Summary: What happens when a fist hits flesh? Or when words sting and burn? Conflict is a BIG problem that can make teams thrive if handled effectively. Conversely, customers and employees leave (or lose championship games) when conflict is swept under the rug. Here are my thoughts about best practices for conflict resolution.
Dear Dr. Sylvia,
I recently saw a podcast where Warrior Draymond Green, who typically plays at the power forward position, discussed their frustrating end-of-the-season loss.
He addresses the punch heard loud and clear. You know, the one that somehow got onto social media where he punched Jordan Poole, a shooting guard, point guard.
The Podcast with Stephen A. Smith is here.
All teams are the same, whatever their product or service.
That is to say; Green wished the conflict had been handled sooner. The punch was in October 2022, and the Warriors sadly ended their season in May 2023.
When Green talked about his role in the confrontation, making me think about my company.
To clarify, I have the same issue. Only it was with words, not fists.
Thus, whether my company finally decides on remote, hybrid, or being in the office full-time is less of an issue than how employees handle daily upsets and conflicts.
For example, let me tell you about Jill.
She has all the proper credentials. It does not get any better than Harvard MBA, so they say.
Super-achievers get stuck with the need to be right rather than happy.
However, Jill’s trap is to be stuck in that category of life titled “need to win.” And her “winning way” is to defend, explain, and justify her position rather than ask questions and collaborate.
As a senior VP, Jill is a whiz at marketing and has contributed significantly to our organization. Yet she is disliked. The word despise comes up on occasion.
Furthermore, she is attractive (is that a sexist thing to say), well-educated (as noted, a Harvard grad), and intelligent (glad this is gender-neutral).
However, when she disagrees, it becomes ugly and frustrating.
Therefore, I cannot get her to see her role in conflicts. The other person is always “that A-hole.”
Everyone wants to be a positive role model to work colleagues.
I want you to know she never curses, and yet, everyone at some point (including me) ends up in the A-hole category.
I once played ignorant and asked her exactly what the A in A-hole stands for, to hear her say the word “ass.”
Consequently, she smiled, shrugged, and said I should figure it out myself.
I can’t figure out the next steps. Her behavior around conflict is not working.
What tools and tips do you have to help me help her?
And could you also have some golden rules for the Warriors for next season? They are my favorite team.
Leadership programs must include self-awareness training.
Dear Needs Cooperation,
Whether it is sales, marketing, IT, or administrative support, the common denominator is how people get along to get the work done. Recent studies should keep you even more awake at night than you are.
I don’t want to upset you; I want you to know the high cost of unresolved conflict.
These studies indicate that regardless of the economy being up or down, “people stuff” sets companies apart.
- Ninety-three percent of workers report being “negatively affected by an inability to deal with conflict on the job.”
- Well over half, sixty-nine percent, avoid confronting co-workers on accountability issues.
- Human resource professionals report having to intervene thrice weekly in conflict.
- Over thirty percent of retail, food, and leisure employees experience hostility at work every day.
- Senior executives and business owners spend more than half their time resolving staff personality conflicts, double the time spent in the 1990s.
- Healthcare expenditures are fifty percent higher for workers who report high-stress levels, and conflict-ridden work environments create stress.
Are you feeling like you are carrying a significant burden on your back? Well, guess what?
The impact of conflict at work can be a deal breaker for most organizations.
Conflict, instead of collaboration, is expensive and takes the fun out of any creative work. Creativity could and should be done in a fast and furious frenzy of creative energy.
Collaboration is the goal. Now, how to get there.
Take a deep breath and keep reading—first, more bad news.
To get a complete sense of the financial hemorrhaging at most companies, you must factor in other big-ticket items such as lawsuits and the cost of employee turnover (estimated at 30 percent to 150 percent of an employee’s salary).
Consequently, an untold loss due to a distracted and stressed workforce shows reduced productivity and passive-aggressive absenteeism.
Leadership training for everyone brings passive-aggressive behavior to the surface.
Ug, passive-aggressive absenteeism?
That is when someone calls in sick (not!), so they don’t have to face someone (maybe Jill?). Or they call in sick to prove the work cannot get done without them.
Hang in there; we are almost done with the statistics.
In addition, here is one more study by the American Management Association. Employees spend about 25 percent of their time, or two hours daily, in unproductive workplace disputes with colleagues.
Leadership training programs that include emotional intelligence training are robust.
Firstly, here are some new ideas about conflict at work.
You ask, “Why do tensions get dialed up at work?”
Moreover, that is a good beginning question.
Conflict runs rampant in the workplace because of our natural and universal tendency to bring our families to work.
“Yikes,” you say, “that is impossible. I dropped the kids at school; my wife works on the other side of town. So, what are you talking about?”
Workplace flare-ups go deep; if we look, we can track them back to patterned behavior we learned as kids in our original organization, the family.
Most importantly, we bring these patterns into our present work organizations. I wish it were not that way; however, that is how it is.
Gravity and family patterns are similar once you understand how they work.
Think about gravity. We must learn to appreciate that it keeps our feet down on the planet. And thanks to gravity, if a ball is thrown high in the air, it will, no matter what we intend, it will fall to earth, and if we happen to be standing in its trajectory, it will bop us on the head.
Here is what we know about workplace conflict: professional relationships can be filled with emotional tensions, just like relationships at home.
