Term Paper: Combined Worksheet Barriers to Effective Relationships: Case

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Barriers to Effective Relationships: Case Analysis. Part 1, Personal/Interpersonal Level (approx. 30 mins)

Purpose to foster awareness and understanding of the personal and interpersonal barriers to communication and congenial relationships in culturally diverse contexts.


Form into small groups of from four to five people (or do the activity individually if you are in an internet course) and describe in the space that follows a cultural diversity issue or conflict occurring in any setting within the last year. It might be an incident you experienced personally or one you heard about. Try to be alert to the national culture's five assumptions about diversity that were previously discussed ("Americans don't have a culture," "if it is different it is wrong" "the U.S. is a meritocracy"; "never talk about diversity," "never admit to prejudice"). THERE ARE ONLY FOUR HERETry also to include such elements of diversity as gender, ethnicity, race, age, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, and verbal and nonverbal communication. Feel free to frame your discussion from any number of points-of-view and roles: as a supervisor or subordinate in a supervisory relationship, for example; as a teacher or student in a teacher-student relationship; or as a coworker in a work situation. Discuss and identify the operative barriers.

Example was employed as an attorney at a law firm, and one of my duties was to conduct initial interviews of prospective clients to determine if they had a viable case. A Chinese man was ushered into my office, and I introduced myself as the attorney who would be interviewing him. He stopped dead and expressed great surprise and consternation at being interviewed by a woman. He said he had expected to see a man and asked if there was a man available. I told him I was the only person there but I could direct him to another office if he felt uncomfortable talking to me. He said he needed to think about it so I explained my background to him while he was pondering. He finally agreed to stay and suddenly turned very respectful. He insisted on calling me "Doctor" even after I explained to him that attorneys are not usually called Doctor.

The barriers in this case include: preconceptions and stereotyping relative to gender in his assumption that only men are attorneys; judgment and discrimination would also apply if he had requested a male attorney to replace the female attorney as he seemed to contemplate for a moment.

Write your Case Example here woman who was 52 years old was terminated from the job she worked at in a rural area hospital. She was highly qualified for the position having worked in administrative levels of hospitals previously, but had applied to a position that was far below her skills and capabilities at this particular hospital. The reason, she told the supervisor, was that she was writing a book, a work of fiction, and that she wanted to have a job that was 9-5 reporting, a set of identified task-to-function responsibilities, and no higher echelon reporting responsibilities.

The supervisor had her own needs in considering the woman for the position too. The supervisor explained to the woman that she, herself, was new as a supervisor, and other than the line work that she would be supervising in the hospital admitting department, had never had any other job in the hospital. The supervisor admitted to being unfamiliar with reporting responsibilities, other than those to which she was assigned in the admitting area. However, she indicated to the 52-year-old applicant, that the prior supervisor had experienced trouble with the staff, all of whom were under 30, such that the prior supervisor was terminated. The supervisor felt that a "mature" individual might bring some calm to the p.m. shift.

The supervisor expressed to the 52-year-old during the interview that she needed someone who not be a problematic employee, would show up for work on time and on assigned days, and a person whose performance might serve as an example to other employees.

The 52-year-old reiterated that she did not want a responsibility of supervising or overseeing the work of others. The supervisor assured her that was not the case. That even though the position the 52-year-old was applying for was one on the p.m. shift, where there was not a supervisor present, that supervision of the staff would be conducted by the supervisor, and that is why she needed someone who was responsible and would follow the rules and show up for work.

The supervisor hired the 52-year-old, who showed up for scheduled training on the day shift. The training, conducted by the supervisor herself and another staff person, went well, and both the supervisor and the staff person were surprised that the 52-year-old was a very quick study. The supervisor made comments to other staff people as to the extent of the new employee's knowledge, how she learned quickly. The 52-year-old told the supervisor it was not a matter of learning quickly, but that knowing the universal format of the software was something she was familiar with, and that it was just a matter of filling in the blanks.

The staff immediately began sending messages along the informal grapevine about the new staff person's abilities and skills. The term "photographic memory," was used, and came back to the new hire, who responded that it was not a photographic memory at all, just knowing the data elements that are required by all insurers helped her to understand very quickly the format of this particular hospital's software.

The staff was immediately intimidated by the new hire's understanding of the information being processed, and by the fact that the new hire, a four-year degree out of an ivy league university, had a vocabulary and way of speaking that was "strange" to the staff, who were mostly from a rural background and the immediate area, and only one person was pursuing higher education, and that education was in nursing.

The staff was so intimidated by the language, the social graces of the new hire's work, which elicited compliments from the customers that it became a problem. Rumors began spreading that the new hire was actually a new manager, who would take over from the supervisor - even though there was no such position opening listed. The situation became contentious, and the supervisor finally terminated the new hire for being so different from the staff that worked there that it had made for an impossible situation. The supervisor made the decision, even though the employee was a good performer, reported to work on time and when assigned, because the alternative was to terminate the entire p.m. shift, which was not a feasible alternative.

Write the barriers identified in the case here:

The first barrier was one of education vs. non-educated people. There is a marked difference between people who have completed a higher education, and who have been exposed to other cultures and experiences throughout the course of that education that makes it a bad fit to try to put them into a work environment with people who do not have those cultural or social experiences. Here, the barrier is "it's not okay to be different." Unfortunately, the difference between the new hire and the staff was so extreme that it created a bad work environment - although there was every indication that it was a problematic work environment to begin with.

Another barrier was that the new hire was 52 years old, and the existing p.m. staff was under 30. This meant that the 52-year-old was markedly different in her social, academic, and other life experiences. Her place in life was very different than that of the under 30s with whom she worked, and it created a situation where there were no common interests to bond with 52-year-old. Not to mention that the 52-year-old's skills and expertise in the work and hospital administration made it impossible for the staff to feel on the same level with the 52-year-old, which resulted in an environment contention. That is, the existing staff was resentful of the new hire's knowledge, and immediately began rumors.

Additionally, whether or not the staff persons realized it, their differences in age and the lack of commonalities with the new hire, and their unwillingness to be empathetic of her situation, was prejudicial in nature.

The supervisor's reference to the new hire as a "mature" woman, was a reflection of age discrimination. Whether or not the supervisor was looking for positive age related qualities, not to treat the woman the same or to have greater expectations of the woman was discriminatory, and the supervisor readily acknowledged that she hiring the new hire for age related reasons; and we can, therefore, conclude that the supervisor terminated her for age related reasons as well.

Debriefing Questions

Write your answers to the following debriefing questions.

1. Describe your personal reaction (feelings, thoughts) to the foregoing exercise.

The foregoing exercise was one that evoked thought involving the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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