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Conflict

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CASE –iv Conflict in close quarters
Overview of the Case Study (3 slides)

The case study was an experiment to study the dynamics of isolation in long-term space travel by a team of psychologists at Moscow's Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP).

Within the confines of a replica Mir space station, three international researchers, including a Canadian, Japanese and Austrian participant were isolated with four Russian cosmonauts for 110 days.

At the New Year's Eve party, the participants partook in the drinking of vodka, which was allowed by the Russian space agency. What evolved was a series of events which involved violence, sexual harassment, and questionable ethics.

A violent fight erupted between two of the cosmonauts, which was resolved quickly. Later, the Russian commander aggressively kissed, twice, the only female participant, Judith Lapierre. All three of the international participants appealed to the IBMP regarding the Russians behaviour, requesting disciplinary action.

The experiment ended in controversy as the Russians downplayed the kiss, saying it was a fleeting kiss and blaming an emotional female participant whilst Lapierre claimed sexual harassment. Thus, was it really sexual harassment or a stolen kiss?

Or is the question here that the parties involved here had attached different meanings to the same incident.

Cultural differences amongst the participants led to the conflict, which were exacerbated by the influence of alcohol.

The Russians responded by claiming that ’In the West, some kinds of kissing are regarded as sexual harassment. In our culture it is nothing.’

But is this really the issue, or is it that the confinement of an Austrian, a Japanese, a Canadian and four Russians was at high risk for cultural conflict and misunderstanding in the first place?

In sight of that, it was the responsibility of the Russians conducting the experiment to minimise the risks of cultural conflict.

Within the confines of a replica Mir space station, three international researchers, including a Canadian, Japanese and Austrian participant were isolated with four Russian cosmonauts for 110 days.

The conflict episodes that exist in this case were At the New Year's Eve party, the participants partook in the drinking of vodka, which was allowed by the Russian space agency. What evolved was a series of events which involved violence, sexual harassment, and questionable ethics.

A violent fight erupted between two of the cosmonauts, which was resolved quickly. Later, the Russian commander aggressively kissed, twice, the only female participant, Judith Lapierre. All three of the international participants appealed to the IBMP regarding the Russians behaviour, requesting disciplinary action

Conflict in Close Quarters:

The first conflict episode is the fistfight between two of the Russian astronauts on New Year’s Eve. After drinking a couple of vodkas these two crew members fought so hard that blood stains were found on the walls after the incident. This was the beginning episode if the conflict as it leads to different episodes which showed different reactions among the crew.
Another two people who are in conflict with each other are Judith Lapierre and the Russian commander who tried to grab and kiss Lapierre against her will out of view of the other astronauts. This episode repeated itself the next day when the commander tried to kiss her again. The biggest conflict in this episode is not the fact that the commander tried to kiss Lapierre against her will but the fact that he doesn’t think that his actions were wrong in any kind. For the commander it was merely a kiss that he took, he doesn’t see that it is wrong to do so against somebody’s will.
The next episode includes the international crew and the IBMP. The international crew’s complaints to the IBMP resulted in the being told that “conflicts were part of the experiment” (McShane). By doing this the IBMP backed the Russian institute which let the commander get away with his actions.
This lead to the final episode which involved the international crew and the separate space institutes. After not being able to get a reply or help from the IBMP, the international crew took matters into their own hands and wrote letters about the incident between the Russian commander and Lapierre to the different agencies. The crew took their opinions to all agencies to try and get the Russian institute do something against its commander and crew who were in the middle of this whole conflict.
The sources of conflict for these incidents were mainly the Russian crew. It started with two Russian crew members getting into a fist fight on New Year’s Eve and got made worse by their commander pulling Lapierre...

Summary of the Issues (1 slide)

1. Conflict -
2. Team Effectiveness -
3. Communication -
4. Ethical issues -

‍Issue 1: Conflict (4 slides)
‍1. Who was in conflict with whom? (1)
The Russian cosmonauts became involved in a violent brawl which was resolved within minutes.

Conflict emerged between Lapierre and the Russians regarding the differing interpretations of events of the kiss by the differing cultures.

The Japanese participant was in conflict with the Russians, as he disagreed with the Russian response to the incident."Informed of the New Year's Eve incident, the Japanese space program convened an emergency meeting on 2 January to address the incidents. Soon after, the Japanese team member quit, apparently shocked by IBMP's inaction."

The Austrian participant also conflicted with the Russians interpretation of events, ‘They're trying to protect themselves,’ he says. ‘They're trying to put the fault on others. But this is not a cultural issue. If a woman doesn't want to be kissed, it is not acceptable.’

