“There’s too many cooks in the kitchen.” “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” “There’s always, ‘one’.” Oftentimes, whether in the workplace, or our personal lives, we will run into people that we may clash with—whether it’s a personality conflict, or differing viewpoints. How can we address things in a productive way? Maybe it’s too difficult to have compassion for the other person, understanding why an individual acts the way they do. Whatever the cause of the conflict, we have the choice whether we try to resolve it with the person, or decide that we do not want to give it any more energy than we already feel has been taken from us. Neither choice is wrong. It is what is best for you.
The TV show “Roseanne” is now back, with all of the same “characters”. In the first episode of the show, it is made very clear that Roseanne and her sister Jackie have differing political stances. They go back-and-forth about their views. Jackie wears a t-shirt that has the words, “nasty woman” on it. As expected, Roseanne has many “Roseanne” things to say. In the end of them getting to a point of discussing their differences, the two sisters decide to apologize in the best way that they can, hug, and make up.
The above would be an ideal resolution in any conflict. When relationships are important to us, it’s unfortunate when political, or other differing viewpoints, get in the way of a relationship we’ve had a long time. So what do we do when we have choices that won’t hurt so much as if we were to cut our sister out of our lives?
If you haven’t been through my website, I find purpose in helping people find a work/life balance. I have worked in stressful places with imbalance. I saw employees abruptly lay down their keys and walk out. I saw supervisors gain weight rapidly due to working extremely long hours with no time or energy for fitness or preparing healthy meals as they once had. Older employees told me how they felt, “stuck” in their positions— counting the days until their retirement. I saw bright-eyed millennials come in, and watched their shine dull rapidly. I saw the effects of, “office politics” that caused people to run around trying to please others. Yet, these people—older and younger—complained to me confidentially that they were not pleased at all.
I now am going into companies to help all involved, collaborating with them on how to run much more smoothly than what I’ve previously seen. I want to see employers be happy with their decisions. I want employees to be happy with their employer’s decisions. I want to see companies benefit from healthy work environments where everyone is motivated and happy— and maybe even getting excited about holiday parties together. I want the ideal for everyone.
The above might sound idealistic, because it is. Yet, it is not impossible--if you want to accomplish it for the benefit of you and your company, and the benefit of stress and toxicity not bleeding into your personal life and relationships. It is possible to lead with authority, and still foster a culture where people feel they are able to communicate in a place of equality. We only have one life. We spend a lot of our life at work. Why not make healthy conflict resolution a practice to make space for everyone involved?
Find a common ground. When managers are willing to understand and make sure of people’s common beliefs and needs, this common ground can start to grow cohesiveness. This is where there is more possibility of working towards a better way of communicating. Despite different values and practices within generations, most desire to find purpose or meaning in their work.
Find a style of communication that supports all. If you can focus on finding out what is going on, and how it can be resolved--as opposed to assigning blame to an individual--the issues at hand can be addressed, instead of addressing one another. All of the skills you would assume a therapist uses is appropriate here. The person-centered/humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers identifies necessary and sufficient conditions that are required for success in therapy. The conditions listed below may be beneficial to employ at your workplace:
1. Unconditional Positive Regard (the basic acceptance and support of a person, regardless of what the person says or does)
3. Congruence (with thoughts and behaviors, and being able to identify when there is incongruence--which can cause anxiety)
4. Open-ended questions (Try asking questions that start with how, what, when and where. When you ask “why”, that can place blame on a person.)
What is the context? Seeing a conflict, “in the moment” could cause you to take things out of context. The norms of your workplace play a role in how conflicts arise and show themselves. Before intervening, evaluate the climate in your organization, and the nature of the conflicts you are seeing. A quote to remember is, “You cannot change and remain the same.” If your practices change, so may your employee’s practices. This does not mean conflicts will disappear. Conflicts can arise in any workplace or relationship. But, creating an air of trust and openness can have a great impact on whether resolutions are constructive or destructive for the functionality of your workplace.
Not all work well with authority figures. Whether you exercise an air of power over people or not, people can tend to balk at the idea of being controlled. If someone feels like power is being abused, or feels like there in an imbalance--as opposed to collaboration with them--productivity can come to a halt. Even just your physical presence can be intimidating, even if you are not trying to be. Communication is key. I personally have had reports from clients who raved about the relationships they have with their bosses. Their words are good to hear.
We are an individualistic society. Unlike Eastern practices that are collectivistic, we are a society that values individual accomplishment, where competition is surely involved. Competition can be a healthy element, to a degree, in a workplace. Yet, when there is a threat of co-workers advancing at the expense of others, the air of the workplace can become, “as think as pea soup”, and be hard to cut through it. With this then tense, volatile environment, goals and communication will be more difficult to attain.
So, evaluate the communication and power structures in place within your workplace and workplace relationships. Is it set up to keep any conflicts that may arise constructively handled? What can you do to benefit all involved so your company can thrive?
If you have any questions or concerns about how your company could improve, or if your personal life is being affected due to your workplace environment, always feel free to reach out. Always feel free to share this with someone you feel could benefit from this article.
1. Find a common ground.
2. Find a style of communication that supports all.
3. What is the context?
4. Not all work well with authority figures.
5. We are an individualistic society.