I conducted a virtual workshop this past fall on creating a more positive workplace. The insights of the thoughtful and engaged participants were so phenomenal that I have been sharing highlights from the program through a series of blogs. There was one detailing what contributes to an ideal workplace, and another on building connections. We then advanced to handling disagreements, discussing how to respond appropriately, how to channel conflict to find common ground and build trust, and some helpful phrases to use in conversations.
Here are some of the take-aways from one of our discussions about handling conflict, focusing on responding appropriately to difficult situations:
- Assume the positive! Assume that no one intentionally pushes any buttons.
- If you are one of the very few intentional button pushers, PLEASE STOP! No action by another person permits you to resort to poor professional behavior, and your attitude is undoubtedly destroying trust.
- When you are in a difficult situation — like someone is yelling at you, calling you names, or being mean — assume that only YOUR RESPONSE is being videotaped. Would it be okay to share the video with your clients, children, parents, etc.? Are you being a role model?
- Once a colleague, or a family member for that matter, indicates that they need to take a break from the discussion, it’s impossible to have a productive dialogue. Both parties need to stop and re-engage at a later time.
- The amount of time to wait before coming back to a difficult conversation is different for each of us and depends on the specific situation. If you wait longer than 24 hours, you may appear dismissive, lacking respect, and irresponsible with the relationship. If you need more time, convey the honest reason and the desired timeframe.
Expect outstanding work from yourself and from your colleagues, but be very gracious and kind when that doesn’t happen. Always take the high road. It’s possible that someone is videotaping you!
I conducted a virtual workshop recently on creating a more positive workplace. The insights of the thoughtful and engaged participants were phenomenal! In the weeks to come I will continue to share highlights from the program. After our first session examining what contributes to an ideal workplace, we moved on to handling disagreements. We discussed how to respond appropriately, and how to channel conflict to find common ground and build trust.Since conversations about disagreements can be uncomfortable and unproductive, here are some phrases to have in your toolbox to move the discussion further:
- It would be helpful if…
- This might move the project forward…
- I agree with all these parts, so we just need to work through…
If you are feeling overwhelmed you might say:
- I am unable to listen right now…
- I would like to come back later when I can listen fully and be more receptive…
- I think we need to stop for right now…
If values aren’t in alignment with doing the ethical or moral thing:
- That surprises me because you are usually so exacting/concerned about the employees/careful about compliance….
- Have you considered the repercussions…
- We’re not that kind of a workplace…
And if you want to share your perspective you could say:
- The story I am telling myself is…
- What I am making up in my head is…
And most importantly, the best way to end discussions like this is with a genuine statement of collaboration such as:
- There’s a lot we do agree on such as…
- While we don’t always agree, you help me see…
- I hadn’t considered your perspective.
- Thank you for taking this so seriously.
- You always show me other angles.
What are some ways you handle disagreements?
How do you contribute to your own stress?
We all have stress. Some stressors are mundane, some intermediate, and others mega. No one is immune.
We have mundane stressors like rushing to our virtual meeting only to find that the Wi-Fi is down again! We go out to run an errand and step in dog poo. We drop a glass and it shatters. And who hasn’t put a meeting on their calendar incorrectly and missed the appointment altogether?
We also have intermediate stressors like being passed over for a promotion, having our car wrecked, or realizing a colleague took credit for our work.
Sometimes when we have these stressors, we tell everyone in our office, on our commute, and on social media. As a result, we get a lot of attention, empathy, and mileage out of our stress by replaying it over and over. But, we are likely increasing our own blood pressure! It may feel good in the moment, but it keeps us stuck in the stress, rather than helping us move forward to the parts of our life that are working.
When I am experiencing mundane or intermediate stressors (or when there’s a gripey, sad, annoying, or otherwise negative thought to get off my chest), I employ a technique taught to me by my coach, and I share my stress intentionally with only three people. What’s more, I am very deliberate about who those three people will be. I select people who will empathize with me, support me, and then help me move on to the parts of my life that are positive.
I have found that this intentionality creates practice and discipline, and it helps me keep stress in its place.
While this is fantastic advice for mundane and intermediate stressors, it could actually be harmful advice for mega stressors.
Unfortunately we all have mega stressors as well. We learn that our job has been downsized, our ex-spouse has won custody rights, or a loved one is battling a serious illness. Other mega stressors might include PTSD, rape, or the death of someone close to you. No one is immune.
For mega stressors, this is shallow, and actually harmful advice. In those cases, see a counselor, clergy member, therapist, or coach. Talk to loved ones and realize that your big deal is truly a big deal. Get the help you need and honor yourself for knowing you need support.