Saturday, December 7, 2013

Being a College Student in the Real World

Just recently, I had group facilitation on conflict resolution.  During our class discussion, one of my peers said that they sometimes feel as if they cannot voice their opinions in certain settings (i.e. at their field placements), because of their age and job title.  I never stopped to think how much of an influence age and the people surrounding me affects the way I decide to handle things.  I then asked a few older family members and friends if they would be inclined to speak up about something they feel passionate about in their work settings, and to my surprise, age does not always bring self confidence in work settings.

I was tested that very same day on what I would do if I felt very passionate about a situation that dealt with work.  At my part-time job, an email was sent out earlier in the week for everyone to pick their hours to work during winter break.  The hours are on a first-come, first-serve basis; however, I did not find out about this winter break schedule until I went in to work on Wednesday and saw it sitting at the desk waiting to be filled out.  I just filled out the schedule with the hours I wanted to work.  The next day I got a message from a coworker about another email that was sent with an updated desk schedule and a reminder that it is best to email our supervisor the hours we want instead of writing them on the schedule.  When I opened the attachment with the schedule, most of the hours I signed up for were taken due to the email system he had in place as opposed to just signing up at the desk.  Of course I was not the only person that signed up with the desk schedule only, but I was the only person that did not receive the email.  So I had to sit back and think if this was “a ditch I was willing to die in” (as a past professor always stated) or to just let things go.  Being the person I am (not to mention a social worker), I get very passionate about some things and sometimes don’t even stop to think what could happen before acting or reacting.  But this time, I did take a minute to think of a few different angles and conclusions before I responded.  I was very calm in my email response and pointed out the flaws in this sign-up system. I felt it was clear to me, as it was to a few of my coworkers, that things were done unfairly and there should have been only one way to sign up for desk hours instead of two and everyone should have been included on the email.  I also gave a suggestion to start the scheduling over, although, my suggestion was not taken.

I believe that it shouldn't matter what your age or title is, you should be able to voice your opinions and concerns in any setting. There will always be some level of conflict in the workplace, but managing that conflict by making sure you are not creating bigger problems can always bring some kind of resolution.  The results will not always be in your favor but at least you would be able to say you tried and stood up for yourself.   As it’s said, “conflict can be good; it means you’re getting closer to a solution.”

by Edwina Mack, USC Master of Social Work Field Placement Student, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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