The R3 Continuum Playbook: Tension with Colleagues — How to Disagree and Handle Discussions Professionally
In this excerpt from a recent R3 Continuum webinar, Jeff Gorter, MSW, LCSW, Vice President of Crisis Response Clinical Service, spoke about how to professionally handle tension with a colleague caused by disagreement, techniques to calm the nervous system, when to connect with your leader about an issue, what options are available for external help, and more.
The full webinar from which this excerpt was taken can be found here.
The R3 Continuum Playbook is presented by R3 Continuum and is produced by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Studio of Business RadioX®. R3 Continuum is the underwriter of Workplace MVP, the show which celebrates heroes in the workplace.
R3 Continuum (R3c) is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
R3 Continuum is the underwriter of Workplace MVP, a show which celebrates the everyday heroes–Workplace Most Valuable Professionals–in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite who resolutely labor for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption.
Shane McNally: [00:00:00] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX studios, here is your R3 Continuum Playbook. Brought to you by Workplace MVP sponsor, R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions.
Shane McNally: [00:00:14] Hi there. My name is Shane McNally, Digital Marketing Project Lead at R3 Continuum. On this episode of the R3 Continuum Playbook, we’ll be featuring a segment from a recent webinar presented by R3 Continuum’s Vice President of Crisis Response, Clinical Services, Jeff Gorter. This recent webinar is titled Tension with Colleagues: How to Disagree and Handle Discussions Professionally?
Shane McNally: [00:00:35] Jeff brings more than 30 years of clinical experience, including consultation and extensive onsite critical incident response to businesses and communities. In this short segment from his webinar, Jeff discusses the three steps it takes to achieve understanding in the workplace, especially after a few employees in the workplace have differing views on something, work-related or otherwise.
Jeff Gorter: [00:00:59] So, first, separate the person from the problem. It’s kind of a truism, but to say the problem is the problem, the person isn’t the problem. That’s a subtle form of otherwising. If there is a conflict in the workplace, if there is an issue that is being wrestled with either in our workplace, or in our community, or in our country, the intellectually lazy thing is to say, well, I’ll tell you what the problem is, that person is the problem, they are the problem, you are the problem.
Jeff Gorter: [00:01:30] Well, first thing we have to do is separate the person from the problem. The problem is the problem, the person isn’t the problem. And so, that helps us to recognize that we don’t want to let anger, either yours, your anger, or their anger, drive the interaction. Anger is momentarily satisfying. I can understand it. It may be understandable, it may be warranted, it may be a completely recognizable emotion to have given whatever issue we might be wrestling with.
Jeff Gorter: [00:02:04] I’m not saying that we should never have anger, but if I allow that anger to drive the interaction, as I said, it’s momentarily satisfying, but rarely leads to a positive outcome, I have yet to ever hear anybody, and, Shane, you can correct me if you’re the one exception that proves the rule, but I’ve never heard anybody who said, you’re shouting and pounding on the table has made me realize I need to rethink my position, and maybe I think you’re right, I think you’ve got a good point there.
Shane McNally: [00:02:40] I’m not correcting you on that one.
Jeff Gorter: [00:02:43] I don’t know if anybody has ever reacted with that. So, it’s important to recognize, while the anger may very well be justified, understandable, letting the anger drive the interaction is not likely to resolve anything. It’s not likely to come to a positive conclusion. It’s more likely to foster that sense of blame and otherwising, as we’ve talked about before. And so, we want to start, one of the best ways of separating the person from the problem is to assume positive intent.
Jeff Gorter: [00:03:16] I wonder why they feel so strongly about this. I wonder what their story is. I wonder what’s gone on in their life or what their lived experiences were that lead them to feel so passionately about this. Just simply having that sort of curiosity, that sort of openness to a possible positive intent immediately puts you in a much more effective problem-solving position than if I simply let my emotions run wild in half the day. So, we begin by separating the person from the problem. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying if you are looking to move forward at all, that’s the first step.
