Saturday, February 4, 2012

Are We Understanding Each Other?

I have a part-time job working at a Domestic Violence shelter on weekends.  My supervisor is a nice young lady, who exasperates me to no end.  Why?  She will ask me to do something or tell me something, which I feel I understand.  Then when I do the task or report where she asked me to go, it's all wrong!

An example is, last Sunday she called me and asked if I would work on Wednesday from 6:00pm until 10:00pm because she and the Client Advocate were transporting the clients to a workshop.  She told me she would call me back if the plans changed.

On Wednesday, I arrived at the shelter at 5:50pm and the Client Advocate looked at me strangely and asked why I was there.  I told her our supervisor had asked me on Sunday to come and cover the shelter while they went to a workshop.  She said, "Oh, she didn't call you and tell you it was cancelled?" That question set up a communication climate that was defensive (O'Hair & Wiemann 2009). I asked was that a rhetorical question, since obviously I had reported to work.  It takes 45 min. to drive to the shelter from my home and I was upset that I had made a trip, used my gas and changed my plans for nothing.  I felt this was an unproductive conflict as there was a negative impact (O'Hair & Wiemann 2009) with my use of sarcasm.

One strategy I have used, is the challenging strategy (O'Hair & Wiemann 2009).  I am not confrontational and this strategy is usually not my first choice, but my attitude had provoked that communication climate (O'Hair & Wiemann 2009).  This strategy works when you want the person you are communicating with to know what they did or didn't do has caused you to have your current attitude.  I  went to my supervisor's office and asked her why she didn't call me to let me know the outing was cancelled.  She looked at me and asked why I didn't call to find out if she still needed  me to come to the shelter.  I reminded her that she had promised to call me if the plans changed but that was fine and I started to leave.  I was using the escapist strategy (O'Hair &Wiemann 2009).  I used this strategy to avoid anymore direct conflict. 

One communication channel (O'Hair & Wiemann 2009) I will use with my supervisor, is email.  I told her I would email her, as a compromise (O'Hair & Wiemann 2009) so we would both know the plans.  If we had used that electronic channel (O'Hair & Wiemann 2009), this conflict would not have occurred.



O'Hair, D. & Wiemann, M. (2009).  Real Communication An Introduction Boston, MA: 
     Bedford/St. Martin's  


  1. Stephanie,
    What a great example of a conflict. I like your escapist way as I would do exactly the same. Good for you for confronting your supervisor and coming up with a compromise for the future.

  2. Great job in handling the situation Stephanie. It appears that you used all the appropriate strategies, causing an uncertain climate and clear miscommunication on thepart of your supervisor. Hopefully this experience has taught her to continue on with the communication until the end and do not assume that the other party will know of changes.

  3. Like our colleagues have stated, great way to handle the conflict. You could have came in very upset and not handle the miscommunication well. You handled the conflict and miscommunciation very professionally using all skills we have learn this week. I really enjoyed reading your post.

  4. You have done a great job handling your conflict so far as our colleagues have said. I am wondering however if e-mail is going to be better. Such as her saying "I did not get a chance to e-mail or I forgot to check" I hope the situation does get better. You will have to let us know how it is going at the end of the class.

  5. Stephanie-

    I liked the strategy of confronting your boss. She needed to know that she did not handle the situation correctly. I am with you I would have used the escape strategy also. I do not like confrontation. Considering this women is in a higher level position she has little respect for her colleges. Great job on keeping your professionalism in tact.

  6. OHHHHHHH NOOOOO, the communication is not effective in that situation. I feel bad you had to be the one who suffered from that. Great solution to the problem! I hope it works, but we all know it takes both sides for it to WORK. On your end, I think it would be hard to let go what just happened. Especially if communication has been an ongoing problem. Do you see yourself letting go of the past situations or holding on to them waiting for the next incident?

    1. Brit,
      This is an ongoing problem. When 1 incident is over and I move on then she does something else. I have even gone to her supervisor about the problem. Her supervisor asked me if it could be the difference in our ages, my supervisor is in her 20's and I'm 58. I don't think it's age. I don't think it could be cultural. My supervisor is Hispanic, I'm African American. What I think is, her organization and time management skills are weak. It could also be that I manage on my full-time job and I we differ in management styles. I enjoy my job and plan to remain there but our communication needs to improve.