This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Read the original copy here.
“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
― Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
I was recently informed by my daughter’s teacher that her and another girl in her class had engaged in an act of bullying. Apparently, the girls had decided to show “thumbs down” signs with their hands at another child who was performing in the school talent show. Now, these are five-year-olds, so the act was quite innocent in nature, but I won’t make excuses for her. In fact, I was mortified.
At first, I was completely lost for words. I didn’t understand how my delicate, sensitive little girl could partake in such an act of cruelty.
Needless to say, we had a long talk about empathy and courage – how hard it is to get up in front of people and perform, and how horrible it is to experience negative response. We also talked about how kids and adults alike are sometimes challenged to stand up for someone who is being victimized. Afterall, courage is not the lack of fear, but being able to act when you are afraid.
Often times, as adults, we have even more to lose if we risk standing up to bullies in the workplace (including our livelihood). So, let’s talk a little bit about how to diffuse conflict in the workplace:
DO: Keep things neutral. Whether it’s a bullying situation or simply an escalated difference of opinion, maintaining neutrality in tone and content of your words can help to deescalate an already emotional situation. It can be helpful to:
(a) utilize fair fighting techniques, such as, “I” statements (e.g. “I feel upset when you raise your voice to me”),
(b) redirect the conversation back to the actual problem you are working on solving (e.g. “let’s focus our attention on solving this customer issue and not on pointing fingers”),
(c) remind colleagues of workplace policy on behavior, and
(d) ask for help if you need it. Your supervisor and HR team can be great resources in the right situations. (Obviously, if your supervisor is one of those engaged in the conflict, he or she is not the appropriate resource to engage for help.)
DON’T: Make it personal. It is human to assess a situation and immediately find ourselves on one side or the other. Particularly if you are a third party attempting to deescalate a situation, it’s best to (a) avoid choosing sides and (b) avoid accusations. If you fall into one of these traps, you are no longer helping the situation, but adding fuel to the fire. Remember, your goal is to deescalate, not engage, the conflicted parties.
What strategies do you use to ensure fairness, kindness, and healthy conflict resolution in your workplace environment?