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In a small, twelve – person consulting agency, two important members, the program coordinator, Joe, and the publications manager, Juanita, were having serious problems getting along because their five – year marriage was failing. Joe and Juanita decided not to bring up their problems in front of the group because they believed it would only disrupt the operations of the ordinarily harmonious group. Suppression of the problems certainly kept their antagonism from becoming an open issue, but it did not prevent their tensions from influencing the group’s climate. The agency’s weekly meetings were marked by uncomfortable pauses and evasions of pressing issues. Relationships became cautious and artificial; authority relations were also ambiguous because two important members were reluctant to talk to each other and fought over small issues.

Finally, at one tension – filled meeting, another member, Karen, openly stated that she felt uncomfortable and that she wanted to talk about Joe and Juanita’s problems and their effect on the group. In the ensuing discussion, many issues and feelings emerged. Members were relieved to talk openly, and both Joe and Juanita were able to unburden themselves and get support from the group. The tension between Joe and Juanita did not subside as a result of Karen’s intervention (in fact, it continued until Joe left the agency), but the group’s climate improved markedly and members were better able to cope with their co – workers’ relationship problems.

Answer the following questions:


What were the risks Karen took?

Why do you think the overall climate improved despite these risks?

Imagine yourself as Karen: Why might you hesitate to intervene in this way?

Imagine yourself as Joe or Juanita: How might you feel when Karen first brings up this issue?

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