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The Real World

How do the mission statement–deprived practice conflict-resolution strategies while maintaining their core values?

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Irwin “Silky” Silverman, retired policeman
The problem: How to go over your boss’s head.
“I was working on a homicide case in which I had received a tip from the parents of the victim. The perpetrators I was looking for were two brothers, one in New York and one living in a tree house in California. Time was of the essence, but the lieutenant said he’d decide later whether we could go.”

The solution: Make your case to a higher authority—under the pretense of doing due diligence.
“I went to the D.A. who was in charge of the homicide bureau and gave him the information, asking if there was anything else we might need if he decided to prosecute the case. He told us to go and get the guy under his authority.”

The outcome:
“I went out to California and ended up climbing a 1,000-foot hill to this guy’s house at four in the morning. You had to go up a ladder to get in. We were able to get a confession, a statement, and a warrant to bring him back. The lieutenant just said, ‘in my opinion, it could have waited.’ ”

Ishle Yi Park, former official poet laureate of Queens and touring member of Def Poetry Jam
The problem: How to deal with peers when you win a widely coveted job.
“I had applied to be poet laureate at the same time as Reverend Run of Run-DMC. When I won, the papers tried to pit Reverend Run against the Korean girl. And at the time I was being employed by Russell Simmons, Reverend Run’s brother.”

The solution: Attribute your victory to meeting management’s idiosyncratic needs, not your inherent superiority.
“When reporters called me, I was adamant in saying that I do believe hip-hop is poetry, and that, to be honest, I agreed with him that Queens wasn’t ready to have a rapper be poet laureate.”

The outcome:
“I met Reverend Run at a Def Poetry Jam event, and we shook hands. It was a very respectful meeting—I think he knew that I could’ve taken a jab at him and didn’t.”

“Net,” graffiti artist
The problem: Mutually destructive rivalry with competitor.
“There was this one graffiti artist named Pez, and he put a flyer on the wall, like paying homage to different graffiti artists in New York, and wrote all the names who were active in NYC at the time. And then he wrote, ‘Net sucks.’ So it started a beef where we would write over each other’s name, and it’s been going on for almost ten years.”

The solution: Propose compromise without direct confrontation.
“I wrote a message to him with a marker on a place frequented by the both of us, the old Tower Records on East 4th Street and Lafayette. I crossed his tag out, and wrote, ‘I want a hundred cans.’ I sent messages through friends to compensate me with 100 cans of spray paint.”

The outcome:
Pending, but “it’s very rare that I’ll see his tag.”


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