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Community Building and Organizational Development: When Conflicts Happen

Updated: Mar 6, 2023


As shared by Madett Gardiola in the November session of MedNet Cafe.



Most of us work for organizations 85% of the time. And it can be rewarding because it is one of the few remaining units in our society that are still within our control. With so much diversity, so many differences, conflicts make our life in other societal units like government challenging. It is no longer so easy to control. But at the organization and community level, there is so much that can be done. It is possible to manage the processes so that lives together that are shared become fulfilling.





When conflicts happen. And I mean that in two ways: first, the time when conflicts happen and, second, what must we do when conflict occurs. I’ll focus my sharing on these two.


Conflict is a relationship between two or more people or groups who have, or think they have, incompatible goals. This is our working definition.


In his book, The Different Drum, Scott Peck outlines the four stages in community building (and organizational life involves community building) which helps us understand what dynamics usually happen.




Stage 1 is Pseudocommunity. This happens when we first meet. We are happy together and we are anxious to get along. We focus on all the things we have in common and we’re enjoying one another’s company. But we believe we are a community already—so easy—but we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.


In this stage, the feeling is, “We’re all so much alike!” We put our best foot forward because we want to create a good impression. If we go back to the stages of conflict, there’s conflict already because we are bound to have conflict because it’s normal. We are all different. Conflict is there but it is latent.


Stage 2 is Chaos. Sooner or later, we begin to notice that we’re not all that much alike. We take exception to what someone says. We dare to disagree, and we become frustrated with other members of the group. We try to help and heal others.


Here, the feeling is, “We’re not alike at all, but I can help these people!” Conflict is perceived and felt. And because we’re in a community, there’s effort to try and help and heal each other.


Stage 3 is Emptiness. There is a giving-up stage, a letting go; a time when we all stop judging and helping one another and accept that we are all different and we don’t have to agree or be the same.


During this stage, the feeling is: “We’re all different and that’s okay.” Conflict is resolved.


In this stage, reality sets in. We are not the same. Perhaps we cannot share a life together. So, I just let go and give up. There is emptiness because you feel what you used to enjoy the company of others, then suddenly you realize, "It's not possible." So, we just agree to disagree that we are different, and we don’t have to agree or be the same.


Stage 4: Community. Once we empty ourselves of judgments and desires to help and heal, we quickly move into community. Stage 4 looks like Stage 1 but it feels completely different.


The feeling is difficult to capture in a few words but it’s something like this: “We’re all so different – how cool is that?!” This is when you reach the acceptance level and you embrace the differences and even if you’re not working together anymore or living together as a community but because you have a history of working out your differences and commonalities, you still connect.


And this is the stage where conflict is accepted as part of community life and people are able to master the necessary competence to deal with those conflicts.


I like the way Scott Peck described these stages because it can be seen that you expect things to happen specially these feelings at certain stages in an organizational or community life. But the reward is what you have gone through all the stages and you work this out genuinely. Which means that conflict, in the perspective of Scott Peck, is really normal. It has to be undergone in an organization or in a community.


When conflict happens, what are its manifestations and what can we do?


First, conflict can be prevented especially in organizations if organizational development processes are done adequately. Since nongovernment organizations spend most of the time fulfilling their goals and mission for society, there is a tendency to neglect organizational development processes and conflict issues pile up. Organizations are like human beings. A healthy organization has to be maintained. One needs to check regularly if organizational wellbeing is still at optimum level.


Conflict can be prevented in multiple ways:

  • Through regular checkups on organizational functioning not only when there is pain (i.e., problems) already.

  • Revisiting vision, mission, goals vis-à-vis operational functioning: strategic planning.

  • Reviewing structure and staffing (competencies, complement) to be attuned to strategic plan.

  • Being constantly on the lookout for opportunities (resource generation, asset development).

  • Periodic teambuilding or relationship building that also includes systems review.


Some of the manifestations or organizational conflict are absenteeism, low productivity (morale), clique-ism, power struggle, accidents, mistrust and doubts among others.


When conflicts occur, here are some of the things that can be done:

  • Craft and integrate policies for conflict resolution in the organization through a grievance mechanism, informal meetings, etc., so that people know that they have venues and processes to be able to resolve conflicts internally.

  • Develop the competencies of the people in conflict resolution, especially non-violent communication.

  • Instill self-awareness on what needs to be transformed by individuals in terms of attitudes and behavior.









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