Embracing Conflict to Enhance Effectiveness in an Expeditionary FEMA

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by Les Hagie, ADR Advisor, Urbandale, IA JFO

Conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.  Max Lucado

“Are you kidding me?  Embrace conflict?  I thought the job of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) cadre was to eliminate conflict.”

A common misperception is that the job of ADR advisors is to prevent conflict.  This misperception stems from the fact that one of the primary tasks of ADR advisors is to help resolve conflicts.  But there is a difference between resolving and eliminating conflict.  Many people fear conflict because of the negative consequences that can flow from it when it is handled poorly.  However, when addressed properly, conflict is often the catalyst for improvement.  Without conflict, we would never change.  It is only when the status quo is challenged—when someone questions the way something is being done—when conflict arises—that we make changes that lead to progress.  Thus, rather than trying to eliminate conflict, the role of the ADR advisor is to ensure that conflict is embraced in positive ways that turn face to face confrontations into side by side cooperation.  This results in better procedures, stronger relationships, a more efficient workplace, and a more effective organization.    

With a workforce that spans five generations of workers and includes specialists in all fields of emergency management response, FEMA is an expeditionary force that faces unique challenges in helping communities and individuals who have been ravaged by disaster.  The ability to bring together a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skills from all across the nation to work together efficiently and effectively in a traumatized environment is a daunting task.  It is inevitable that there will be conflict as FEMA struggles to allocate diminishing resources in response to the staggering needs of devastated communities.  The role of the ADR advisor is to help harness the dynamics of these conflicts in a positive way that leads to improved and innovative outcomes.  Through the CRAFT (Consult, Resolve, Assess, Facilitate and Train) tools of ADR, ADR advisors are an invaluable asset to FEMA that helps diminish the fear of conflict and foster cooperation in working together to find solutions that enhance FEMA’s ability to support the recovery of those who have experienced the scourge of disaster.

As we celebrate Conflict Resolution Month, each week in October the FEMA Weekly will feature an article describing specific instances where ADR advisors helped develop innovative approaches within FEMA across a wide range of areas.  More information about the FEMA ADR program can be found at the ADR website: http://on.fema.net/components/adr/Pages/default.aspx

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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