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Poor Behavior 3: Pitting People Against Each Other

by Vivian Scott
February 2012

Conflicts of Interest Blog by Vivian Scott

Vivian Scott

Continuing the Dirty Dozen list of 12 behaviors that cause conflict at work and then are attributed to the catchall phrase, “personality clashes”, I’m adding:

#3 Pitting People Against Each Other

Building a cohesive work group is nearly impossible when behaviors that divide and conquer take over. If your supervisor has a tendency to pit people against each other in what she thinks is merely a friendly competition for more sales or better customer service, she may not know that she’s tearing her team apart. Dividing coworkers can cause deep divides that are hard to bridge.

Bringing up sensitive issues in a team meeting (like what’s-his-name’s inability to meet deadlines), or ignoring tension, playing favorites, and using sarcasm to make a point are all ways we can stir up issues at work. Those specific behaviors do nothing for creating a productive workplace and when the victims of such actions clue into what’s happening they can sometimes turn on the culprit—creating a scene that doesn’t often end well.

No one likes to feel small in front of their peers; even if you think it’s the push they need to improve. If you’re looking for ways to motivate an individual, start by seeing him as an individual. Private discussions about shortcomings or areas for improvement will help him hear your message while you tailor your comments to his specific situation. Let’s be honest; public displays that result in winners and losers are only fun for the winners!

And, then there’s gossip. It’s the ultimate way to divide people and one of the most common behaviors that even the best of us have participated in. If you do it, it’s time to stop it. If a coworker comes with a juicy bit of information or you notice he’s good at throwing barbs at others when he has an audience, don’t participate. Instead, say something like, “I’m not sure how necessary that was,” or “I think I’ll pass on this conversation.” A good response that works almost every time is, “Oh”; followed by a prolonged period of silence. That sends a clear message that you have no intention of participating in destructive behaviors that divide, rather than unite, the working relationships around you.

Why concern yourself with changing these behaviors? Consider that friends and allies come from all corners of the workplace. The individuals affected today may be the very folks sitting on the hiring panel for your next position or, worse yet, the seemingly innocuous coworker who stealthily thwarts your every move as a way to repay you for the hurt you’ve caused. Plus, there’s power in numbers and a united team is far more powerful than a divided team.

Biography


Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies.  She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success.  Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.     

Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways.  “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity.   Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.   

Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington.  She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes.  Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm.  Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.   

Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on www.amazon.com, www.dummies.com, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.    



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Website: www.vivianscottmediation.com

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