Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Flexibility Holds the Key to Success

Sorry for the delay with this entry - third year priorities and all that! You will be please to know that my dissertation presentation (for which you followers were dumped for, sorry) went very well and I am on track with conducting my primary research. I'll keep you posted! Anyway...

Last week in our Persuasive Comms lecture, we discussed the different perspectives or 'frames of reference' for dealing with conflict:
1. Unitarist: sees organisations as essentially harmonious and any conflict as bad;
2. Pluralist: sees organisations as a collection of groups, each with their own interests;
3. Interactionist: sees conflict as a positive, necessary force for effective performance;
4. Radical: sees conflict as an inevitable outcome of capitalism. (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004, pg 792)

We were told that most of us will already hold one of these perspectives naturally, and that we will therefore deal with situations according to these views. I'm pretty sure I naturally hold an interactionist view - I agree that there needs to be conflict to achieve successful outcomes but that there is an optimum level which should not be exceeded. I am definitely most comfortable working in this way within a team.

Radical is a bit too erm...radical for me as well as highly unethical. Although I understand how they might be appropriate perspectives in some cases, I couldn't relate to the other two frames of reference very much. Afterall, 'Groupthink' is my worst nightmare! I later discovered that interactionist is the usual management view, which tends to exist in fast moving organisations that need to be open to change in highly competitive industries. Sounds good to me! :-)
I shouldn't get too comfortable though. I also learned that it is important to be flexible in your frames of reference, as there is value in being able to view conflict from different perspectives. That's a given I suppose, because at the core of any successful PR professional is the ability to understand and adopt the viewpoints of others. Our adopted frames of reference on conflict will determine:
1. What we notice in our environments;
2. How we will interpret those noticed events;
3. How we expect others to behave;
4. How we will behave ourselves. (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004, pg 792)

In organisations where there are different frames of references in action at once, interpretations of events will be very different and this can cause misunderstandings. So if we have a group meeting at uni and there is debate about what plan of action we should take, someone with an interactionist view may come away satisfied that the meeting went well whereas someone with a pluralist view may come away dissatisfied with how much hard work it was to come to an agreed decision. This explains why an understanding of the different approaches is important.

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