Organization Development Network of Western New York

Conflict Facilitation Meeting Notes from May 2009

Posted in Conflict Resolution, Facilitation, Meeting Notes by Michael Cardus on May 20, 2009

OD Network of WNY

Meeting Notes

Participating: Charlene Brumley, Sandy Budmark, Barbara Bunker, Mike Cardus, Sarah Gilson, Kate Kane, Marti Kaplan, Rita Markle, Jeannie Miller, Brian Pettit, Linda Snyder, Pete Wendel, Jody Wiechec, Susan Woods

Susan presented her current thinking about Diversity Conflict from an Organizational Systems Perspective.  We all appreciated a good look into the evolution of her thinking on this topic, and Susan appreciated our reactions and feedback.  She shared the essential parts of the presentation:


  • Diversity is about people:  specifically the differences and similarities and diversity of thought or multiple perspectives
  • Inclusion is about organization: specifically the way an organization configures interaction, opportunity, communication and decision-making in order to operationalize the potential of its diversity.  Inclusive organizations are characterized by
    • fairness
    • recognition and
    • influence


  • Diversity is a resource to organizations because of talent and perspective, i.e. diversity of thought.
  • The challenge of diversity is two-fold.  On the one hand, greater diversity increases the likelihood for misunderstanding and conflict; on the other, greater diversity increased the potential for creativity, innovation and solution-finding.  The challenge is to “make diversity work” in order to “make diversity matter.”
  • Engaging diversity of thought as a resource requires willingness to share diverse perspectives, organizational readiness for learning from diverse perspectives and opportunity to engage.  Those who are diverse control willingness; the organization creates readiness and opportunity.  Moving toward an organizational culture that is able to diffuse and/or resolve diversity conflict is an essential step in supporting readiness and creating willingness.
  • Diversity conflict is difficult because it often it is not possible to separate the people from the problem.  Diversity conflict may be driven as much by issues of respect and relationship as much as by substance. It often involves group as well as individual identity and is rooted in history and memory.  It may turn on unintended and unrecognized interpersonal and intergroup dynamics.  Finally it often involved power imbalance and elements of injustice.
  • In addition, in organizations with diversity conflict, there is a need to
    • find a solution that works for everyone
    • avoid driving anyone out, and
    • discover new understandings of identity that leave everyone feeling good about themselves or seeing something they can be proud of.
  • For these reasons, diffusing and/or resolving diversity conflict requires taking the time to learn from diversity perspectives. It is often not productive to rush to solution because the parties may be interacting from very different assumptions and objective incidents may have very different subjective meanings. Storytelling is an important first step.






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