Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Conflict Resolution, Group 1

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

Please describe your approach to conflict resolution.

This is a good question! As a huge Star Wars fan, I would say that I try to approach conflict as a Jedi. I am in my heart a peacemaker, I like to reach consensus with conflicted parties. Sometimes it is not possible though, and you need a lightsaber.

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 think most performance issues and disputes should be solved on the committee level with outside help if needed. The board is not the place to go for this. If I was on a committee and someone was being nasty to me, I wouldn’t want to have a board member swing in and fix it, I’d ask my chair to do something about it. As a chair, if a board member swooped in and got involved in a conflict on my committee, I don’t think I would appreciate it.

There is a long and detailed dispute resolution process for this, and I think it works well for the OTW. If it escalates or is between a board member and someone else, then board may want to consider taking a more proactive role.

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?

I think a lot of it has to do with people who turn things personal, something I will strive to avoid. Issues can be discussed calmly and rationally, and in a professional manner. While some members of board have been more bombastic than others, I would not be that kind of board member. I have seen a few examples of this behavior in my time here, and I hope that when I am on board it does not happen.

I am a relatively calm person, I will not react to something in anger or frustration. I may feel anger and frustration, but I will vent that privately and not take it out on the person or issue causing it. Basically, my philosophy is that we can all disagree without being disagreeable. I have lived that thus far in my RL and org lives, and plan to do so going forward regardless of the outcome of the election.

As to situations with board members, I will answer that in the next question.

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?

The first thing I would do is try to sort it out, maybe send a friendly email or chat explaining my concerns with them. I would also encourage them to work out the issues they may have with said person, and to perhaps apologize if it was appropriate. (Assuming it is not happening live or in a chat meeting.) Hopefully reason and logic can help diffuse the situation. If it were a ‘live’ situation I would try to defuse the situation (assuming I was chairing or it was the person chairing being the jerk.) After the meeting, (assuming they did stop with the behavior) I would go back to the first step with the letter or conversation.

If the behavior is repeated, the rest of board would need to discuss it, but board does have the power to remove a member now. So there is stick to use, if the carrot of encouraging better behaviour does not work. It may not be a popular decision, but if someone is being continually abusive or hostile without remorse or change they have no place on the board.