Why We Need Agreement About Conflict Management

© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

•Do you balk when someone is in your face?
•Do you freeze when someone is aggressive with you?
•Do you think of a comeback hours too late?
•Do you live in fear of seeing or interacting or working with that person again?
If the answer is “Yes!” then you don’t know what to do that is effective and productive when faced with conflict. GOOD NEWS! The skills to manage and accommodate conflict are learned. That’s where you got the ones you have AND you can get better, more effective ones easily.

We have not come far from the reptiles when it comes to being faced with anger, conflict or confrontation. Our reptilian brain only knows how to fight, flee or freeze. Apparently, conflict management wasn’t an option in the days of the dinosaurs!

With systematically developed communication and conflict management skills, you can feel much more competence, comfortable and confident every day. You know you can handle it, and that feels good.

Recently I was consulting to a company who had employee problems ruining their productivity and profitability. Morale was down the drain. Trust was almost non-existent. People simply showed up and went through the motions most days. On other days, it was all out war…in the most underhanded, undermining ways as well as loudly, rudely and viciously. What an incentive to take sick days!

No company can afford this. In fact, Dan Dana’s research shows that up to 42% of an employees time is spent engaging in or trying to resolve conflict. And, I add, without skills they can’t resolve anything!

So, the client had called me when he was dangling from the last threads of his tether.

“Help! If something doesn’t happen, we’re going to go bankrupt. They are difficult to work with. Their animosity for each other spreads to their attitude with customers. They demonstrate little respect for each other, and, I know they are just holding themselves back from being insubordinate with me. What can you do?”

I said: “Take a deep breath!”

And, then we began to unpack the issues, history and probably steps to solution.

The simple truth is: WE TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO TREAT US! If we once let them treat us badly, we’ve begun to set a pattern…and, often, set it in stone. This CEO had not developed a conscious culture for his company, had not communicated the ways in which employees would interact in order to stay employed, and had no mechanism for agreement. So, not only did folks have no skills, they had no direction.

Corporate culture must be defined. Yes, it takes time away from the day-to-day, but it is essential. Without defining corporate culture, anything goes. If don’t know the agreements–and the consequences of stepping outside of them–there is stress. The problem is that without those agreements, no one knows where the boundaries are.

COMPANIES HAVE THE TEACH EMPLOYEES HOW TO TREAT EACH OTHER AT WORK! They do that by pr0-actively addressing this in their corporate culture documents and discussing it fully–and enforcing it–with their teams.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

I wish you well.

Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
Catalyst for Communication & Collaboration

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