Interpersonal EDGE: Co-workers' War Wrecking Productivity? Here a Plan!
Sunday, June 20, 2010

By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Media Services
Q. I'm working with a team composed of people from different departments assigned to implement a new program. Two individuals seem more interested in fighting with each other than getting the job done. Nobody wants to get in the middle. Ideas?
A. I realize most corporate agendas don't say, "Fred and Velma fight," but power struggles are a common emotional agenda for meetings. Trying to get your coworkers to admit they are sucking up all the airtime, won't work, they'll both just fight with you.
Appeal to the group's need to get work done. Realize that when an emotional agenda has a strangle hold on a group the consequence is the work of the group stalls. 
Next meeting say something like: "Fred and Velma appear to have clear differences of opinions regarding the project. Does the group want to give them time to meet separately, proceed with assigning tasks, or continue the discussion between them?"
Realize that power struggles in meetings can represent unresolved conflicts in an organization. Fred may be the champion for a technology department that feels overworked by senior management. Velma may be the champion for a management team that believes the information technology folks are lazy. While these two battle, the rest of the committee can vicariously thrill as the champion for their side hurls insults at the other side. 
When I consult in organizations with lots of underground conflict, I notice some groups really enjoy watching people fight. In a group that needs to vent frustration, the committee can find a fight between two people a good outlet. Productivity for such a group is not the goal. Neither a well intended coworker nor a mediator can stop such a fight.
If your team wants to get work done, they will chose a ceasefire and focus back on the group task. If your group chooses to let your coworkers argue, at least you can ask for reassignment while the rest of the team watches workday wrestling.
Q. I've heard most successful people have a 10-year plan. I can barely plan for the weekend. Am I hopeless?
A. Life is a lot more like sailing than chess. Having a 10-year plan is fine but what happens if your game board gets overturned? Instead aim your career boat in your preferred direction - and be prepared for the wind to change.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.INTERPERSONAL EDGE. DISTRIBUTED BY TMS
This was printed in the June 20, 2010 - July 3, 2010 edition.

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