Carol Bowser: Conflict at work and what's really going on

Conflict At Work. What is Really Going On.

Conflict Tips Employee Relations
Written by Carol Bowser

I have spent a bunch of time facilitating groups when things are not going well. While the situations may be different, there are some common occurrences.

First, people often feel like they are walking on eggshells. Folks are monitoring the emotional climate. They are carefully choosing their words. They are concerned , if not afraid, of being on the receiving end of someone’s bad mood or sharp tongue.

Second, trust bottoms out. All that talk about “bringing your authentic self to work?” Forget it. More time asking “why am I here?” And “why won’t anyone in authority DO SOMETHING!”

Third, coalition building. People are taking sides. Maybe even the side that is wondering why people complain about drama, yet the team can’t seem to get out of drama.

Fourth, no one who needs to be talking to each other is actually talking to each other. Really talking to each other. Leaders suggest, coach, appeal, or direct people to talk to one another. BUT people resist. They say “heck no!” The conflict and drama simmers on.

It makes sense if you think about it. People feel like they do not have the time and energy to be able to address things without creating even more drama. I mean why take the risk and stir the pot?

What to do? Recently, at the end of a team retreat, I asked the group to share their learnings and insights from the day. One woman said something really cool. She said, “Well since I dislike conflict, I step in early to prevent dramatics.” I found that statement great! Counter intuitive at first glance then so simple and obvious!

I really liked what she said about how she doesn’t like conflict and prefers to “step in and have the conversation early” to avoid the drama. She was so calm and matter of fact. So…zen.

Step in early to AVOID future drama.

Here is a challenge for you.

Is it possible that maybe the next time you think there might be drama brewing or that people are starting to feel a little bit uncomfortable, you step in early and point out what you sense some potential drama brewing because of what you have seen and heard?

You are just speaking from your perspective. You are noticing. Avoiding blaming. Acknowledging that there might be some “upsetness”. Asking “am I off base here or is there something going on that you both are concerned about?”