Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: Conflict Resolution, Group 1

Please describe your approach to conflict resolution.

It depends on the situation. A conflict between two volunteers needs to be handled differently than a conflict between committees. In general, I find it’s best to immediately sit down with all the people involved and see if we can reach a solution. Ignoring the problem only makes the situation worse.

I believe communication is critical. Both parties need to explain their point of view and be willing to listen to the other. It’s also important to define what the problem is; often there are underlying issues that one party may not even be aware of. As a mediator, I’d ask what the goal is, then help figure out how we can get there. People do need to set aside their personal feelings and be ready to compromise – there won’t always be a win-win solution.

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 the majority of the OTW’s personnel issues should be handled at the committee level. There is little reason for Board to step in; they have neither the training nor the time to deal with these sorts of issues.

I do believe Board should step in if a committee has essentially dissolved or is otherwise not fulfilling their documented responsibilities. Too often OTW chairs have had to sit by and watch other committees struggle and eventually fall apart. Attempts to help can, and have, been labeled as interference, which limits what committees can do on their own. Should Board be made aware that a committee is falling apart, they should contact the chair(s) and offer them the support needed.

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, multiple times. There is no one solution, though, that will solve the problem; ultimately people need to learn how to set aside their feelings and act professionally regardless of how they feel personally. Board members in particular need to lead by example; they should always treat both volunteers and each other with respect.

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 instantly call them on it. It is unacceptable for a Board member to act on any grudges or personal feelings. As a Board member one is held to higher standards; we should be setting an example for the rest of the organization.

Any Board member who allows grudges to impact their OTW decisions needs to be confronted immediately. If a solution can not be found, or if the Board member continues to allow their personal feelings to influence their decisions, they should be asked to either step down from Board or recuse themselves from any future matters involving the committee or individual.