There he stands – big, grey, and heavy – the elephant in the room. He weighs heavily on mood and productivity. With his long trunk, he suffocates us. Every task becomes difficult. Are you familiar with that feeling? If left unaddressed, unresolved conflicts can paralyze entire teams. At the same time, many people shy away from confrontation. Consequentially, small grievances begin to fester under the surface, growing larger every day until they grow into elephant-sized sores. How can we prevent this? With regular formats that encourage exchange, for instance, a meeting that serves only one purpose – an (animal-friendly) elephant expulsion. At these “Clear the Air Meetings” both parties understand that the issue at hand is entirely emotional and not work-related. The meetings create a safe space for the expression of feelings and needs, unfiltered but respectful and without the intention of willfully hurting the other party. In case the elephant is too big, it can make sense to ask a colleague to join as a moderator.
These tips help you to remain constructive even when emotionally charged:
I-messages: Express your own perspective and needs (“I feel…because I…” rather than “You did xyz…”)
Stay concrete: In as much detail as possible, describe what triggered the conflict and avoid generalizations (“At the handover last week…” instead of “You always do xyz…”).
Be gracious: We are all human and have feelings. Go into the conversation with the following mindset: “I want you to be ok”.
Work Hacks are simple, yet original, methods that can be implemented quickly and directly. They improve collaboration and results in the work context.
In this series we will introduce tried and tested Work Hacks that will effectively improve collaboration.