The word conflict is almost commonplace in the workplace these days, even reading the news this week there was a story of astronauts being put into isolation with each other before the next expedition so that people could understand how they deal with interpersonal conflict.
I just don’t understand where this term came from, conflict.
We ran another of our building relationships workshops this week & whilst in the midst of discussion someone came up with an alternative – An inability between two people
to resolve petty disagreements because they can’t control their temper.
Wow. Someone really did silence the room.
Why did that happen?
Conflict it seems is so familiar in the vocabulary of just about everyone these days we don’t even bat an eyelid. Do you?
The objective of the session was to try & establish what were the non-negotiables when it comes to the workplace. You know, what is it that we actually get paid to do. If that is clearly established, why is there a need for ‘conflict’.
Ok, sometimes things happen & get in the way, the bus is late or the kids are sick, the traffic was heavy. It happens. Is this enough to cause conflict?
If it’s a case of an individual consistently underperforms & misses their target, what is the root cause? Bad luck? Ability? Choice of aftershave?
Do your expectations of the job or the role change? No. So why the need for conflict? The company still sells the same thing/service right?
So, what’s changed?
We need to start with the ‘Why’. Why did the target/objective get missed? Once you’ve established that then we can put steps in place to remove it for the future. Of course, you may be the kind of leader that doesn’t care why it was missed, in which case you & I will get no benefit from discussing things any further. However, if like me you understand that we all have days or times when our focus is shifted, understanding that trust between the team member & their manager is the key to getting that performance back on track.
What happened, why did it happen & what do we need to do to prevent it from happening again?
If it reoccurs then you have the decision to make, did the steps you put in place ensure that this wouldn’t happen again? If yes what do you do? Record it as note of reference & the need for improvement or straight to the disciplinary process? Or are you guilty of sometimes doing nothing?
The point that I try to make is that this doesn’t need to result in conflict, if it does, what does that say about your culture?
You’ve set out your requirements, job description & terms of pay, that much we have established long ago.
The need for communication & understanding why the challenge has occurred is key. The team members understanding what is expected from them is sometimes not so clear.
As I type, Raquel is currently running the Ugli Orange exercise. We have 2 teams of people arguing like hell because their need for the orange is greater than the other. Voices are being raised, people are frustrated & animated because their need is more important. This is music to our ears of course as its part of the learning we have set out to achieve. Communicating each-other’s needs, understanding each-others needs & having the trust between each other to resolve the problem negates the need for conflict.
For me there is no surprise that each team has frustrations with the other. No matter how many times incidents occur, each look to find blame in the other rather than understanding why it happened & how to avoid it in the future. Between them they both have the answer, they just don’t trust each other because they don’t communicate with each other. No meetings, no reviews, no chats over lunch, nothing. Except of course conflict.
Having clear expectations from both parts is critical to the harmony of any team. The idea that conflict is the key to a high performing team is, in my humble opinion, garbage. From the on-boarding process through to the day to day timekeeping, knowing clearly what is expected must be front & centre. That goes for interdepartmental teams too, everyone needs to know the boundaries & expectations.
It’s easy to excuse it, we’re too busy, too much going on, meetings are a waste of time & energy. Yet arguing with a work colleague is a valuable resource & use of your time? It’s a good reflection to those around you who see you as a role model?
There will always be those that are having an off day, you talk to them just at the point they’re about to lose control. I’m not saying it’s never going to happen, just saying it doesn’t make it acceptable nor indeed that it’s just a natural occurrence. Least of all that conflict is acceptable.