I’d just returned from an intense four days of work travel and was navigating a Sunday morning with my family. Walking between the garage and the house, my 12-year old son asked in his usual direct way, “Mom, what’s wrong? Are you stressed?”
It was one of many Saturday errands. My teenage girls and I pulled into the Goodwill donation line behind a couple in their late 50s who were making half a dozen trips between their van and the doors with what looked like the leftovers from an estate sale. Impatient, I climbed out of my car to carry my bags to the door just as I saw the man in front of me lift an Underwood #5 typewriter out of his van to give away. A gasp of excitement and panic filled my car as my typewriter-obsessed daughters squealed, “Mom, ASK HIM FOR THAT TYPEWRITER!”
Though I am impatient, I am not usually quick to speak. This is both a blessing and a curse. There was a split second of opportunity before this rare treasure was lost to us.
By nature, I’d prefer to completely avoid conflict. To me it feels like walking with other people through a minefield, either by force or by choice. In some ways, it is. Navigating conflict requires courage and is profoundly vulnerable.
We know that avoiding conflict at work makes us sick, damages creativity and diminishes productivity and morale. One study by CPP, Inc. found that 1 in 4 employees reported illness or taking sick days due to workplace conflict. More than one-third said that conflict resulted in someone leaving the company, either through firing or quitting. The losses and costs add up quickly.
I used to forget to turn off the lights in my office. When my wife Kim noticed, she turned them off for me.
One day she got tired of this routine and stuck a post-it note on the light switch to remind me to flip it off when leaving. It started off as a joke, including a tally of how many times she had to deliver her “lights off service.” It was very effective, until I ripped it off the wall in frustration.
According to reports I’m hearing, my experience applying for a policy on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace has been pretty typical – I’ve spent many hours navigating the site and trying to get help from well-intentioned customer service reps with no more power or knowledge than me.
I was traveling with my family on Spring Break. We stopped for lunch at the Toro Loco in Jackson, Ohio. The food was delicious and inexpensive, and the staff was focused and attentive. After our meal, I tried to catch our waiter’s eye, but he was elusive. I was starting to feel anxious and frustrated, wanting to pay my bill and get back on the road.
A guest post from my friend Bryan Richards: I enjoyed reading Chip’s article about building trust. His musings led me to think about how to cultivate trust through guiding principles and actions. There’s much more to a trusting relationship than encouraging behaviors, attitudes, and apologies!
For the past four years, helping teams build high-trust relationships has been a significant portion of my consulting practice. My clients and I achieved some decent results together, but something was missing from my approach. Up until 2010, I had assumed that 2 people who have a damaged-trust relationship can shake hands, agree to work together, “let bygones be bygones,” and move forward in a trusting way.
I was wrong.
This past Tuesday, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (the “debt deal”), but he wasn’t happy about it. He described it as a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”
He’s not the only one eating a big helping of nastiness; frontline workers in many organizations are gagging on their own Satan sandwiches.