It’s the UK’s National Tea Day today. Tea-loving Brits, and indeed millions of people in homes and workplaces around the globe, will be brewing the world’s second most popular drink. At work though, it’s not just tea (or coffee) that can get stirred up. Conflict commonly occurs amongst co-workers, and failure to address issues early and informally can lead to increased stress and disruption for everyone involved.
“Make Tea Not War,” Monty Python’s famous declaration, might appear flippant, but mediators will tell you that the phrase holds some valuable insights. Based on the experience of workplace mediators, here are three tips that can help bring harmony when conflict is boiling over at work.
Change of scene
Talking to a colleague about a difficult issue can feel daunting, especially when the discussion is held in the same location where the conflict arose. To address this, the first tip is to think about where a conversation should take place. In workplace mediation, for instance, discussions occur in a private, neutral setting, with regular breaks, giving parties the space and time to rest and reflect.
Having a challenging conversation in a different environment, such as a chat over a cup of tea, changes the setting away from the source of a conflict, and keeps the conversation private, away from the eyes and ears of other colleagues. There’s also a symbolic benefit of going somewhere else – it can signify change and movement, which can help open the way to fresh thinking.
Time for tea
It takes time to resolve conflict. When a dispute has been brewing for a while, those involved tend to hold on tightly to their positions and become entrenched in their viewpoints. The second tip is to recognize when time is needed for a longer conversation, and not to rush a tea and chat. To be able to move forward, people need time to have their say, share their feelings, and be heard.
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Take a look at this summary of the article When Winning Is Everything by Deepak Malhotra, Gillian Ku, and J. Keith Murnighan, now available online here as well as in the May '08 Harvard Business...By Victoria Pynchon