In the month of September, 2010. I was chosen unanimously to lead the alumni committee by a seven member team. However, ten days into work, majority of them thought that they had made a mistake by electing me as POC (Point Of Contact) to Alcom. The tenth day, we were in a meeting called by me in the middle of the night. The meeting was supposed to decide the future of the alumni committee and my leadership to the team. I was blamed of favoritism, conspiracy and lack of transparency. The moment was tense with few in the team suspecting my integrity and few others my competency to move ahead. For me at that point, the challenge was twofold. I had to fight my inner self by being bold and letting myself to understand my team's point of view and to fight their presuppositions of my lack of integrity. However, The conflict which supposedly would have tarnished aspirations of a teams' leader and also dissolve the entire group, proved so powerful that it single handedly embraced the entire team to be one of the powerful and strong units in history of TISS.
Rise of Conflict
The team had elected me based on parameters like experience, Interest, Relationship and Trust. Even though I had a good relationship with each group member, I had never worked closely towards achieving a task with anyone before. So most of the team members knew very less of my working style and vice versa was equally true. Since it was just the beginning I thought, I neglected some minor but very important aspects of group formation, like communication. On the 9th day. We (Sr.Alcom) were supposed to meet the junior team, I had asked one of my team members to accompany me and he did. We had a good time with the junior members, welcoming them to the committee and telling them the pros and cons of being in this committee. I remember, I had told them "Being in an alumni committee would mean a win/win proposition for an individual as well as the institute. You make sure that the institute improves its relationship with the alumni community, which will also help you in building your personal network". Having achieved the task as expected I came out energized, but at the hindsight few senior Alcom members resented the fact that I had called only one person to meet the junior team and not the entire team. What made this event more dramatic was that this only person was my roommate and close friend of mine.
Suddenly, the senior members became suspicious about my moves. The trust which they had shown to elect me was no more visible. The reason behind their suspicion was evident. The suspicision aroused not only from the team but also from some external sources. One of our classmate (a non-member of Alcom) has allegedly told to a neutral "I don't know what is going to happen to ALCOM, both Naveen and Xyz are power hungry people!!!!!". My ignorance towards communicating effectively to the team was also used as the fuel to already burning fire. People started to suspect conspiracy and to think twice about my intentions. I who was at that time unknown of the events behind-the-scenes had arranged for a formal meeting with the Sr.Alcom and Jr.Alcom. In the meeting, members of the junior alcom were asked "Why do they want to join alcom?" Most of the answers almost magically replicated the second part of what I had told to them "Will also help you build your personal network". I was stunned at their answers and so were most of seniors. I was stunned at the amount of influence my pep talk had made on the juniors. My classmates were angry because they thought that the idea of building personal network is original view of theirs (juniors). Suddenly, my classmates went furious on this idea of having a junior team which contains people who are here only to increase their personal network. We even went to an extent of dissolving the entire Jr.Alcom. (I should confess that I could not muster the courage to tell my classmates what had happened at that moment itself). My worst fears came true when one of the junior members disclosed that I(Naveen) was the one who had hinted them towards personal network. (I still do not understand what you can do, having contact details of someone. However, even to this day am somehow scared of sharing).
This was just 10th day of the formation of Sr.Alcom and supposed to be the 1st at office for Jr.Alcom. The news of the disclosure by one of the jr.alcom member spread like a wild fire. I came to know that there were informal meetings conducted behind-the-scenes to impeach me. With influence from external sources on the members(Sr.Alcom). It became imperative the time for my impeachment has come. I was not surprised. In fact, I knew I had very few choices left, I knew I had made mistakes, I knew I had stumbled at wrong time.
I called an important and very urgent meeting on this day at around 10:00pm. The meeting was meant to discuss the future of alcom and my leadership towards the team. For me this was my first experience of a group conflict. I did not know what to do. I was just clear about one thing. I have done some mistakes which I want to confess and communicate and there are clarifications to be made for the future functioning of the team. We decided that each of the group member will put forth their opinions of the issues and we can collectively take a decision on the way forward. Each one came up with almost similar issues. Lack of communication, favoritism (even though indirectly), non-transparency were the key issues put forth.
When my turn came, I started with explaining them my intentions when I told the juniors about the network. I made confession for not communicating effectively. I promised to make the process a lot more transparent and more importantly shared my vision for alumni committee. I explained them my working style. At the end of it, I also proposed my resignation if needed, particularly since there was a perceived breach of trust. The argument went ahead on alternate methods and improvements needed in the way I work. With, every one venting out their anger and thinking rationally, we were able to think as a team. I knew in my hearts that the future is hard for me.
11th day Sr.Alcom met the Jr.Alcom this time a more peaceful one. In this meeting each individual was left to talk their feelings about the happenings in the last two days. Thankfully, each one was looking forward to work for the alumni committee. I was hopeful that the conflict has ended in a good note.
Conflict is Good (Impact of Conflict)
The conflict had created accommodating behavior in the members. The conflict had bought some kind of ignition to each one to do something for the team. Now there was no more Sr.Alcom and Jr.Alcom. It was more of Alcom. I made sure that the communications were clear, timely and perceived fair. I learnt the power struggle inside the team and took measures to curtail its ill effects on the team. I became more self astute and started to find the external influencers influencing the team. Even then I had to make sure that there isn't any rebellion from the side of juniors. I had separate meetings with the juniors hearing them and clearing expectations. I was even told by some junior team members that "We will work just for you" which later changed to "We need to do this for Alcom".
Alcom as a whole has been excellent this year. It has attracted the record number of alumni for "Dharohar-10". It has updated the database to an extent it was never before. It was able to reach the maximum alumni in the network. It is not going to stop here.
Each meeting we had except for initial clashes has been Fun filled and fruitful. We connected with each other well and executed our plans mostly on time. For us bonding was the most important factor to our success. We have become very good friends and have come a long way after this initial conflict. For us it was less work and more enjoyment, we derived happiness in work because of the people we were working with. As we moved on as a team we started to support each other from the blame of external world. One of the team members was asked in a sarcastic manner "How many meetings you have in a week? All others are working so hard" for which the member replied "As many as it is required to get things done". The team (Alcom combined) became so united that, it was ready to wage a war against our perceived enemy core comm. The conflict which supposedly would have tarnished aspirations of a teams' leader and also dissolve the entire group, proved so powerful that it single handedly embraced the entire team to be one of the powerful and strong units in history of TISS.Regards,
Tata Institute of Social Sciences