The Exaggeration of Conflict

Occasionally I work with teams where there is a personal conflict among two or more of the members. There are a number of reasons for the conflict, more often differences of opinions than outright animosity toward each other. But the all too common result is that one or both seem to be more intent on defeating the other, than serving the greater good of the team or the entire organization.

Relationships are hard. A number of people are simply more capable of doing their functional work, be it sales, accounting, research or whatever, than working collaboratively with others who have different experiences, personalities and points of view. In order to look good, people will attempt to avoid or minimize what they fear (or know) they don’t do so well. Quite often what they do not do so well is relationships.

One of the behaviors I have noticed from those who struggle is exaggerated comments about the relationship. One (or both) will say something like, “we’ll never be best friends,” or “we won’t be going out to lunch every day, just to make it look like we really get along well.”

People can be civil, respectful, supportive and cordial to another without being best friends. Since most people are willing to work harder and do more for people they care about, there is some benefit for at least being somewhat friendly. And regarding the lunch comment, I have never seen a definition of collaboration defined by the number of times people break bread together. But occasionally, there may be a need to do just, in order to get work done that requires both people’s attention.

It is disappointing to hear remarks like these, as it makes me think that emotion is in control of the conversation. It is as if the conflicting parties feel that have to be totally connected at all times or not at all, and that is absurd. It also makes me wonder if people who shout out these extreme remarks still believe they are as effective as they can be as leaders.

Some will continue to be very anxious when it comes to relationships, but perhaps they will find the courage to take some small steps to improve them. After all, they probably took a lot of small steps over time to become proficient in their functional work!

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