13 May 2010


Yesterday I received a call from a man who sounded super angry and incredibly tired. He said he was ready to close his very fiscally sound family carpet business because he could not stand the fighting anymore.


Who are you fighting with? I asked. “Oh, not me, I stay out of the fray, it’s everyone else.” “Hummmm” I said.


I knew he was not in the frame of mind to see that by being an avoider he was also part of the problem. Sometimes people are not ready to hear where they fit in the mix. So, I took a different tactic. “Well” I said thoughtfully, “What if you helped your company learn about how to tackle conflict, to do real conflict resolution, actually to transform conflict into creativity?”


I felt like a talking brochure yet, he loved the idea of being a compassionate leader who would lead the troops out of the woods. We created a plan. They, the leadership team that included his wife, son,son-in-law, daughter and an assortment of nieces and nephews would do a two day off-site and he would be my co-pilot.


So, today I began the pre-calls and the image I had of everybody smiling and getting along slowly disappeared as the calls progressed. By the end of today I was where I go when the going gets tough, ready to sell sweaters at Bloomingdales or maybe Nordstroms.


Everyone was mad at the owner and the theme was the same over and over; he was an avoider who ran when conflict was even sniffed in the air. He wanted his employees to smile and nod and they said, he would be happy if they would bow when he came in the room.


His son was already looking for a job away from the, as he said, “the illusion of happiness.” This man had a wife who had stuck by him through a bout of cancer, a car accident that left him with a permanent limp, and a bout of depression.


I knew we would find ways to make it safe enough to tell the truth and find ways to break old habits. I wondered what had caused this powerful, creative entrepreneur to be so afraid of conflict, any conflict, all conflict.


And late in the day I had a glimmer of hope that we could make progress more quickly than I had expected. This man was my last call of the day. Without any prodding he said, “You know, Sylvia I’ve been thinking that maybe I am part of the problem. I have a tendency to run away when conflict is near. I could never win an argument when I was a kid and maybe by running I never really hear what others have to say. I wonder if that bothers them.”


I knew the off-site had already begun. You see, when people really want to have change happen just shining a light on the issues can start the fire of self awareness. All I said was ‘That sure sounds like a possibility.”

One Response to Upset About Office Politics
  1. That is a great example of facilitating change in a tactful way! You’re right, there is probably a story behind why he is such an avoider.

    If he’s been through such difficult times lately with his health, maybe putting it out of his mind was the only way he could handle getting through it.
    .-= Ida Weber@rose bush care´s last blog ..Climbing Rose Trellis =-.

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