Interpersonal friction is common among people in organizations. Such frictions stem from different sources. Often, individuals seek contrasting goals, and so come into direct conflict with one another. Perhaps the single most common cause of interpersonal friction within organizations, involves the absence of accurate perception. Frequently, individuals lack insight into their own feelings and into those of the persons around them, and -most importantly- do not comprehend their own impact on others. As a result they anger, irritate, or annoy these persons unintentionally, and often unnecessarily. Sensitivity training is one technique where attempt is made to resolve interpersonal friction.
Advocates of sensitivity training generally accept three basic assumptions: (1) under ordinary conditions, individuals are far from open and honest with one another; (2) this lack of openness often blocks the development of important insights about oneself and other; (3) such insights can be encouraged if individuals are placed in a setting where honest, direct communication is the rule rather than the exception.
Process of sensitivity training:
In accordance with these assertions, sensitivity training itself usually involves the participation of small number of persons (about ten to fifteen) in extended group discussions. These discussions take place in a setting geographically removed from the pressures and distractions of the home organization and often last for several days. An expert trainer is present at all times, but he or she does not actually direct the group. Rather, participants are actively encourage to discuss anything they wish. It is emphasized, however, that the major purpose is to attain greater understanding of oneself and others. In some cases, all the participants are members of the same work unit and are acquainted before the start of the training (family groups); in others, they belong to the same organization but do not work together (cousin groups); and in still others, participants are totally unacquainted before starting the group sessions- they may even work for different companies (stranger groups). Regardless of the composition of the participants are encouraged to express their feelings directly and openly. Second, immediate feedback is provided. Whenever an individual expresses some feelings or reaction, other group members are encouraged to respond with their own comments and interpretations. It is reasoned that under these conditions, individuals will learn much about themselves and others. And in this way, perhaps, they will become more skilled at handling interpersonal relations.
After people participate in sensitivity training, they return to their organizations. If the training has been successful they now have clearer understanding of their own feelings, and have learned how to “read” those of other more effectively. Further, they now have a firmer grasp of their own impact upon others-how their behaviors is interpreted by and affects the persons around them. Together, these new insights and skills may contribute to improved interpersonal relations.
Dr. Mahesh Mangaonkar
Faculty, Indira School of Business Studies, Pune.