Is that so?

Usually conflict at work arises out of a misunderstanding in what actually happened.

Without facts, without dialogue to uncover what actually happened, assumption swoops in to fill in the gaps.

Most common are assumptions such as what one person thinks the other person did, feels the other person didn’t do or believes about the other person’s intentions.

Assumptions are used to defend and protect oneself – to prove the righteousness of one’s argument. Assumptions are uninformed guesses that left unchecked become accusations.  There’s no accuracy in assumptions – there’s no truth in assumptions.  And managers often find themselves trying to navigate a bunch of inaccurate data to referee an unwinnable game.

This is why you have to come from a genuine place of curiosity – a place of wonderment, where the only assumption you have is that there’s something you don’t know – that once uncovered will help shed light on the whole kittenkaboodle.  Conflict cannot be resolved within a context of judgement.

Before they become accusations, check assumptions – are they true?  What did the other person actually do?  What was their actual intention behind what they did?  Ask them directly rather than guessing. Seek to understand their thought process.

Once the missing puzzle pieces are revealed, the conflict usually ends, because there’s insight into what didn’t get communicated or clarified.  Once this missing piece is uncovered, lightbulbs go off, mistakes are owned, apologies are given and this piece is put into future communications or processes to avoid this from happening again.

Remember, as a manager, when it comes to conflict, your first endeavor is to uncover what actually happened.  Again – not what people think, believe, feel or assumed happened.


Team Building Exercise:

It’s summer – have the leaders and managers grill a delicious “thanks for all your hard work” meal for the team.


Two of Kris’ Favorite Finds:

  1. Speeches of Note
  2. Forbes article on “What Employees Really Want at Work”