2 ‘Meetings often descend into all-out war!’
Mandeep is a manager interested in developing a better team, as you will hear from the audio below (a transcript is also provided).
Meetings often descend into all-out war! We never seem to get anywhere with everyone at each other’s throats. I can hold my own in that kind of contest; I sometimes come out on top – winning the argument – but it doesn’t calm things; I leave the room with battle scars; feeling bruised. Why can’t we just see who has the best idea, come to an agreement and work with that? There are too many big egos; too many people with points to prove and score off each other.
Think back to a time of outright, heated, conflict at work – one you experienced directly or indirectly. Choose one of the people involved in the conflict (you, the person you were in conflict with, or another colleague).
- List five behaviours that person displayed (obvious behaviours of conflict might be shouting, banging the table etc., but try to think more widely, about body language, expression).
- List five words or phrases you recall might have been said as part of that heated conflict.
Five words or phrases
Commentary: How easy was it to recall and reflect on this conflict? We imagine it made a strong emotional impression. Sometimes the memory of the emotion and stress caused lingers well beyond the memory of what the conflict was about. Energies are taken up coping with the stress of conflict. Within the behaviours and words you’ve listed, you might be able to differentiate between those that are acceptable in the workplace and those that are not.
Finally, did anything good come out of the conflict situation? How might that same good – or something even better – have been achieved with less stress and emotional upset? Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself/your colleagues on handling the situation?
Surely there must be some value in adversarial debate and the clash of ideas?
From where we are writing, in the UK, much of the political system seems grounded in conflict. Opposing parties ‘attack’ each other’s positions, a shadow cabinet tracks the every move of government – keeping it in check and arguing vehemently for issues to be seen from an alternative perspective. In such systems, two (or more) teams are involved in the opposition – though we often hear that the same sort of conflict arises within the teams themselves. Political parties try to maintain a public image of complete harmony – yet if they are to lead and innovate, there has to be an opportunity to dissent from the current party line, and there has to be a way members can challenge themselves to dream up better, more relevant policies.