In a metaphor for work conflicts, bears display their teeth aggressively at each other

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Work conflicts, especially  longstanding disagreements, can be so very stressful!

While work conflicts can be a result of incivility and bullying, and I've written about that here, sometimes the disagreements can be stirred up by really bad assumptions and cynicism about others' intentions. (Cynicism, of course, can be one of the hallmarks of burnout.)

I remember at one of my first jobs, a corporate stint, I had a friend who LOVED drama and gossip at work. She was charming, a great story-teller, and was wickedly funny. Over time, she also managed to stir up a whole lot of distrust, fear and suspicion of bad faith – in our entire work group. 

At the time, I didn't have the mental or emotional tools that I needed to be able to question her assumptions — to myself, and to her face.

So, when I finally figured out how damaging her drama was, I felt I had no choice but to stop being her friend.  Maybe that was my best option… but I wish I'd had some other tool to try first!

But what if I had been able to say, “You know, I really appreciate your concerns. But how can you possibly know that your theories are correct about our boss, and other people in our group?  I'd rather stick to the facts we can verify.”  Perhaps we would have been able to maintain our friendship and lower the drama quotient.  I'll never know how it would have turned out, so all I can do now about that situation is to have compassion for my younger self.

In other work conflicts, the other person seems to us to be a genuinely bad person – thoughtless, biased, or unfair. How do we work with people like that, without endless work conflicts that not only stifle productivity, but also make the workplace extremely unpleasant?

I asked those questions of  Anthony Jackson, an alternative dispute resolution specialist, in this interview. Jackson gets called in when work conflicts have simmered, ugly and unresolved, for months or years, and provided the mediation that resolved them.  Jackson is also a lovely person to listen to  — his calmness, kindness and expertise shine in every word he says.

If you're dealing with someone who's making you angry and frustrated at work,  I think you'll find Anthony Jackson's thoughts quite helpful.

Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts.