Consider the following:
- A whopping 93% of workers report being negatively affected by and unable to deal with conflict on the job.
- Senior executives spend over half their time resolving personality conflicts at work and that is almost double the time spent in the 1990's
- Litigation for workplace harassment and hostile work environments has gone up exponentially in the past 8 years.
- The cost of employee turnover, estimated at between 30% and 150% of employees' salaries, is leaving large holes in company productivity as well as poor morale.
Why do tensions get so dialed up at work?
- The intensity of change is increasing at an alarming rate.
- The need today is to do more with less when we are already overtaxed physically and emotionally.
- The addiction to information and to smart phones is creating reactive decision-making and ultimately confusion about what to do next.
- Time starvation and anxiety are becoming the norm which makes us all less productive and more defensive.
We need to STOP and re-evaluate before we are all wound so tightly, we end up physically or emotionally damaged.
Here are suggestions for nipping the patterns of responding and reacting, without thinking through the implications of our behavior at work. (Hint: These suggestions will be equally as effective when you bring them into your family life):
- Think before you speak: Make sure you know the direction you want to go. Have at least three short bullet points before each and every conversation. Ask yourself "what will be the greatest outcome here?"
- Stay big picture: Let others give you input. Stay with what you want to accomplish and then let others help you decide the shortest route with the fewest potholes. You don't have to have every answer all the time.
- Silence is still communicating: Give others time to respond. Count to ten or even twenty before you jump in with your own thoughts. Often silence will give the moments needed to calm down and shine light on new, more creative thoughts.
- Be visual: Our world is filled with color and sound so when you use words to describe your thoughts and feelings you help others see what is really going on inside. People respond to colors, so talk about feeling blue, or getting purple mad, or wanting to move a tough situation into the yellow of sunshine. Find your own style and be descriptive.
- Get the BUT out of your YES: Qualifiers are deal breakers. When you acknowledge and then add a "but" no one really hears the acknowledgement, they get stuck on the "but." If the situation requires you to add something about your frustration, use "and" if you want to be heard.
- Balance the asking with the listening: Conflict can be resolved faster and smarter when you ask open-ended questions. You know, ask the how, when, where type questions that cannot be answered yes or no. Open ended questions hold people accountable and then your job is really to be quiet and listen. Only after they finish do you tell your part of the tale.
- Keep the door open: End the time, even if you are not completely satisfied with the outcome by saying "It means a lot to me to be talking about these difficult issues and let's work together to get to a good conclusion." If someone knows that talking things out really means a lot to you, the chances are they will respond in a more positive way. If you let them know you are in it together, that seals the deal to change things for the better.
Conflict will never go away however, it can be tamed and used as great fertilizer for next level collaboration. You are the key to making the conflict move faster or slower. It takes discipline and determination to stay above the traditional knee-jerk way of being defensive and protecting your turf.
Take a deep breath, a big deep breath and lead the way.