Can You Detox a Terrible Situation at Work?

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

The past months have been like living in an extra awful, super-hot hell. I know I shouldn’t complain because my staff is physically well, and so am I. 

Emotionally, that’s another story.

And it all boils down to one woman who is causing so much division that we are now team red and team blue (actually, I think I better pick other colors, like team green and team purple).

There is Team Green, that is Suzie’s team. And Team Purple, that is Dan’s team. 

It is split right down the middle with 10 cheering for Suzie and 10 cheering for Dan. 

That makes me the leader of the group, the deciding vote. 

Problem is no real work is getting done. The upset is a diversion and all tongues are wagging late into the night.

Now I know that team development is important. I also know that leadership skills are needed now more than ever.

However, I’m stuck.

I’m tired.

I don’t see any end to this on-going nastiness and no route to conflict resolution.

I am meeting with Green Suzie and Purple Dan tomorrow.

Suggestions please.

Signed,

When will this ever end?

Dear WWTEE,

We are all experiencing a long, hot summer, regardless of the weather. 

Everyone is on edge with no clear sense of when the confusion in our world will settle down.

Since I don’t have many details about what your teams are fighting about let me dig down to what I usually see when there are opposing camps and no signs of listening to each other.

Stress goes up and logic goes down. 

Our internal Stress Monsters take charge and it becomes all about winners and losers, not about doing the right thing.

Loyalty shows up as a rigid, unbending way of responding. Then arguments and drama, shrill or silent, sabotage relationships and work effectiveness. Individuals dig in and won’t move, won’t see the other side, won’t make room for change.

Debate rather than dialogue is the name of the game. Talk becomes overheated (thus you are right about living in a super-hot hell).

I suggest a pivot.

Before you shake your head that I’m just another leadership expert sitting in front of a computer with no real wounds from being in the trenches, please keep reading.

I’ve been where you are. Just not during the worst pandemic of present time.

I also believe that once you can take a few minutes and talk about something other than the tensions at work you may get a whole new perspective. And guess what, you may also help Suzie and Dan gain a new way of looking at the present situation.

When you talk with them tomorrow, please don’t start with the tensions at work. Rather, start with how they are dealing with daily demands at home or in the community. All three of you need to engage on a level that will show your human connection more easily. 

Start with creating a new emotional connection and then you can go to the work issues.

Whenever I have been involved with tough talk that transformed into a caring conversation it started with “How are you doing?”  with a real desire to know the person not just the present situation. The results have always been better.

You as the leader are the one to point the direction that will be more helpful. I know you want to get the conflict between the two teams handled quickly. 

Here’s some advice from my book “Don’t Bring It To Work:

                                   “At times everyone is discouraged or displeased with what 

                                     happens at work. Often fear of speaking about personal

                                     situations is seen as “whimpy.” And in many workplaces the

                                     “stiff upper lip” philosophy is the way to go. When there is 

                                       room to talk truly about how you feel and can express

                                       yourself honestly, what develops is the capacity to “see it,

                                        say it, and let it go.”

Use this “see it, say it and let it go” mindset be part of your discussion with Green and Purple. Let me know what type of progress you make as you create a safe environment for your two captains to find a new level of personal positive interaction.

To your success,

Sylvia

Share this with a colleague that might be in this same situation by hitting a button below. Interested in getting my book Don’t Bring It To Work? Head over here and get your copy.

Sylvia Lafair

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