Jeff Gorter: [00:03:57] The second is being able to articulate the other’s concern, being able to put it in your own words, because at the end of the day, and I think this is human nature, universally. Human nature, universally, is that we all have a strong desire to be understood, to be heard, to know that somebody else gets it. And until that happens, until I think the other person understands me, understands what’s going on or my position, until that happens, I’m going to say it again, I’m going to say it louder, I’m going to say it with gestures, I’m going to say it in such a way as I’m trying to get it, I’m just going to repeat it until I think they get it.
Jeff Gorter: [00:04:35] And so, again, until they feel understood, the fight continues. And I know this is challenging, but if you are able to put into your own words what you hear them saying to say, wait a second, I just want to break here right now, so what I hear you saying is this. You’re saying you feel so passionate about this because of this, because of why—this is why you feel the way you feel or that this is your stance on this, do I have that right?
Jeff Gorter: [00:05:10] Being able to put it—you could simply parrot it or you could put it in your own words, but you say What I hear you saying is this, do I have that right? Understand, by doing that, you’re not again endorsing, you’re not agreeing, you’re not saying that’s a better position than mine, you’re not in any way doing anything other than saying, message received, got it. As was—if anybody has seen the most recent Top Gun movie, it’s kind of a military term, when a message is sent, you say, Roger that. Roger, got that.
Jeff Gorter: [00:05:53] That’s a way to indicate message received. I heard it. I understand it. We’re ready to move forward. So, being able to articulate the other concern lets them know the message has been received and you got it. It indicates respect. It helps them feel that they have been heard, and therefore, they’re able to move to the next step. When somebody feels heard or understood, when they feel they’ve been given the respect and dignity of having their position simply acknowledged, yeah, got it, doesn’t mean I agree, doesn’t mean I endorse it, it just means I got it, that opens the door to a wide range of possibilities.
Jeff Gorter: [00:06:34] Once somebody feels understood, they’re willing to compromise. They’re willing to talk about alternative solutions. They’re willing to perhaps even give up their position, because they feel respected and understood. But until that happens, it ain’t going nowhere. And as the quote says, a lot of people, again, that fear that some people have that prevents us from understanding, it’s better—a better understanding of somebody else’s thinking will lead you to revise your own views about a situation.
Jeff Gorter: [00:07:07] Maybe or maybe not, but that’s not a cost. That doesn’t come at any detriment to you. It doesn’t cost you anything to understand their point of view. It is a benefit. It actually allows you to reduce the conflict and advance your own self-interest. It allows a solution that is mutually agreeable to potentially happen. And so, understanding doesn’t cost you anything, but it does move the ball forward.
Shane McNally: [00:07:36] I know we’ve got like five or six minutes left, but I just wanted to point out, that was a great point of like, if you have no respect, if you don’t respect the other person, you don’t respect the opinion, there can be zero compromise. Neither of you would ever reach that point where you’re solid and can say like, okay, I understand that or anything like that. It just won’t work. It just won’t happen. So, I think that was an awesome point to bring up.
Jeff Gorter: [00:08:02] Thank you. No, you’re absolutely right. And then, the final point is to let go of the zero sum game. Game theory is sort of an approach that has gained a lot of traction lately, but game theory suggests that if one person wins, then another must lose. It’s transactional. It’s an if-then scenario. If somehow you win, then it must mean that I gave something up. And the reality is, outside of casinos, that just simply doesn’t work well in most human interactions.
Jeff Gorter: [00:08:32] Very few situations are win-lose in that sort of exclusive way. Most leadership, and by leadership, I mean personal leadership as well as perhaps organizational leadership, because certainly, executives have found this to be true as well, that leadership calls for respect and compromise. To be able to hear and be heard is the key to being able to move forward. And so, letting go of that idea that somehow, something was lost if we achieved a level of understanding. It just simply isn’t that transaction.
Shane McNally: [00:09:10] Having tension in the workplace between employees can have a significant impact on the well-being of those employees and the teams around them. Knowing how to reduce that tension as a leader or an employee is important, but sometimes, still may not be the best answer. R3 Continuum can help. We can provide additional resources and help create facilitated discussions to help mitigate that tension. Learn more about our services and connect with us at r3c.com or email us directly at email@example.com.