Week 6 Response – Discrimimation, Culture, and (Possible) Disruptions of Collaborative Processes 

In Chapter 18 Burnett, Cooper, and Welhausen begin by acknowledging the importance of communication and teamwork within both the workplace and the overall field of tech comm. We learn that the act of collaborating is “important because virtually all workplaces rely on group-based decision making and projects” (454). Then (in Chapter 19) we learn from St. Amant that a lack of communication/collaboration within international environments can highly influence the goals, effectiveness, etc. of certain projects. This weeks readings were extremely interesting, because they brought up topics that revolve around social and cultural barriers within the field. Though the text focused more-so on the effects of employee cultural knowledge (or a lack thereof) and team-member relationships on product efficiency, this particular post is going to dig a bit deeper by complicating and questioning employee interactions and collaborative decision-making processes. It will also question the assumption that all technical communicators must approach their jobs with a willingness to understand and comply with other people’s cultures.
I could not help but to think outside of these passages. Yes we understand that collaboration is important, but what do we do when issues arise that not only bring conflict to the collaboration process but also conflict with our personal beliefs? How do we manage conflict created by a resistance to collaborate? How do we handle situations within tech comm that may engage in discrimination? For example, after reading chapters 18 and 19 I imagined two scenarios in which conflict could possibly arise due to cultural and religious beliefs.
Scenario 1: Imagine being on a team of technical communicators creating a FAQ webpage for an company based in India. You have been instructed to take care of all visual aspects of the webpage (graphs, photos, etc.). You, in the process of constructing this page, are told that the image you selected consisting of a dark-skinned man in a business suit will 1) not be well received and 2) lacks visual appeal because dark skin in Indian culture is not particularly valued. During the next team meeting, a few of your coworkers seem to agree that you should find another photo. Do you discard your beliefs, find another photo, and make adjustments to the webpage as advised or do you keep the photo and continue developing the webpage?

Scenario 2: You are a woman who has been paired with a male coworker for an upcoming project. This particular coworker, due to religion, does not believe that men and women are equals. Therefore, he has a tendency to ignore and/or disregard the ideas you bring to the table. How exactly do you collaborate with someone who seems unwilling?

Both scenarios are very much possibilities, and because there is often a tremendous amount of background diversity between (and amongst) clients, technical communicators, and users I feel as though it is imperative to know how to handle both collaborative and cultural conflict that arises from discrimination. As the book mentions, “group based work methods exist in nearly 70% of U.S. firms” (457). Though it has been proven that group work is more efficient, it cannot be ignored that there are a number of factors which contribute to collaborative success. In Chapter 9, it was brought to my attention that ethics are to be regarded as “context-dependent” processes that can sometimes require tedious amounts deliberation and negotiation (234-235). Does this still apply here? Where do we draw the line when it comes to what is best for the project and what is ethically/morally “right?” Being the person that I am, I would want to choose the “right” option, but I’m finding that it may be more difficult to do than originally expected.

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