Thursday, November 21, 2013

Leaning In to Conflict

Sheryl Sandberg has written a great book called "Lean In" about the importance of women assuming a certain posture in business and personal interactions designed to demonstrate that we are truly engaged and committed to serious business as equals at the conference table.

This week, I heard a civil service case in which an employee who was discharged from her employment after an angry outburst directed at her Supervisor lead to her termination.   As a civil servant, she was entitled to have an administrative appeal before the Personnel Commission makes the termination follow or makes the decision to overturn the termination and restore her to work.  The striking part of the case for me was that after she was separated from her work site during the investigation, no one really took the time to listen to her complaints, which were plentiful!  She painted a picture through numerous witnesses of a toxic environment in which screaming and disrespect were commonplace amongst staff members and tears and resentment were a regular occurrence.

It sounds trivial, but often times the way out of conflict is to allow your client to fully vent and explain the circumstances to a non-biased third party.  In the heat of the conflict, nobody within the work place can completely divorce themselves from the environment in order to see the full context of the events precipitating a termination with an un-biased view.

The outcome may be identical, but the output is very different.  Just giving a person a chance to be heard can be a very satisfying and emotional experience which may have a healthy impact on everyone involved. 

It turns out that "leaning in" can be a way to "lead out" the parties who come to a conflict in so much pain and chaos.

As my readers approach Thanksgiving next week, I give you permission to put your elbows on the table and practice "leaning in" to really discover what is affecting at least one person at your holiday table.  You will both be grateful for the opportunity to connect in that way.  And isn't gratitude what this holiday is all about?