As conflict researchers, you may be in one of those spells where you need a boost of inspiration to keep at a paper or project. Doubtless we are all faced, from time to time, with ‘why do you study conflict?’ ‘what’s interesting about conflict?’ or other such inquires from Academy colleagues, relatives or people outside our intellectual neck of the woods. Being faced with such questions myself recently, I started to come up with some specific reasons, cases and examples of what makes our field so interesting and important. (It wasn’t that hard to do, but it was fun and I highly recommend it.)
Consider first what might be called public conflict. This is conflict that is ‘out there’ naked and open for everyone to see. The immigration issue is a white hot political and social conflict at the moment. In fact, this is a conflict over what it should even be called, whether one thinks of it as a “crisis,” “emergency,” or “immorality” and whether the answer is a wall or a bridge between people. The negotiation process between groups of politicians to at least temporarily address this issue has been a very public conflict itself recently. Another type of public conflict that rages at the moment concerns technology, and how artificial intelligence is going to change the very nature of work. The inevitable development of driverless cars, advanced robotics and the spread of what is being called “deep fakes” ultimately means some people are going to lose jobs, or will have vastly different jobs. The conflict over this trend consumes millions of people and that number will expand.
Other conflicts are what might be called private conflicts. These, in some ways, are the ones that many of us spend our time studying using our experiments, surveys, or other methods. Abusive, counterproductive behavior, task/relationship/process/status conflict between people are examples of such conflicts. These private conflicts are often building blocks of the public conflicts. After all, abusive behavior and conflict from it can occur between an executive and an aspiring actress, a supervisor laying off an employee because his/her job has been automated, or individuals seeking asylum and immigration officers.
In all these cases, the one common thread is that conflict management researchers are uniquely positioned to understand these issues, how they might be resolved, and explain these issues to others. This means the social value connected to our line or work is a profound one potentially. Indeed, it is why ‘we do what we do.’
A Note of Thanks
I would like to conclude by thanking the outgoing chair, Peter Kim, for his leadership of the division as well as the other members progressing through the 5-year rotation in the CMD Executive Committee for their commitment and contributions: Peter Kim, Jana Raver, Jennifer Overbeck and Kristin Behfar. Matt Cronin has officially completed his 5-year rotation on the Executive Committee, so we will sorely miss his participation and guidance. We are also grateful for the exemplary service by our two outgoing Reps-at- Large, Shimul Melwani and Denise Loyd. Julia Bear and Rachel Campagna will transition to 2nd year Reps-at- Large, and we welcome Sarah Doyle and Ryan Fehr as 1st year Rep-at- Large members. Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Lukas Neville who has taken up the mantle of managing CMD’s communications, previously as webmaster on the CMD website and eventually on the Connect@AOM platform. We have a great team assembled, and I look forward to working with them and engaging with all of you, as members of our CMD community, in the months to come.
Conflict Management Division Chair