Alex Tischer 2015 Q&A: Conflict Resolution, Group 1

Please describe your approach to conflict resolution.

I approach conflict resolution in a very straightforward way. Get everyone together, state all the facts clearly and only then start your discussion, after clearly defining the terms and what you’re actually trying to achieve.

If attempting to resolve a conflict I have no personal stakes in, I try to stay objective and help the involved parties reach a point where they can at least see where the other party is coming from, even if they don’t necessarily agree. Once that has been achieved, I will try to work towards a compromise that all parties can live with.

If trying to resolve a conflict I am personally involved in, I force myself to take a step back and look at the issue as objectively as possible, to see if I can find places where compromise would be most easily found.

What do you feel the Board’s role should be in staff and volunteer performance issues and/or disputes, if any? What guides your opinion on this topic?

I feel the Board’s role in those subjects should be as minimal as possible. I especially feel that Board should not take the initiative to involve themselves in any of those issues unless the involved parties approach them. Small issues should be dealt with at a committee level; if they have to be escalated out of the committee, it should be VolCom’s job to deal with them. The cases where Board would become involved should be so limited as to barely exist at all. Board doesn’t have the background, the experience or the neutrality to solve these issues satisfactorily.

Throughout the years, the Board as a whole has had a reputation for personal conflicts with some OTW chairs, staffers and volunteers, as well as among themselves. Have you ever witnessed this during your years in the OTW? What do you think might fix this?

Yes, I have witnessed this, in recent years, in a variety of ways. And the ability to behave like a professional adult might fix this: leaving personal feelings aside when one is discussing a work issue, for example. You don’t have to get along with everyone, but you do have to be able to work with people you dislike. Sure, don’t have a drink with them when you’re in town, but reply to their question or email with basic politeness.

In a hypothetical situation where you believed your fellow directors were behaving with hostility towards an OTW staffer’s request due to a personal grudge, how would you react? / How would you address a fellow Director who has been disrespectful or abusive to someone else in the organization? What if they refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for their behavior?

I would directly address the matter as it came to my attention, hopefully during the incident in question. I would clearly state that they are or had been behaving hostile towards someone and that I didn’t think this was appropriate and that I would expect them to apologise to the staffer in question. If they refused to take responsibility for their behaviour, I would make very clear that I considered that inacceptable. With all those discussions hopefully happening in a public space, I would hope that there would be other people who would voice the same opinion. I would then attempt to take official measures against the fellow director, but in the meantime would apologise to the wronged staffer and let them know that I was working on a solution.