Office dynamics can be one of the greatest causes of conflict. People work together 8 hours a day on average. We weren’t built to get along with everyone all the time and sometimes we grate on each other often unintentionally. We are all different. We have all been brought up in different environments in different cultures with different values. That doesn’t necessarily mean our way is right and everyone else is wrong. For example, someone who has grown up in a large family with many siblings, will more than likely have a thunderously loud voice with a strong personality in order to be heard at the dinner table and to fight for the last roast potato at Sunday lunch! It is survival of the fittest!
But in a workplace situation, that forceful nature can be offensive to some people… but not intentional. Consider a scenario where a team are brainstorming ideas to pitch to a new client. Loud mouth ‘shouty’ new team member is bubbling over with enthusiasm to impress his new boss. Quiet, reserved, but very creative and well respected, long-standing team member has loads of ideas but every time he tries to contribute his voice is drowned by ‘Mr Shouty’. He had been brought up in a very different, quieter culture where you listened and showed respect if someone else was talking.
He thinks ‘Mr Shouty’ is rude and bombastic and leaves the meeting feeling frustrated, resentful and angry at his new colleague. Working with ‘Mr Shouty’ on the new client pitch is now going to be a difficult problem to navigate. He really can’t stand him and starts avoiding him while childishly not replying to his emails. ‘Mr Shouty’ senses the undercurrent but is totally oblivious of what he has done and starts to think his quiet colleague is a pompous snob.
Herein lies one small example of how conflict can manifest. Two different dynamics, both unaware of the impact of their behavior on the other. Some say ignorance is bliss however in this example it would be helpful to be more self-aware and understand that two equally smart and creative team members just have a different way of working. There are several personality tests such as ‘Myers Briggs’ that is a useful barometer to assess personality types and their corresponding personality traits or ‘The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument’ to better understand conflict dynamics that could help avoid situations above and lead to a more harmonious workplace.
Early resolution or prevention of any conflict is always preferable to waiting until it becomes toxic and affects more than just those directly involved. However, if that is unavoidable, a specialist workplace mediator can help parties really understand the cause of the conflict and the impact it is having on the other party. Mediation can help rebuild crumbling relationships and restore the equilibrium allowing everyone the chance to get back to the job they love! After all, a happy employee is a productive employee!