Above all, we strive to be wise, philosophical, and mature professionally. Much of the time, we are.
And then, that guy over there sets your teeth on edge because it reminds you of how your older brother used to mock you.
Perhaps someone made a mess in the community kitchen.
Disrespecting a boss is often similar to disrespecting a parent or caretaker.
Suddenly you are mad, frustrated, upset, and unsure why. You get angry when you find yourself cleaning up again, as you always used to when your mother never cleaned up after dinner.
This reality is played out repeatedly everywhere on the planet; this is the underbelly of what much of the workplace statistics concerning conflict are ultimately about.
Okay, okay, you say, I got it. The big question is what I do about it.
Okay, okay, help is here!
Even better, I suggest you give us a call www.ceoptions.com. We have been helping companies escape the rut of upset for decades. We now do Zoom calls with groups of up to 30 for 90 minutes to examine the core issues.
It has helped many.
Team dialogue is far different from proving who is right or wrong.
In any case, do something to begin the dialogue with your team.
Here I find a better way to think about conflict at work, at home, and everywhere.
In today’s fast-paced and complex world, success in the workplace is often attributed to the ability to think critically, solve problems, and work effectively as a team.
While individual skills are crucial, harnessing the power of systems thinking can elevate teams to new heights.
In short, systems thinking is a holistic approach that allows individuals to understand the interconnections and dynamics of complex systems.
Identifying Root Causes is the first order of business.
Systems thinking encourages team members to look beyond surface-level issues and identify the underlying causes of problems.
Rather than placing blame on individuals, a systems-oriented team would explore how various elements within the system contribute to the problem.
This approach promotes a collaborative environment where teams work together to address the root causes, leading to long-lasting solutions.
For example: In a marketing team, instead of blaming a particular employee for a failed campaign, a systems-thinking approach would involve analyzing the marketing strategy, target audience, competitive landscape, and internal processes to identify the root causes of the campaign’s failure.
Understanding Interdependencies is a powerful way to consider conflicts.
Ultimately, systems thinking emphasizes understanding interdependencies within a system.
Team members who grasp the interconnected nature of their work can identify how their actions and decisions affect others, leading to improved coordination and collaboration.
Recognizing these interdependencies allows teams to align their efforts, minimize conflicts, and optimize overall performance.
In other words, in software development, a systems-thinking team understands that changes made by one developer can have a ripple effect throughout the entire codebase.
They prioritize communication and consider the impact of their work on other team members, ensuring smooth integration and minimizing conflicts during the development process.
Embracing Feedback Loops will move individuals and teams from conflict to collaboration.
Similarly, systems thinking encourages teams to view feedback as an essential learning process.
By recognizing the feedback loops within a system, teams can continuously improve their performance.
They actively seek customer, colleague, and stakeholder feedback and use it to refine their strategies and adapt to changing circumstances.
Look at it this way. A customer support team that embraces systems thinking regularly collects customer feedback, analyzes patterns and trends, and shares this information with product development and marketing teams.
Indeed, by leveraging these feedback loops, the team can identify opportunities for improvement, enhance customer satisfaction, and drive innovation.
Systems thinking encourages team members to step back and look at the big picture.
Instead of focusing solely on their tasks, they consider the broader context and align their actions with the team’s objectives. This holistic perspective fosters collaboration, improves decision-making, and enhances the team’s ability to achieve its goals.
Thus, systems thinking in a project management team allows members to consider various factors, such as budget constraints, resource availability, and stakeholder expectations.
By understanding the interplay between these elements, the team can develop realistic project plans, allocate resources effectively, and deliver successful outcomes.
Cultivate an environment where creativity and innovation can thrive using systems thinking.
Hence, teams can identify opportunities for improvement, innovation, and disruption by understanding the complex interactions within a system. This mindset encourages individuals to challenge the status quo, think outside the box, and propose novel solutions to existing problems.
Example: A design team that applies systems thinking actively explores how their products or services interact with users, the environment, and other stakeholders. By understanding the broader system, they can identify innovative features, address usability issues, and create products that deliver a superior user experience.
Systems such as family, work, or community give a better route to success.
In conclusion: Combining family systems and generic systems thinking is a powerful approach that enables teams to see the bigger picture, understand complex interdependencies, and tackle challenges collaboratively.
You can read more about systems thinking in my book, “Don’t Bring It To Work” (especially pages 183-185.)
By applying systems thinking principles, teams can identify root causes, adapt to change, and optimize performance.
I did not want to focus too much on the Green- Poole punch. Only those who were there can address the situation appropriately. I only want to say that Draymond Green was accountable for his part in the altercation on the Podcast.
And Jordan Poole has also spoken out respectfully.
We are all connected, and no one wins unless we all should be the 21st center mantra.
What happens when conflict rears its head and makes us behave uncomfortably? It is a catalyst to help all of us think in broader terms.
Systems thinking is what the world needs now to get us from the cycles of violence and discrimination worldwide.
Let’s keep going and growing.
Here’s to your success,
PS. Now is the time to look conflict in the face. Go to www.ceoptions.com and sign up for a free copy of chapter one of the Amazon best seller “Invisible Stress: It’s NOT What YOU Think.”
Stress has many faces. Come on; you can do it. Learn what triggers your anger and how to move from mad to glad.