Communication, Culture, and Discord: A Case Study of Avoidable Leadership Failure in European-Palestinian NGO

Communication, Culture, and Discord: A Case Study of Avoidable Leadership Failure in European-Palestinian NGO

Reema Rasheed (ESDC, Palestine) and Keith Jackson (SOAS, UK)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5067-1.ch009


This case study examines an avoidable failure of management communication and leadership in a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) established in Palestine in 1994 with European Union (EU) funding. It has been staffed over time by European and Palestinian employees. This case study highlights processes of cross-cultural communication between local and non-local employees, the mismanagement of which appears to have led to conflict and a breakdown of relationships such that the achievement of the NGO’s mission became threatened. Using a combination of verbatim testimony by the employees involved and reference to established theories of conflict management, cross-cultural communication, and organizational leadership, the case study illustrates how avoidable conflict can arise in organizations, notably in international NGOs. Furthermore, the case study illustrates how timely and effective leadership interventions might prevent conflict becoming both ingrained and detrimental to the health of the organization, thereby undermining its potential to fulfil its mission.
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Setting The Stage

In contexts for organizational behavior and management, Robbins (2005:422) defines ‘conflict’ as:

A process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affect, something that the first party cares about.

The emphasis Robbins gives here to perception is vital; for perception is recognized as a natural human propensity to process and interpret information coming through the senses, notably sight, hearing, touch, taste and the elusive fifth sense of intuition (Gleitman, 2001). In relation to conflict, perception works intuitively as a survival mechanism, guiding human beings and animals towards choosing to meet conflict head on or flee (Sperber, 1995). As individuals, we are each socialized into one or other cultures. For example, within the family or at school. It is through the experience of socialization that people’s perceptions of what is ‘normal’ or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are formed.

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