Individual, Group and Organizational Communication

I. Questions I Wanted to Answer

a.) How do I manage, develop and engage in working relationships with staff, faculty and students across functional areas?

b.) In what ways can I initiate and participate in working alliances with a wide range of people, specifically ones where there are cultural boundaries?

c.) How will I take on leadership roles within the groups I am a member of on-campus?

d.) How will I served as an advocate, counselor, and advisor to students? What are the important skills that I bring to these roles?

e.) How do I mediate and manage conflicts? How do I respond to crisis or problematic circumstances?

II. Introduction

As an orientation leader, I developed an understanding of the many partnerships between university constituents that had to be in place in order to run effective orientations. I remember specifically working with directly with academic advisors, university housing and dining, the library and student union staff and in directly with student health services, study abroad programs, counseling services, parking services and various other offices that wanted to participate in events such as the information fair. Although I did not personally have to foster relationships with these units, I knew that my supervisors did and that there was a great deal of mutual respect and responsiblity among these groups.

My experience in AmeriCorps provided me with quite a few experiences participating in working alliances across cultural boundaries. However, I don’t think that I remember being truly aware of these differences or how they impacted the work we did as a team. In many respects, I believe this unawareness was due to two things: I was not as aware of how personal identities, experiences and biases could impact the way in which the team worked together and during many of the projects I felt compelled to put aside my differences in order to strive towards a common mission.

As an undergraduate leader on campus I remember taking on additional job responsiblities and being asked to represent the university in an increasingly professional capacity. I was responsible for helping to hire and train new orientation leaders and was offered the opportunity to take on a larger role as a volunteer with the admissions office. These are the ways in which I acted as a leader on-campus. In a similar way, I felt like a leader in AmeriCorps when I was asked to present information on the organizations behave and also to represent the program to high level stakeholders.

I came into graduate school without much knowlege about how to be an advocate or counselor to students. I had some brief experiences advising students and knew that I needed to provide accurate information to them in that role.

In terms of conflict mediation, I remember numerous times when I engaged in it, but I do not ever recall having any format, checklist, or method for discussing conflict. I know enough to assure that all parties are heard and that the solution the the problem should at least verbally agreed upon by all parties involved, but I have very little understanding of how to engage an entire group or even two people in the conflict resolution process. I would say that my personal method of conflict resolution has often been to simply take on more work, make do with what I have, or ignore it. I realize that this is not helpful in any situation and I look forward to gaining a more solid group of tools to address conflict with in the future.

III. Hypothesis

a.) Managing, developing and engaging in partnerships requires effective communication between people, divisions, and campuses. It will be important to recognize what different people and offices bring to each partnership and how all members can work together to create more efficient services and programs than they could do alone.

b.) I think effective partnerships, whether across cultural boundaries or not, ultimately form when people can unite around a mission or goals that everyone feels personally and professional invested in achieving. I can’t imagine partnerships starting from a different place based on cultural boundaries but I can see peoples’ person and perhaps professional investment being affected by their cultural identity. Therefore partners will have to be sensitive to diverse identities and if at all possible use them to make partnerships stronger.

c.) I don’t know in what exact capacities I will lead. I will try to work for orientation and therefore lead student leaders in the facilitation of programs. I will try and teach or co-teach a course or two during my time at OSU and I’m sure that I will gain leadership skills from my assistantship with student conduct.

d.) I will serve as an advisor, counselor, and advocate in my roles as graduate assistant, intern, instructor, and project coordinator. I will bring my attention to detail, ability to community well with others, passion for service, professionalism, dedication to social justice, calm demeanor and good humor to all of these positions.

e.) Managing and mediating conflict requires great attention to procedures and well as an ability to be open and honest with people involved in the conflict. Staying calm and flexible in light of crisis situations is important. It is also important to keep a good perspective on situations and never take it too personally when conflicts are not resolved completely.

IV. Methods and Materials

a. and b.)

