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Human Resources

Weekly Wisdom 11-30-2016

 

Conflict

verb

1. to come into collision of disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash: 

The account of one eyewitness conflicted with that of the other. My class conflicts with my going to the concert.

2.  to fight or contend; do battle.

noun

3.  a fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife.

4.  controversy; quarrel:

conflicts between parties.

Honestly, conflict is always a part of the job when you are director of HR…animosity amongst co-workers, clashes between supervisor and employee, tug-of-wars between colleagues, discrimination complaints, perceptions vs. reality, etc. In most cases, my job is to inform, educate, and assist in resolving the conflict. I know that not all conflict is bad but it is uncomfortable. Reflecting about my experiences, there have been times when I have waded in too far, trying to make things better while not having the responsibility or power to do so. I have to also acknowledge that there were times when I probably didn’t take enough action because the risk was too high or the stakes were too low. 

On Facebook recently, I read the following by a gentleman named Michael Anthony from LA:

On Wednesday, I was standing in line at the grocery store. It's the day before Thanksgiving, so it is quite literally a 45 minute wait. I'm standing by those dreaded magazines with all the horrible headlines, which I always try to ignore.  Everyone is keeping to themselves mostly, except for... a total stranger…who has the audacity to elbow, point to Hilary and Michelle Obama on the cover of one magazine, and quite loudly state: "I can't believe that loser **** thinks she can steal the win from Donald. Her and that ****** are such whiny *****." Then he laughs heartily.

When I say that he spoke loud, I mean bellowing. I look around -- and everyone not only in my aisle but the aisle on both sides of me has heard. They grimace...and then they look down. Men, women, white, black... They look down.  I suddenly flash to a remembrance of me as a 6-year-old child. A family member once owned a home that was part of the Underground Railroad. We'd sit behind this concrete slab under their deck and talk about what happened here. Even as a small child -- a young, white man myself -- I said I would die before I let that kind of open hate live in my world. I made the same resolution when I learned about the holocaust in junior high. And I felt that exact same fire now -- in the grocery store.

I found myself, like everyone else, looking down...but I couldn't continue to do that. After about 30 seconds, something in me snapped. I put down my basket, turned around and looked that man in the eyes. I was shocked by how badly I was shaking, but words began spilling out of my mouth, loudly and fiercely.

I asked everyone: "I'm sorry, everyone, but I must ask for some support in addressing this hateful and ignorant man. Look up, please. Someone look up because I can't do this alone."  People began to look up. I began to cry and I don't know why but I couldn't stop. I continued staring the man down... "Those comments were inappropriate and I will not allow them in my world."

His reply? "Dude, calm down. I wasn't calling you a **** or a ****."  By now, everyone was looking up. I continued, shaking uncontrollably. "You will stand in this line and you will keep your mouth shut. You won't speak. You will not address any of us. You will pay for your items and you will leave."

He kept trying to respond, and I kept cutting him off by calmly, repeating "You're done. Shut your mouth." By now, people were clapping. Eventually, he got quiet and looked down. We were all looking up and now he was the one looking down.

Immediately, everyone began talking. Not about him, but the holidays. Joyous, laughing. And it wasn't out of embarrassment or to pretend what happened didn't just happen.... But it was because we were instantly bonded in this weird but beautiful way.

Together, we silenced ignorant hate. We made the choice to look up. And we shared a moment. I was overwhelmed with emotion and fear before I decided to speak, but I asked for help...and help came forth, strongly and beautifully.

 

Last night, I attended a Not In Our Kittitas County. I came away feeling a renewed sense that we are all in this together.  Regardless of our politics, let’s look up and speak out to make CWU and our community a better place.  Please…

 

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