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Pump the Brakes

Imagine a worker at an auto-manufacturing facility on the assembly line who works on assembling brakes and brake lines on vehicles and is having a bad day, distracted on the job, and not focused because of work place conflict and harassment issues impacting them, and because of the issues they forgot a critical component that may place a vehicle at risk of malfunction and result in a catastrophic accident.  Hmmmmmmmmm, what if that is the new vehicle you just purchased?

At some point in time many of us may experience conflict in every stage of our life.  The ability to resolve conflicts with one another is a critical life skill, especially in today’s challenging world.  In theory it would be great if people could work out disputes for themselves but sometimes people need some help.  In the Department of Veterans Affairs, you always hear people talking about the I CARE values.  Well, when dealing with workplace conflict it is important to help people to CARE with the tools below to reduce and eliminate workplace conflict.  People need to be equipped with the ability to be able to communicate, actively listen, review options, and try to end the conflict with a win-win situation.

*Communicate:  Although communication is not everyone’s forte being able to openly communicate is key in any dispute. By having the ability to expressing how you feel about the conflict or situation and focusing on the facts will help the other person know you are sincere in your actions.   Focusing on the issue at hand and not what the other person did can reduce unnecessary conflict.

*Active Listening:  After 20 years of mediating and facilitating conflict I concluded that listening is so often overlooked.  We all should strive to actively listen to what the other person is saying without interrupting them.  Find ways to attempt to be objective and open-minded.  After listening with intent ask open-ended questions to make sure each side understands what the other person feels and thinks and then ask any clarifying questions to ensure everyone is on the same page.

*Review Options:  Always try to discuss the options and seek solutions that can benefit everyone.  Do not feel forced to come up with an answer immediately.  Solicit suggestions from all involved to brainstorm and generate viable options and if necessary involve others without a stake in the outcome for a neutral perspective for consideration.

*End with a Win-Win Solution:  This should be the ultimate direction to move towards-guiding the participants to be able to on their own agree on an option(s) that can benefit both sides to some extent.  When one person wins by adverse or aggressive behavior or one party just gives in, more often than not someone is losing.  The impact could mean you end up with outcomes that do not resolve the underlying causes of the conflict.

One of the many effective tools for reducing conflict in the workplace is the ability to develop a strong harassment free work culture centered around professional work relationships.  However, when it occurs, conflict and harassment must be resolved equitably and quickly so the environment does not become impacted.  You should strive to create an environment in which toxic conflict is less likely to occur in the first place.  The groundwork of such a culture is centered around strong support and enforcement of rules and policies, the process of building strong relationships between managers and employees based on equality, fairness, trust, open communication, and mutual respect.  It takes time, effort and passion to create such a work environment, but building a solid foundation will aide morale, high performing teams, loyalty, and it can lead to encouragement to achieve the best results possible for the organization.

So whenever possible we all must possess and pass the passion in all our endeavors.  Passion is an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.  Be passionate and give 100% effort in all your interactions no matter how challenging your situation becomes.  Others will see your passion and professionalism and strive to emulate it and pass it along in the pursuit of success.

I recall a quote by the champion boxer, Muhammad Ali when he said: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.  They have to have the skill, and the will.  But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

We all should take a minute to pump those brakes to obtain that clear vision, use the CARE skills, and pass the passion and do your part to reduce and eliminate workplace conflict at the lowest level and if you can’t then seek guidance from the conflict resolutionaries to assist.


Steven Goldman

Mr. Steven C. Goldman is currently a Department of Veterans Affairs Certified Mediator based in Saint Petersburg, Florida.   In this position, he mediates internal VA employee complaints of unlawful discrimination and harassment claims to include workplace and interpersonal issues as well as provides advice and ADR services to internal and… MORE >

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