Membership in BRT and observer in CIRT

Academic Integrity Workshops and Distress and Disruptive Students Presentations

NODA  and UESP internships

Conduct assistantship

CAMP Learning Community

V. Data and Analysis

a.) Working Alliances

b.) Partnership Across Cultural Boundaries

c.) Feeling Like a Leader

d.) Advocate and Counselor Roles Advisor Roles

e.) Conflict and crisis management/response

VI. Conclusion

Working in groups and being a contributing member of groups is absolutely essential to being a functional student affairs professional. Partnerships where people share missions, goals and values and respect and take advantage (when appropriate) of each others cultural identities and specialized knowledge will ultimately be the most successful. Teams that allow everyone to be a spokesperson for the collective mission, will engage everyone in leadership roles and therefore promote engagement with in the group.

Being an advisor, counselor and advocate are important responsibilities. Students and coworkers are counting on me to act in a professional manner in all these roles. I must work hard to provide accurate and timely information, explain policies, procedures, and consequences for breaches clearly and completely. Active listening, motivational interviewing, and recognizing when I need to refer people to other resources and support are tools I must utilize. I must also recognize the importance of letting students and others advocate for themselves. I can help to create the venue or get the right people to the table, but I must always respect other people’s voices.

Whenever possible it is best to directly handle a small conflict before it becomes something larger. Getting the right people in the loop quickly can ward off bigger issues down the road. That is why it is essential that campus members know who to contact about minor conflicts that they feel could get bigger. Crisis responses must be directed at the people most affected by the situation first. Health and safety are paramount.  Once these are taken care of the multitude of secondary affects and those affected must be assessed. This is where it is best to bring in a team of people to not only brainstorm solutions but mobilize necessary resources and support. In the long run crisis situations can often be utilized as learning tools, but only if analyzed carefully and with sensitivity to all those involved. Giving power back to those who have lost it during crisis is extremely important and these people’s needs should ultimately determine the course student affairs professionals take in creating learning opportunities based in personal experience.

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2 Responses to “Individual, Group and Organizational Communication”

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Portfolio Evaluation Comments: Good examples of how you have cultivated and developed your communication skills and especially your mediation and crisis-management skills. When I was considering this competency, I realized that I don’t recall seeing conversations or commentary about communication and interaction with those in your cohort. I’m not necessarily looking for gossip or critiques of your peers, but I’m curious as to what you learned or what coping strategies you developed as a result of being a part of a cohort. You have evidence in here of group work with your peers, but you don’t really comment on that on a meta level.

I also think that your NODA internship blog posts speak to learning you had about organizational communication.

Minor issue – some typos in hypothesis b!

Kerry,

I am fairly certain that the process of self-exploration that I have been on for the past two years would have been much more challenging and not near as rewarding without the support of my cohort. Having enjoyed the benefits of team work during my undergraduate and AmeriCorps careers I am particularly aware of how valuable other people are in my motivation and growth.

Some of the questions and issues that I have raised through my posts were shared in classroom discussions, but the majority was hammered out during informal coffee dates, lunches, and late-night conversations with my CSSA roommates and friends. In particular, I remember several conversations that sprung from my challenges with presenting the environmental audit as well as many late-night sessions with the other NODA intern discussing our observations and feelings about the program and other student affairs related issues.

The cohort model is great because it provides a non-hierarchical sounding board for the issues I have experienced as a new professional. There have been many times when I did not feel the need or was not comfortable discussing a matter with a supervisor but simply needed to throw an idea around or express a frustration in order to get a little feedback on how to proceed or analyze the situation. I have learned the value of gaining perspective or seeing things from another person’s framework in order to make a good decision or act in a thoughtful way.

As far as coping is concerned, most of us have been dealing with the same stressors at the same times and so there seems to be a certain level of communal support. We know the academic matters that are taking up psychological space and respond accordingly. At the same time, everyone in the cohort has experienced their fair share of external stress and I’d like to belief that during these struggles certain members or the entire cohort in certain circumstances has been there to lend support. Seeing people deal with their stressors and be very open about them has been a great learning experience for me. I have become more comfortable listening to people talk and express their deepest feelings and have also started to be more expressive about mine as well. I think that as the job search and pending graduation become even bigger stressors in the coming months, we will be tested in our ability to support one another and not lose sight of the strength that can be found in the communal/cohort model.


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