“It’s too hard.”
It’s supposed to be.
At work, it’s difficult to start becoming competent at a new way of approaching conflict (say switching from avoiding to engaging) and to have success at it immediately. When employees, managers, and supervisors are challenged to switch approaches (either through feedback, evaluation, or training) they respond by rejecting the premise of the challenge entirely and returning to their old ways.
When we consciously realize that we are unskilled, we have the opportunity to go toward initial ineptness, and forge a new path toward competency. However, many of us at work, when faced with conflict scenarios, challenges, disagreements, fights, and other disputes, default to what we know rather than pursuing new knowledge. This tendency is based in fear and the overwhelming human need for reassurance in the face of risk.
In our post-industrialized work culture, reassurance, avoidance of risk, hiding from outcomes, and fear of taking a chance to make a change in the ways that we respond to each other when we don’t, can’t or won’t get along will have fewer and fewer outsized rewards attached to it. Being consciously emotionally uncomfortable to gain competencies in a different way is the emotional labor of the 21st century. In an organizational context, the way to ensure that employees, managers, and supervisors follow through on their challenges is to provide three consistent supports: encouragement, positive feedback, and monitoring of implementation of the new way.
The worst part of the hangover that organizations are suffering from the end of the heady days of the Industrial Revolution, is that the inner, emotional, response that we believed did not matter that much, matter now more than ever. And empowering, encouraging, and developing consciously skilled employees, managers, and supervisors in their approach to conflicts in organizations, is the only way to end the hangover.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org