is prepared to step forward to initiate procedures.)

Testing for support for a feedback
1. We notify the recipient of our intent to proceed with testing for support for a feedback. We include full information about the action or behavior which is perceived to be objectionable, or for which there is some suggestion to review. As a eneral guideline, we will look for at least 10% of the membership to be willing to speak at the feedback.

2. We post a 3x5 notifying members that we are gathering input on the situation/behavior in question. In addition, we will ask that members who favor a feedback and who are willing to step forward and speak if one occurs, identify themselves to the PTm. Members will have 10 days to offer their views on whether a feedback is warranted. They may speak or write as fully as they care to about what they think is the best course for the community. Letters and 3x5's will be accepted in personal mailboxes or delivered in person to PTm members, in lieu of having a Process Team mailbox.Some supporters or opposers of the feedback may want to give their input orally to PTm members; this is also acceptable.

3. The PTm will review the input at the close of the posting. If there is not enough interest or support for the feedback, we will not recommend one to the Planners. Based on such factors as degree of concern expressed, seriousness of issue involved, numbers of people prepared to speak, and strength of opposition to a feedback, the PTm will weigh the input and make a recommendation to proceed with a feedback, or some other course. This recommendation will be made fully public.

4. If a feedback is recommended by the PTm, the Planners will then deliberate on whether to support this request or not.

5. If Planners call a feedback, the PTm will arrange a date and facilitator(s) as agreable as possible to the intended recipient and all committed speakers. Every effort will be made to encourage the intended recipient to attend and constructively participate in the feedback, but once called, the feedback will be held whether the recipient attends or not. The recipient will be consulted about what type of format will be most likely to be constructive. The decision-making body will choose from the following formats, with (a) being the most favored setting according to input at the time of this writing:
a. The individual in a room with a group of people wanting to give oral feedback (our traditional approach);
b. The individual chooses one or two liaisons to attend the feedback and report back to the recipient;
c. The individual chooses one or two liaisons to interview the members who supported having a feedback, and these interviewers/liaisons report back to the recipient;
d. have a group meeting to do SERES questions together, also referred to as "issues clarification"--where each person answers questions for themselves such as "How do I contribute to the problem?", "How can I contribute to the solution?" and "What can I ask from the group?" or, the individual may propose another format that would be acceptable to the decision-making body.

Since the goal is for the individual for whom the feedback is called to hear the feedback and to consider and comment on what changes co is willing o attempt, we recommend that the individual either write a response on what was communicated, ask for an interview (in which co could give responses) or ask for another meeting to discuss responses orally, regardless of which format is used. The Process Team will assist people in writing a response, if help is requested. Decision-making bodies will consider the concerns of those giving feedback as well as those of the recipient in their organizing of a response format. The person or persons who called the feedback will have the right to decide what type of format will be used for a response to the community.

Possible Consequences
If the person for whom a feedback is called either refuses to hear feedback in any of the proposed formats, or refuses to make a timely response to the feedback received, the Planners may call another feedback. If behaviors that are violating a norm or policy continue, the Planners may facilitate the formation of small groups of members who are affected by the behavior to support each other and openly dispprove of this behavior, providing continual reminders to the individual for whom the feedback was called. If non-cooperation continues, and as a last resor, the Planners may require counseling, or begin expulsion procedures for said individual. Expulsion would be justified in any case where the Planners determined that "co openly repudiates the principals of the community and works against their implementation." (see Twin Oaks By-laws, section attached)

It is up to the individual(s) requesting the feedback meeting to decide if they will identify themselves as such publicly. This disclosure would be encouraged by the Process Team but not insisted on. The Process Team will take responsibility for the recommendation based on its research, discussion, and judgment on the outcome of the steps outlined above. The Planners would take responsibility for deciding to approve or reject each of the Proces Team's recommendations.