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The Flu and the Value of Hearing All Sides

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As the swine flu crept up in many homes, schools, workplaces, and public areas throughout our nation, people were starting to fret about securing an H1N1 shot before they ran out. To make matters worse, there was a new controversy on who qualified as “high risk.”

According to one article, thousands of prisoners would be vaccinated against the swine flu before the general public.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons and state health officials say more than 45,000 convicts are being considered for the vaccine. They’ve been targeted by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distribution policy to receive the vaccine.

Texas is the second state to announce it would vaccinate prisoners before vaccinating the general public. Earlier this month, Massachusetts announced it would do the same.

Officials plan to inoculate more than 40,000 correctional officers and medical personnel who work with those prisoners and are also considered to be at high-risk for developing the flu.

To some law-abiding citizens of this nation, losing the potential to receive the shot for their kids or themselves to a prisoner, is unfair. Yet, The Centers For Disease Control disagreed wholeheartedly:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines to states listing categories of people who are highest priority for receiving vaccinations against the virulent influenza strain known as swine flu. Christopher Cox, spokesman for the CDC, said the high priority guidance applies to higher-risk people whether they are in a prison, a homeless shelter, a school, or a nursing home.

Spokesman Cox defended the overall decision stating, “What we’re looking at is vulnerability to getting sick and dying of H1N1. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

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As controversial as this subject was, the truth of the matter is, there’s no right answer. For those individuals desperate for flu shots for their kids or themselves, their argument cannot be disputed. Yet, to deny certain citizens the right to protect themselves from the flu simply because of their past behavior, also seems unjust. Bottom line, with every situation that involves satisfying the expectations of two opposing positions, an impasse usually forms. And although workplace controversies are rarely a matter of life or death, its important to remember that all sides have ownership in their stance.

The essential path to keep in mind when dealing with seemingly unresolvable rifts between stakeholders, is that arguments are heard and acknowledged. A compromise may not be easily discovered, but airing frustrations in a constructive manner may help stakeholders recognize each others point of view.

The important thing in situations like this is communication. If someone simply says they’re going to vaccinate prisoners first, then the rest of the population could very likely have a problem with it. However, if it’s explained why those prisoners are at a higher risk, and the plan for when the vaccine will get to the general population, then it’s more than likely that most rational people won’t have nearly as big of a problem with the situation as they did before they had a full slate of information. By explaining the logic behind the decision, a civil conversation can take place, and a solution that benefits the majority of stakeholders can be found.

As we have covered in the past, employee satisfaction and friction between stakeholders is not detrimental so long as it sparks useful conversation that leads to growth rather than stagnation. Sometimes a respectful conflict can be the optimal way to reach an ideal solution. If your company is wedged between opposing points of view and wishes to bring satisfaction to all parties involved, contact our business consultants today.

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