Dr. Kathy Obear

Less Conflict at Work: Is it Really Possible?

– Posted in: workplace dynamics

I’ve been hearing from so many people about the difficult situations they’re encountering at work – tangled conflicts, mismanaged situations, ego-driven politics, and escalating tensions – to name just a few. And the results of workplace conflict are catastrophic to any business!

In the 30 years I’ve been doing training and organizational change work, my own perspective has changed a lot. I used to believe that all people needed was to attend one of my workshops and they would quickly and easily change their behaviors.

Just like that, they’d walk out of my workshop and immediately start creating greater productivity and inclusion in the workplace. Easy, right?

Are you laughing along with me right now? Yeah, I thought so.

If I knew then what I know now about workplace dynamics…

Dr Kathy Obear | Chagne Agent | Organizational and Social ChangeThe many years I’ve spent working in this field have shown me just how complicated and complex workplace dynamics really are. No one actually teaches us how to create inclusive, high-performing teams. To the contrary, most of us learn by trial and error. If you’re really lucky, you have a mentor or coach in the organization to help guide you along the way.

You already know the consequences of negative workplace dynamics: subverted teamwork, rising tensions and resentments, eroded working relationships, and undermined productivity, creativity, and customer service.

It doesn’t stop there. We end up wasting so much time, energy, and money trying to rebuild relationships, redo poor quality work, and recapture the trust and loyalty of our customers that many of us want to just throw in the towel.

Tell me if you can relate

When I first met Geri, I knew immediately she was the type of leader others went to for coaching and advice. Yet, it seemed like the dysfunctional organizational dynamics at almost every meeting she attended left her feeling overwhelmed and just so frustrated.

“Give me an example of what’s going on,” I asked her. Enter Denny. She was about ready to give up on him. They’d just been in another meeting where he mismanaged a conflict between other execs. No amount of advice or coaching seemed to alleviate the issue – he had no room for any compromise or negotiation.

In a meeting intended to choose a handful of high performing employees to receive a bonus and take part in a high level professional development program, he openly disparaged one of the top picks. And then… Awkward silence. Tension you could cut with a knife. Productivity plummeted. You know what I’m talking about.

Finally, a breakthrough in an unexpected way

As Geri and I began to work together, she was able to deepen her understanding of the situation; in particular, why she shut down every time Denny got angry. Instead of trying to give advice or coach him directly, she tried a new approach: she took him to lunch.

Yes, you read that right. And I bet you’re wondering just what happened over lunch. Geri talked about her own experience working with me – what she was learning, the insights she’d gained, the tools she’d picked up along the way.

conflict resolution at work | workplace dynamics The results weren’t instantaneous, but finally, a breakthrough… an understanding. And that’s what it’s all about. I don’t know about you, but I can say with full honesty that earlier in my own career, I had only two speeds in triggering situations: flight and freeze!

So I get it. And I also understand a third common speed – fight mode! I actually thought back then that I was making progress when I hit fight mode, but all it really accomplished was to escalate the dysfunction and create even more damage. I’m willing to bet that many of you reading this will be able to relate to both Geri and Denny on some level.

You need a comprehensive toolkit to stop fighting and start transforming conflict at work

What I’ve learned is that it’s vital to have a comprehensive toolkit at your fingertips with the skills and approaches you can share to help others (and yourself) effectively navigate conflict and resolve challenging situations.

conflict resolution toolkit | tools for work conflictA toolkit like this can help you notice the first signs you’re feeling triggered before you make a move that alters your entire career…or even your life. As Geri and I worked together, she was able to build her own toolkit to not only understand her own reactions more clearly, but to have a stronger understanding of others as well.

What do you gain? The right toolkit can aid in de-escalating your emotions to increase clarity – allowing you to respond more effectively. And it can give you profound insight into the very core of your reactions so you can shift them when you’re triggered in the future.

Are you ready to stop firefighting? Ready for a change in your organization?

Talk with Kathy Obear about chagne and social justiceHere’s what I know: reading a book or attending a quick workshop typically doesn’t motivate most people to change their behavior – at least not for very long. Will they increase their awareness? Their understanding? Gain some insight? Maybe.

But real change, in my opinion, happens most effectively when we learn from someone we respect and trust – someone who can demonstrate new ways to engage and empower.

If you’re ready to step into the game and shift your leadership capacity to the next level, I’d love to work with you in my new course, Courageous Leadership: Managing Difficult Situations and Challenging Conversations.

If you realize the painful loss of potential and talent as people slowly burn out from the stress of dysfunctional team dynamics and toxic work environments, this is the course for you.

Know this: There is another way to reduce conflict and increase creative problem-solving at work. And it starts right here – to learn more how you can step up your game as a bad-ass change agent in the workplace and beyond, click right HERE.

 

 

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Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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