In my seminars on Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work…and Everywhere Else! I ask the audience how many folks came from a home where no one spoke up when they were upset or hurting, the “Do not say boo to a goose” families. Those are the homes of the “Silent Ones.”
Then, I ask those who came from “Let it all hang out! Tell it like it is.” families to identify themselves. Those are the homes where everyone fought for airtime and whoever had the loudest voice took the day. Those are the homes of the “Ol’ Yellers.” There, people said their piece, cleared the air and went on to live and love again…or, not!
Now, put the extremes of those two home lifestyles together on a team. Can you picture the relationship? It isn’t rocket science to quickly realize how those homes impact the workplace even after twenty years in the work force! That’s why it is imperative to strategically and systematically acquire and practice relationship skills for effective conflict management. Those old skills need refreshing!
Sometimes, when I'm working with business teams, the evidence of the split between Ol' Yellers and Silent Ones is screamingly obvious. The Silent Ones take the brunt of the pain internally and tend to turmoil and talk among themselves. This is completely counter-productive for all concerned. What they need to say to Ol' Yellers is important to communicate and move on, yet, they stew in the juices of "Ain't it awful" and "They're doing us wrong!" That is stuck energy. Ol' Yeller continues in the same way because no one set a boundary.
These are unproductive work relationships. To ensure effectiveness in a collaborative relationship, it's imperative to find your own voice, your own approach to relationships at work - especially in conflict - that get results.
Recently a person wrote to me privately about the fear of losing one's job being the reason no one speaks up. I understand that completely. Here's my response to that email:
I can understand that conflict in workplace relationships, where people are definitely concerned about keeping their jobs, is a big issue. I'm talking about the personal fear of conflict, knowing that you are living from that disempowering place.
There will always be people who don't agree with us--people who have a need to be dominating or superior in their desire to control-- difficult people and miserable people with whom we must create relationships.
My suggestion is to be sure to have taken the time to understand yourself and what goes on with you when conflict is in the air. Then, equip yourself with the best skills to manage it in ways that are totally honest and totally kind at the same time. And, then, of course, be wise enough to know when to hold and when to fold! Then, we're not living from fear, and who wants to do that if it is unnecessary?
And, yes, this is a tenuous time in the job market. People are looking at their businesses in a very masculine mode: this is a machine and if a part is not working, I'll simply replace it. Women, when living from their true nature, treat their businesses differently: this is a garden which I will water, nourish, tend and support to help it to grow in the best way possible. Yes, that is a stereotypical generalization, but, it is also generally true. When business owners are fearful, it does trickle down, or, even, flood.
So, if you are bringing the conflict management and relationship skills you learned at home to your present adult life, you need to examine them for effectiveness. In the words of Dr. Phil,
"How's it working for ya?"
It may be time for a refresher course that will empower you to think differently about who you are, your place in the world and how you express it. It is essential to bring your relationship skills in alignment with your values, vision, beliefs and purpose. And, yes, you will have to discern when to hold and when to fold, but, you'll feel confident that you have the skills to hold and speak up, skills that will help you be totally kind and totally honest at the same time.
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