Here we go again...

I’ve written before about my dislike of the word “conflict’ in relation to the working environment. Usually when I challenge someone who’s view is that it’s a vital part of performance & creativity I don’t have to wait long before I’m wishing I hadn’t said anything at all.

So why am I doing it again you may ask? Well, that’s a great question!

My passion is working with people, many, many people over the years & I’ve yet to be in a position where anything good comes from people engaging in conflict. To me, that simply means who can argue longer & louder than everyone else & in an environment where it is not only allowed but encouraged. It boggles my mind.

People are different, have different beliefs, values & of course biases. Not that you usually get the chance to talk about those because of course it doesn’t apply to those that believe that it’s the best way to behave. After all, no-one likes to be called biased do they?

Does that mean that I don’t have difficult (or even fierce) conversations? Of course not, Raquel would be the first person to tell me of my use of the phrase ‘the non-negotiables’. I don’t accept poor performance, nor would I stifle creativity. I just cultivate it in a different manner to others.

Having a team that all buys into a shared vision is no easy fete, it can be really hard at times, really hard. Do we give up? No, you go back at it again, take feedback & move forward even if that means that you don’t agree. That doesn’t mean that you walk away without resolve, after all, the non-negotiables are already in place.

I’m not naïve enough to say that it goes well all of the time, I just ensure that the team I work with embrace each-others strengths, know when someone has something to say & has the capability to understand or has the awareness to see someone is struggling with the

topic at hand.

Try to have a discussion about your unconscious bias with a team member & see how that goes. Harvard Business, University of Virginia & The University of Washingtoncame together & created the now well-known topic of ‘Project Implicit’. A test that was specifically designed to understand our hidden bias through what was to be named ‘Implicit Association Tests’ to measure unconscious bias in the academic world. It’s a fascinating read that sets about tackling the dangers of stereotypes & prejudices & the impact this then has in the foundation of discrimination. Discriminatory behaviour they say, ranges from slights to hate crimes & very often begins with ‘negative stereotype or prejudice’. Of course, those cases are extreme & I’m not saying that everyone is a racist, however, your body language including such things as eye contact even the way you blink can give some people the belief that they are not being treated the same as others & ultimately diminish their performance.

I suppose my conscious bias tells me that I am very sensitive to the word ‘conflict’. So much so that I do have an emotional anchor to grab hold of when it’s used at work. I think I understand what people mean when they say they encourage it in meetings or in high performing teams. I trust that it’s a way to discuss difficult topics & have everyone buy into the common good. Well actually no I don’t believe that. I believe that people who use the ‘C’ word do so with the full intent & encouragement of using hostile, argumentative & at times aggressive behaviours & cultures. That’s why understanding your unconscious bias is so important for anyone who works with or manages people. It’s called unconscious for a reason; but I’ll wait to be told that you don’t have it & are the perfect leader with perfect teams with perfect employee engagement.

There are so many buzz words in the workplace at the moment, it’s alive with them. I’m sure before long the next wave will be upon us.

One of the most common competencies that we see in businesses is communication, having the ability to communicate with people at all levels of the business in a positive way. They identify who should be involved in projects or decisions & then prepare to encourage their buy in, influencing people in a positive way to drive responsibility of the goal. I wonder how many companies could stand over their values & say that they encourage in a positive way across the business rather than the few who agree with you because of you rather than what it is you are saying?

I think that the common term for people like me is ‘fluffy’. I’m quite ok with that.

Clifford Learning & Business Consulting

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