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A safe space to vent: Conciliation and conflict in distributed teams

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Springer, London


This paper considers the nature of conflict in relation to the environments within which distributed teams cooperate. Effective conflict management can bring great benefits to distributed teams, while inadequate conflict resolution strategies can incur significant personal and resource costs. The increased geographical, cognitive and emotional distances between members can stimulate and amplify conflict. Parties may display disinhibited behaviour (flaming) or may be reluctant to accept reconciliatory overtures (low trust). These factors can be attributed to the impact of communication technology on social structures that underlie interaction. Shifting to face-to-face meetings can be impractical or involve prohibitive cost, so it is important to establish how best to deal with conflict in technologically-mediated settings. Dispute resolution practitioners (conciliators) have evolved strategies and techniques to construct and regulate "safe-spaces"
settings that are conducive to finding creative solutions to entrenched conflicts. Building on interviews with expert conciliators, we discuss the potential for learning from the structure and constraints of conciliation environments in order to improve conflict management through technologies.


Billings, Matt; Watts, Leon A. (2007): A safe space to vent: Conciliation and conflict in distributed teams. ECSCW 2007: Proceedings of the 10th European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-84800-031-5_8. Springer, London. ISBN: 978-1-84800-031-5. pp. 139-158. Full Papers. Limerick, Ireland. 24-28 September 2007