‍2. What are the sources of conflict for these conflict incidents? (1)
The ratio of males and females in the experiment.
The negligence of the Russians to ensure that all participants were culturally knowledgeable in regards to individuals from other cultures.
The allowance of alcohol despite the increased risk of conflict.
Isolation from the external world
Two groups with different time period experience allowed to interact with one another.
Differences in perspectives of gender roles
The lack of respect to the female in response to complaints made

‍3. What conflict management style(s) did Lapierre, the international team, and Gushin use to resolve these conflicts? What style(s) would have worked best in these situations? (1)
Mainly Avoidance was used. * Avoided confrontation of the issue by not inflicting any form of punishment or reprimand on the brawling Russians or Sexual Harasser * Played down the importance of the 'kiss' saying it wasn't their cultures priority to consider it an issue What conflict management interventions were applied here? Did they work? What alternative strategies would work best in this situation and in the future? (1) * the conflict management intervention was to separate the Russians from the rest of the international crew. * The response worked only during the time period of separation. Once the experiment was over there were expectations from the International crew for the management to respond with reprimanding the Russians, but it never occurred. This was then felt to be a bigger issue than the conflicts in the first place.

Issue 2: Team Effectiveness (3 - 4 slides) (p305) Renee Hastings

1. Team Design

-The international participants were aware of the cultures and genders of the other participants before the experiment began.
- There was supposed to be a second female participant from the Japanese space program, but she was not selected by IBMP. (In light of the fact there would only be one female participant otherwise, it would have been a good idea for IBMP to select her for the experiment)
-the Japanese and Austrian participant viewed the inclusion of a woman into the team as favourable. The Russians merely viewed the inclusion of a woman as something to be endured.
-designing teams so that conflict is at high risk, especially when confined, is ineffective.
- the international researchers were not separated from the Russian cosmonauts.

2 and 3. Organisational Behaviour Issues Relating to the Team Design.

- Process losses - The IBMP did not consider the process losses that were required for team effectiveness. Especially as the second female participant was not selected, the Russians should have spent more time and resources on team development in order to increase performance and minimise conflict.
“Team performance suffers when a team adds members, because those employees need to learn how the team operates and how to coordinate efficiently with other team members.”- (McShane et al 2010, p304)

‎- Team Effectiveness - "A team is effective when it benefits the organisation, its members and its own survival. People join groups to fulfil their personal needs, so effectiveness is partly measured by this need fulfilment. Also, it must be able to maintain the commitment of its members, particularly during the turbulence of the teams development." (McShane et al 2010, p305)

-Physical layout – can make a difference. E.g. when the international researchers were not sectioned off from the Russian cosmonauts cultural conflict arose rather quickly due to the physical confines. When the doors between the chambers were closed, there were no further problems.

4. Ways in Which these Problems Could Have Been Resolved (p325)

Issue 3: Communication (3 - 4 slides) Colleen Weller

1. Gender differences - a rift was already apparent before the incident occurred between language Lapierre and the Russian cosmonauts.
- none of the participants spoke English as their first language.
-Lapierre had learned the Russian language previously
2. Describe the communication styles used within the case study.
3. How could communication been improved?

Gender differences
Men and women have subtle differences in their communication styles. This can lead to potential conflict.
Men: View conversation as a way of establishing power and status. Use powerful language which consists of direct or power assertive styles.
Women: View conversation as a means of establishing and furthering social bonds. Their style tends to be powerless which is characterised by indirect language, focused on relationship protection.
Conflict can occur when men inaccurately interpret this language style as indicative of women deferring power to them.
Cultural differences
Members of this experiment were using English which was not the first language of any of the participants.
Problems with this: Vocabulary may be limited
Voice intonation conveys different meanings cross-culturally
Loudness, depth and speed of language potentially have different meanings.
Ways to improve communication
Standards should be set from the start, addressing cultural and personality differences
Ambiguous rules of behaviour should be officially addressed. Particularly in areas such as sexual harassment and the use of violence to establish and maintain power.
Establish formal methods of group communication. All participants need the opportunity to meet regularly and discuss any concerns in a non threatening forum.
Strict guidelines need to be established with consequential disciplinary action for any breach of these standards.

Issue 4: Ethical Issues (3 - 4 slides) Larni O'Keeffe

1. Sexual harassment

2. Cultural differences - Russians do not believe there is any difference between a kiss on the cheek or on the lips, especially at parties and celebrations.
- the Russian supervisors were insensitive to Lapierre's moral/cultural and sexual standpoint and should have taken her complaint more seriously.
- Should Lapierre been a little more tolerant and flexible when it came to trying to resolve the conflict?
- should the participants have studied the cultures of the other participants before the experiment began?

3. What steps should have been taken to resolve these ethical issues?

http://jhv.sagepub.com.simsrad .net.ocs.mq.edu.au/content/4/1 /5.full.pdf+html

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