One of my secret indulgences is that I really like the Shrek movies and their notable characters. The crusty, prickly, but kind-hearted Ogre must “endure” the illogical Donkey, the swarthy Puss-n-Boots, and the sometimes-misunderstood Fiona. Throughout their merry adventures, various conflicts arise as these colorful personalities interact. They care about each other, but at times can’t tolerate one other. Ironically, these characters can accurately reflect the workplace. The workplace is often messy with ups and downs when it comes to relationships and conflict. Nonetheless, team members must resolve sources of conflict if they want to accomplish their goal, task, or even a quest. So, what are three conflicts which loom at the top?
The first that must be addressed is perception bias. Perception bias is the inability to overcome personal biases to the extent that true problem sources are obscured. When blinded by perception bias, we automatically believe we know what a co-worker, a family member, or even a client is going to say before they respond to a need or issue. Communication is crippled. Rather than truly hearing the words of the other, we “filter” them through our perceptions. For example, when I interact with my co-worker, Sally, I often feel overwhelmed by her need for details. When Sally and I both are called into a meeting to discuss a recent sales shortfall, Sally starts to ask some clarifying questions. My response, internally, is to say, “There goes Sally again. She can’t see the forest because she’s fixated on the trees. This is such a waste of time.” Instead of listening to what Sally is really asking, I have just tuned her out. Instead of collaborating, I start to feel resentment creep up, because I believe Sally is just wasting our time. At some point, I sigh, my eyes roll, I check out on my phone, and Sally knows I am not listening. Conflict arises. Perception bias has scored again. In truth, I really don’t even know what Sally has said.
The second conflict complaint that must be addressed is how to motivate team members or employees. Many leaders underestimate how motivation can actually demotivate. These are the people who think they are offering encouragement or direction but what they are really serving up is a healthy dose of criticism. Years ago, as a young leader, I received from my boss a nice note complimenting my effort on a project in which I had invested extra time and energy. The next day, I received another note from the same boss that suggested I not think too highly of the previous day’s praise lest I become prideful. Between the two messages, we had had no additional interaction. I don’t think my boss intended harm but rather wanted to balance the previous “encouragement”. Needless to say, I found the experience incredibly demotivating. I found myself more cautious with my boss, because I didn’t want to be “encouraged” again. This kind of motivation fosters conflict, if only internal, because staff members or employees will struggle in environments which they perceive to be toxic. AND, even worse, they will often leave.
The third conflict actually ranks as the number one complaint. No matter the strength of a company’s product or service, the quality of its employees and leadership, or the programs and solutions that a company has incorporated, if an organization lacks trust, there is a crack in the foundation. When trust is absent, fear of conflict grows. This leads to lack of commitment and avoidance of accountability, which culminates in inattention to results. These aren’t the only costs to not building trust, however. Answer these questions and see where your company ranks. Does your organization spend large amounts of time and energy managing employee behaviors and interactions within its teams? Do team members dread team meetings? Are co-workers reluctant to take risks in asking for or offering assistance to others? Is morale low? Turnover high? Are mistakes and weaknesses concealed? Affirmative answers to these questions are indications that your environment lacks trust and it is tangibly sensed by all.
Fortunately, there are solutions to help a team or a business overcome these conflict complaints which, believe it or not, exist in almost every work environment. Derek and I would gladly help you and your team navigate these obstacles. There are solutions and they can revolutionize your workplace. Learn from Shrek; you don’t have to resolve the problems on your own.
Here to help,