Growing Pains

Blood & Sand.jpgBlood and Sand

Over ice, shake 2 oz rye whiskey, 1 oz sweet vermouth, 1 oz Cherry Heering, and 1 oz orange juice. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass with a dash or blood orange bitters. Sprinkle fresh nutmeg over the top.


I remember the first time I broke my leg. In a game of front lawn football, I ran a three yard buttonhook and as I pivoted to make the catch, the defender landed on my ankle. The pain when I tried to put weight on it was excruciating, but it wasn’t until I went to Marine World the next day when I finally conceded the pain was enough that it needed immediate attention. For the next several weeks, I wore a heavy plaster cast and hobbled around on crutches, most certainly not the last time. It wasn’t until years later when a math teacher explained the fundamental purpose of pain—to notify us of a problem and to let that part of the body fix it.

Pain is unpleasant, as is conflict. Many companies strive to avoid conflict at all costs. Peers will capitulate to one-another in the interest of “keeping the peace,” supervisors will write subordinates up for insubordination at the slightest resistance, subordinates will remain silent until they ultimately move on to greener pastures for fear of that write-up. Sadly, in each case, an opportunity for growth is missed and peace isn’t kept—the war has been muted.

For peer to peer conflict, the focus should be on the problem, not the people. Avoid generalizations and “you” comments. “You always wait until the last minute to hand the project over” or “you never show up” are not constructive. Instead, focus on the behaviors that are causing the conflict and keep the focus on yourself. “I feel pressured to cut corners when projects do not land on my desk until just before the deadline” or “our current headcount does not allow for the number of absences we’ve experienced lately” keep the focus on solutions. They do not avoid the problem that is causing the conflict.

Insubordination is the default resolution to supervisor/employee conflict. As insubordination typically falls under one of two categories, “refusal to carry out a directive” or “disrespectful behavior” towards a manager or supervisor, I’ll focus on just the former. Rarely does an employee refuse to carry out a manager’s directive without reason and sometimes that reason is legitimate, if not legally protected. Perhaps the employee hasn’t been properly trained or perhaps the process or the required equipment are inherently and unnecessarily unsafe. Perhaps the manager’s direction is unclear or his/her behavior is antagonistic. Going back to a theme for the week, ask “why” an employee is refusing to perform his or her duties before resorting to disciplinary action. Further, do a self-check to ensure that what you’re asking aligns with your and your company’s core values, the “Why.”

As the subordinate, recognize how your demeanor is contributing to the conflict with the supervisor. Would a reasonable person in your position act in the same manner? Are you clearly communicating your concerns? If you truly feel your legitimate viewpoints are not being heard, ask Human Resources to be an advocate. Again, focus on the problem, not the person.

Conflict IS unpleasant. It also leads to understanding, healing, and quite often opens dialogue to new ideas while avoidance shuts down conversation altogether. Do you disagree? Let’s discuss…

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