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TOP (Hidden) Escalators of Workplace Conflict & W TEN By Carol Bowser, JD

The best internal communication systems can break down. The top performers can be a pain when they push for their own agendas and timelines. Even the “Best Places to Work” suffer from workplace conflict. Unless the hidden sources that cause and escalate the tension and conflict are addressed, bad things happen: conflict escalates; people suffer; managers lose credibility; business suffers. The pain of unresolved conflict can be avoided - but only if the source of the conflict is addressed.

Here are the Top 10 hidden escalators of conflict at work, how to recognize them, and what to do about them.

Unarticulated Assumptions Every conflict has an element of unarticulated assumptions. Each person has a very closely held belief about “the way things should work” or “THE way things are” - according to them. Unfortunately, very few people articulate what those assumptions are. When those assumptions prove incorrect, frustration and anger seep in. Unmet Expectations Like unarticulated assumptions, unmet expectations are at the root of every conflict. While unarticulated assumptions focus on the way things are done, an unmet expectation is the relied upon outcome. When the expected outcome does not happen, people become upset and frustrated THEN look for someone to blame. Perceived Lack of Respect A HUGE driver of conflict. What is “respectful” to one person can be the height of “disrespect” to another. You don’t know what other people are doing to be respectful unless you ask. Others don’t know that you believe them to be disrespectful unless you tell them.

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“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” The Little Prince Clashing Communication Styles Some people speak in headlines. Some speak in stories. Some people just hint. When the communication styles are in sync, everything is copacetic. When the styles are out of sync, negative attributions fly. “Bully.” “Rambles on. Will not get to the point.” “Passive-aggressive.” Playing “FIXER” Time and energy are lost by well-intended, unilateral actions. By jumping in to “solve the problem”, individuals often create new problem because they have misdiagnosed the issue and improperly took on the role of “fixer.” All Talk - No Action Failing to take action is as bad as playing “Fixer”. Unfulfilled promises to address the problem and hold people accountable lead people to lose faith in you and the organization.

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